Bush Administration Withholding Documentation of Industry Interference in EPA Assessment of Widely Used Weed-Killer, NRDC Lawsuit Charges

Withholding Documents on Atrazine Lobbying Violates Freedom of Information Act, Group Says

WASHINGTON (November 13, 2003) -- The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency are illegally withholding documentary evidence that the pesticide industry may have undue influence over federal health standards for atrazine, the most widely used weed-killer in the country, according to a lawsuit filed today by NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council).

The NRDC lawsuit charges that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and EPA have violated the law by refusing to disclose documents regarding the nature of industry involvement in EPA's assessment of atrazine's safety. NRDC has asked the court to force these agencies to turn over the documents, as they are required to do under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). EPA announced on October 31 that it had negotiated a deal with industry that would not require any new restrictions on atrazine use (click here for details).

"This is yet another example of the Bush administration letting industry write the rules behind closed doors," said NRDC attorney Aaron Colangelo. "The public has a right to know whether the government is sacrificing public health and the environment to satisfy the pesticide industry's demands."

A number of scientific studies link atrazine to high rates of prostate and other cancers in human beings and sexual deformities in frogs. Despite this scientific evidence, atrazine continues to be used heavily in the United States, especially on corn, sorghum, sugarcane and golf courses. EPA is evaluating the threat atrazine poses to human health and the environment (see this NRDC backgrounder for more information).

There have been some press reports that the White House, under heavy pressure from the pesticide industry, has been closely involved in EPA's atrazine assessment. To find out more, NRDC filed a series of FOIA requests with EPA and the White House, which have failed to produce relevant documents. In today's lawsuit, NRDC seeks to compel EPA and the White House to fulfill their basic obligations under freedom of information laws and disclose records of their communications with the pesticide industry regarding atrazine.

The European Union recently announced it will ban atrazine over the next 18 months because of its risks. The chemical already is banned in at least four European countries and is tightly restricted in Switzerland, the home country of the principle atrazine manufacturer, Syngenta.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
October 31, 2003, EPA Refusal to Restrict Atrazine Despite Health Threat Ignores Scientific Evidence, says NRDC
August 20, 2003, NRDC Sues EPA for Failing to Protect Endangered Wildlife from Herbicide
January 31, 2003, EPA Decision Limiting Atrazine Exposure Fails to Protect Public, says NRDC
Toxic Herbicide Atrazine Contaminating Water Supplies