EPA’s history of the cancellation of the pesticide registration of DDT, 1945-1975

July 21, 2015

Regulation of DDT in 1972 by the Environmental Protection Agency was either a great victory for science and environmental protection, or a gross miscarriage of justice that led to the unnecessary deaths of tens of millions of people, depending on which sources one cites from the internet.

Much history from 1950 to 2000 is simply lost to the internet. Partisans often make reference to things “everybody knows,” but which turn out not to be true, if one digs for the real history.

Alas, some of the best digging places have fallen victim to unpaid website hosting bills, lack of interest in an agency’s maintenance of legacy history sites, or sometimes just changes in indexing by a group.

With such gaps in history, hoaxsters can have a field day.

The history of DDT and its regulation is an area filled with false histories promulgated by partisans hoping students and researchers, and policy makers, will never find the accurate sources on the internet, nor anywhere else.

EPA composed a history for a committee of Congress in 1975.  Included in that history were details about the steps taken by government and others leading up to EPA’s 1972 ban on the use of DDT in agriculture. That history is particularly delicious to hoaxtsers, because it is so badly recorded online.

Here’s what EPA said, in 1975, from EPA’s official history at a site I fear may go away one day. This preserves the information.

Illustrations and any links to any site other than EPA’s history are added here.

DDT Regulatory History: A Brief Survey (to 1975)

[EPA report, July 1975]


DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), for many years one of the most widely used pesticidal chemicals in the United States, was first synthesized in 1874. Its effectiveness as an insecticide, however, was only discovered in 1939. Shortly thereafter, particularly during World War II, the U.S. began producing large quantities of DDT for control of vector-borne diseases such as typhus and malaria abroad.

After 1945, agricultural and commercial usage of DDT became widespread in the U.S. The early popularity of DDT, a member of the chlorinated hydrocarbon group, was due to its reasonable cost, effectiveness, persistence, and versatility. During the 30 years prior to its cancellation, a total of approximately 1,350,000,000 pounds of DDT was used domestically.

Caption from WFIWC: Stearman spraying DDT over the western edge of Blacktail Plateau near Lava Creek in Yellowstone N.P. during one of the last spruce budworm control projects in the Park, July 1955. The ensuing controversy over environmental damage done by this insecticide hastened the adoption of a more passive management policy in the 1960's regarding forest insects in the Park (Furniss & Renkin 2003, Figure 17B). Coeur d'Alene FIL photo from Wester Forest Insect Work Conference (WFIWC) archives. - See more at: http://www.wfiwc.org/history/photos/yellowstone#sthash.hPfPuWGI.dpuf

Caption from WFIWC: Stearman spraying DDT over the western edge of Blacktail Plateau near Lava Creek in Yellowstone N.P. during one of the last spruce budworm control projects in the Park, July 1955. The ensuing controversy over environmental damage done by this insecticide hastened the adoption of a more passive management policy in the 1960’s regarding forest insects in the Park (Furniss & Renkin 2003, Figure 17B). Coeur d’Alene FIL photo from Wester Forest Insect Work Conference (WFIWC) archives. – See more at: http://www.wfiwc.org/history/photos/yellowstone#sthash.hPfPuWGI.dpuf

After 1959, DDT usage in the U.S. declined greatly, dropping from a peak of approximately 80 million pounds in that year to just under 12 million pounds in the early 1970s. Of the quantity of the pesticide used in 1970-72, over 80 percent was applied to cotton crops, with the remainder being used predominantly on peanut and soybean crops. The decline in DDT usage was the result of (1) increased insect resistance; (2) the development of more effective alternative pesticides; (3) growing public concern over adverse environmental side effects; and (4) increasing government restrictions on DDT use.

In addition to domestic consumption, large quantities of DDT have been purchased by the Agency for International Development and the United Nations and exported for malaria control. DDT exports increased from 12 percent of the total production in 1950 to 67 percent in 1969. However, exports have shown a marked decrease in recent years dropping from approximately 70 million pounds in 1970 to 35 million in 1972.

Public Concern

Certain characteristics of DDT which contributed to the early popularity of the chemical, particularly its persistence, later became the basis for public concern over possible hazards involved in the pesticide’s use. Although warnings against such hazards were voiced by scientists as early as the mid-1940s, it was the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962 that stimulated widespread public concern over use of the chemical. After Carson’s alert to the public concerning the dangers of improper pesticide use and the need for better pesticide controls, it was only natural that DDT, as one of the most widely used pesticides of the time, should come under intensive investigation.

