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Conservationists question Dow Chemical's push to set aside pesticide study

Dow Chemical corporate headquarters in Midland, Michigan.
User mgreason
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Dow Chemical corporate headquarters in Midland, Michigan.

A conservation group is raising questions about Dow Chemical's attempts to convince the Trump administration to drop studies that show Dow's pesticides could harm endangered species.

In a series of leaked letters, executives from the Midland-headquartered company asks Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt to withdraw recently released "biological evaluations" that show three insecticides, including Dow's chlorpyrifos, are likely to harm 97 percent of threatened or endangered species.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, says killing those studies would scuttle a four-year process undertaken to calculate risks and set limits on where the pesticide can be sprayed.

"Dow is now saying, 'Oh, the science is flawed,'" Hartl relates. "'We need to start completely over,' which is an absurd delaying tactic because they don't like the result."

Dow also reportedly has asked the secretaries of the Interior and Commerce departments to go back to court, to challenge a 2014 settlement that requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to release their own, draft biological opinions by May.

Hartl notes that Dow contributed $1 million to President Donald Trump's inauguration, and that Trump named Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to lead the American Manufacturing Council.

"Given Dow's very close relationship with Trump, it's not surprising that this is happening, but obviously very frustrating and very alarming," Hartl states.

Pruitt hasn't publicly responded to the release of these letters. However, he rejected the recent findings of his agency's staff scientists, who suggested that the government revise the acceptable level of chlorpyrifos residue on food down to zero.

Earlier this week, Michigan approved amended tax incentives for Dow Chemical.

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