Throughout the last decade, proponents and opponents of DDT have faced one another in a growing series of confrontations. Proponents argue that DDT has a good human health record and that alternatives to DDT are more hazardous to the user and more costly. Opponents to DDT, admitting that there may be little evidence of direct harm to man, emphasize other hazards connected with its use. They argue that DDT is a persistent, toxic chemical which easily collects in the food chain posing a proven hazard to non-target organisms such as fish and wildlife and otherwise upsetting the natural ecological balance.

Both the pros and cons of DDT use were considered by four Government committees who issued the following reports: (1) may 1963, “Use of Pesticides,” A Report of the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC); (2) November 1965, “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment,” A Report of the Environmental Protection Panel, PSAC; (3) May 1969, Report of the Committee on Persistent Pesticides, Division of Biology and Agriculture, National Research Council, to the Agriculture Department; (4) December 1969, Mrak Commission Report. All four reports recommended an orderly phasing out of the pesticide over a limited period of time.

Public concern further manifested itself through the activities of various environmental organizations. Beginning in 1967, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the Izaak Walton League and other environmental groups became increasingly active in initiating court proceedings leading to the restriction of DDT use at both local and Federal levels.

State Regulatory Actions

Varying restrictions were placed on DDT in different States.

DDT use was outlawed except under emergency conditions in Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, and Washington have all placed some limitation on the use of DDT.

Although the remaining States have provisions for the “restricted use” classification of pesticides, no specific mention is made of DDT.

Initial Federal Regulatory Actions

The Federal Government has not been oblivious to the hazards of DDT use as is indicated by various Government studies and actions undertaken since the late 50s.

  1. In 1957, as a matter of policy, the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), prohibited the spraying of DDT in specified protective strips around aquatic areas on lands under its jurisdiction.
  2. In 1958, after having applied approximately 9-1/2 million pounds of the chemical in its Federal-State control programs since 1945, USDA began to phase out its use of DDT. They reduced spraying of DDT from 4.9 million acres in 1957 to just over 100,000 acres in 1967 and used persistent pesticides thereafter only in the absence of effective alternatives. The major uses of DDT by the Forest Service have been against the gypsy moth and the spruce budworm. The development of alternative pesticides such as Zectran, which was in operation in 1966, contributed to further reduction in DDT use by the Department.
  3. In 1964, the Secretary of the Interior issued a directive stating that the use of chlorinated hydrocarbons on Interior lands should be avoided unless no other substitutes were available. This regulatory measure, as well as others which followed, was reaffirmed and extended in June 1970, when the Secretary issued an order banning use of 16 types of pesticides, including DDT, on any lands or in any programs managed by the Department’s bureaus and agencies.
  4. Between November 1967 and April 1969, USDA canceled DDT registrations for use against house flies and roaches, on foliage of more than 17 crops, in milk rooms, and on cabbage and lettuce.
  5. In August 1969, DDT usage was sharply reduced in certain areas of USDA’s cooperative Federal-State pest control programs following a review of these programs in relation to environmental contamination.
  6. In November 1969, USDA initiated action to cancel all DDT registrations for use against pests of shade trees, aquatic areas, the house and garden and tobacco. USDA further announced its intention to discontinue all uses nonessential to human health and for which there were safe and effective substitutes.
  7. In August 1970, in another major action, USDA canceled Federal registrations of DDT products used as follows: (1) on 50 food crops, beef cattle, goats, sheep, swine, seasoned lumber, finished wood products and buildings; (2) around commercial, institutional, and industrial establishments including all nonfood areas in food processing plants and restaurants, and (3) on flowers and ornamental turf areas.

EPA Regulatory Actions

On December 2, 1970, major responsibility for Federal regulation of pesticides was transferred to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  1. In January 1971, under a court order following a suit by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), EPA issued notices of intent to cancel all remaining Federal registrations of products containing DDT. The principal crops affected by this action were cotton, citrus, and certain vegetables.
  2. In March 1971, EPA issued cancellation notices for all registrations of products containing TDE, a DDT metabolite. The EPA Administrator further announced that no suspension of the registration of DDT products was warranted because evidence of imminent hazard to the public welfare was lacking. (Suspension, in contrast to cancellation, is the more severe action taken against pesticide products under the law.) Because of the decision not to suspend, companies were able to continue marketing their products in interstate commerce pending the final resolution of the administrative cancellation process. After reconsideration of the March order, in light of a scientific advisory committee report, the Administrator later reaffirmed his refusal to suspend the DDT registrations. The report was requested by Montrose Chemical Corporation, sole remaining manufacturer of the basic DDT chemical.
  3. In August 1971, upon the request of 31 DDT formulators, a hearing began on the cancellation of all remaining Federally registered uses of products containing DDT. When the hearing ended in March 1972, the transcripts of 9,312 pages contained testimony from 125 expert witnesses and over 300 documents. The principal parties to the hearings were various formulators of DDT products, USDA, the EDF, and EPA.
  4. On June 14, 1972, the EPA Administrator announced the final cancellation of all remaining crop uses of DDT in the U.S. effective December 31, 1972. The order did not affect public health and quarantine uses, or exports of DDT. The Administrator based his decision on findings of persistence, transport, biomagnification, toxicological effects and on the absence of benefits of DDT in relation to the availability of effective and less environmentally harmful substitutes. The effective date of the prohibition was delayed for six months in order to permit an orderly transition to substitute pesticides. In conjunction with this transition, EPA and USDA jointly developed “Project Safeguard,” a program of education in the use of highly toxic organophosphate substitutes for DDT.
  5. Immediately following the DDT prohibition by EPA, the pesticides industry and EDF filed appeals contesting the June order with several U.S. courts. Industry filed suit to nullify the EPA ruling while EDF sought to extend the prohibition to those few uses not covered by the order. The appeals were consolidated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.On December 13, 1973, the Court ruled that there was “substantial evidence” in the record to support the EPA Administrator’s ban on DDT.

Actions Taken Under the New Pesticide Law

On October 21, 1972, the Federal Environmental Pesticides Control Act, a far-reaching amendment to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) was enacted. These amendments provide EPA with more effective pesticide regulation mechanisms than were previously available under the FIFRA.

  1. In April 1973, EPA, in accordance with authority granted by the amended law, required that all products containing DDT be registered with the Agency by June 10, 1973.
  2. On April 27, 1973, EPA granted a request by the States of Washington and Idaho for a temporary registration of DDT for use against the pea leaf weevil. A similar application was approved on February 22, 1974, for use of DDT during the 1974 growing season. The chemical was registered for 90 days following a determination by EPA that control of the pea leaf weevil was an economic necessity and that DDT was the only practical and effective control agent available. The EPA order designated spray restrictions, monitoring guidelines, and research requirements for the control program. The order provided for further testing of three chemicals–methoxychlor, Imidan, and malathion ULV–which have shown some promise as alternatives to DDT. Other possible long-range alternatives to DDT were tested in 1974, as well.
  3. On February 26, 1974, EPA granted a request by the Forest Service for use of DDT to combat the Douglas-fir tussock moth epidemic in the Northwest. Previous requests by the Forest Service had been denied on the grounds that the risks of DDT use were not outweighed by the benefits. A week long investigation in September 1973, a technical seminar on November 16, 1973, and a series of hearings in January 1974, aided EPA is reassessing the need for DDT. On the basis of information acquired during these sessions, the Administrator concluded that the potential for an economic emergency existed in 1974 and that no effective alternative to DDT was available. The control program was carried out under strict spraying restrictions and with a requirement that research programs evaluate alternatives to DDT, and monitoring activities be conducted by the Forest Service.Use of a canceled pesticide is made possible by the recent amendments to FIFRA which permit EPA to exempt any Federal or State agency from any of the provisions of the Act if emergency conditions exist. All such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.
  4. On March 14, 1975, the Administrator denied the State of Louisiana a request for emergency use of 2.25 million pounds of DDT on 450,000 acres of cotton to control the tobacco budworm in 1975. This decision was affirmed by the Administrator on April 1, 1975, after reconsideration on the grounds of “no substantial new evidence which may materially affect the 1972 order with respect to the human cancer risk posed by DDT, the environmental hazards of DDT and the need to use DDT on cotton.” (Federal Register, April 8, 1974, p. 15, 962).

Excerpt from DDT, A Review of Scientific and Economic Aspects of the Decision To Ban Its Use as a Pesticide, prepared for the Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives by EPA, July 1975, EPA-540/1-75-022

Spreading the news: Environmental Health News says we can learn from saving eagles, to save honeybees now

July 5, 2015

Environmental Health News invites repostings of this story, with attribution and links back to EHN’s original story.

It’s a good article. Can’t improve on it much, so let’s save time and pass it directly.

Can we learn from the success in saving the bald eagle from extinction, to save our domestic bee industry and native American pollinators?

Unintended consequences

How a law that failed to protect eagles could offer a lesson to save honeybees

June 6, 2015

By Peter Dykstra
Environmental Health News

Spraying DDT on a beach

Historic photo from EPA

The Bald Eagle Protection Act, signed into law 75 years ago on June 8, 1940, was well-intended. A multi-pronged assault on the raptors was taking its toll — habitat loss, lead-shot poisoning, and bounty-hunting by ranchers and fishermen all contributed to a growing threat. (Click here to see how this played out in Alaska.)

Congress passed, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed, the act to outlaw the “taking” of eagles and their eggs, disruption of their nests, or sale or possession of eagle feathers or parts.

It didn’t work. Bald eagle populations accelerated their decline, for reasons that Congress, wildlife officials, and FDR couldn’t possibly anticipate.

Throughout the late 1930’s Swiss chemist Paul Müller labored to find the right mix of synthetic chemicals to control moths. Not only did dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane do the trick, but Müller’s lab work found it was effective against lice, houseflies, beetles, and the dreaded mosquito. Müller’s employers, J.R. Geigy AG, applied for the first DDT permit about two months before the Eagle Act passed.

Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame

Swiss chemist Paul Muller, of A. G. Geigy corporation; the man who discovered DDT kills.  Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame

The rest is natural and human history. Cheap to produce and an effective defense against lice-borne typhus and mosquito-borne malaria, DDT quickly became a fixture in farm fields, living rooms, and World War II battle theaters. Müller became a science rock star, garnering a Nobel in 1948 and — wait for it — membership in the Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame in 2004.

But bald eagles continued to decline. So did hummingbirds, robins, ospreys, pelicans and peregrine falcons. Years of science, met with serious blowback from the chemical industry, eventually proved that DDT was thinning birds’ eggshells, not to mention causing impacts in fish, humans, and other mammals. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring drew international attention to the threat, and in the U.S., DDT was outlawed on the last day of 1972. Bald eagles, ospreys, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons have all since staged remarkable comebacks from the Endangered Species list.

Which brings us to today’s threat to other ecologically priceless wildlife — pollinators. Honeybee populations have been in freefall for more than a decade. Like the threats to eagles, the potential causes are multiple: loss of habitat and native plants, parasites, and a mix of insecticides and fungicides. Newest, and most notable among the suspects, are neonicotinoid pesticides. Like DDT, neonics were developed in the 1980’s and 1990’s and welcomed as a step forward, since they were thought to be effective on insect pests but relatively benign on non-target wildlife and ecosystems. Today they are a billion-dollar agricultural product, ubiquitous on common crops like corn and soybeans.

But mounting evidence shows that neonicotinoids may be part of the frontal assault on bees and other pollinators. In 2013, the European Union banned the use of three of the most contentious types of neonicotinoids, citing a clear and immediate risk.

In 2014, President Obama ordered the creation of a federal pollinator strategy. Its first draft came out last month, calling for everything from creating bee-friendly habitat to further study on neonics and other agricultural chemicals. The first edition of the strategy, issued in May, outlines a multi-year process for re-examining use of neonics.

If the EPA and other federal agencies concur with other studies on the potential harm of neonicotinoids, the U.S. will issue assessments for neonics in 2016 and 2017, and may or may not take action until 2018 to 2020. All of this will take place under a new president who may or may not take interest in protecting bees.

That timetable may work. Or not. Or, with a president with little more than a year left in office and a hostile Congress, it may be a moot point.

But perhaps a more important point is that in 1940, the President and Congress took action on the known threats to eagles. They didn’t know about the chemical risk from DDT. If neonics are as big a threat as the science suggests, the current president and Congress won’t have ignorance as an excuse for waiting.

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

Prior to the 20th century, all eagles, including bald eagles were regarded as pest predators and pest carrion eaters.  Populations of the birds plunged between 1492 and 1900.  The first eagle protection law in 1918 did little to stop the decline in eagle populations.  A harder-toothed anti-hunting law in 1941 helped, as discussed above. Anti-environmentalists often seize on these historic facts to claim that DDT was not to blame for the failure of the eagles to recover after 1941.  But recovery of the birds started as soon as DDT was banned.  Fecundity of bald eagle populations rose in direct proportion to the drop in residual DDT and DDT breakdown products in the flesh and fat of eagles.

In Silent Spring Rachel Carson provided 53 pages of notes and citations to science journals, documenting the dangers and the unknowns of DDT and a variety of other chemicals. The book was published in 1962.  It is a tribute to Carson’s meticulous research that every study she pulled from is still accurate today. Later research only supported her conclusions, or in the case of bird damage and eggshell thinning, provided documentation of even more and greater harms.

Do we learn from history?

Early history of EPA: Pesticides regulation and DDT

June 24, 2015

This is an excerpt from EPA’s official shorthand history, online since the 1990s.  I include this part here, dealing with the EPA’s famous regulation of the pesticide DDT, because I refer to it and link to it in several posts — and because over three different administrations, the URL has changed several times.  I fear it will one day go dark.  Here it is for history’s sake, found on June 24, 2015 at http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/guardian-epas-formative-years-1970-1973#pest.

Opening to the entire piece; links to subsections go to EPA’s site:

The Guardian: EPA’s Formative Years, 1970-1973

EPA 202-K-93-002
September 1993
by Dennis C. Williams

Table of Contents

The section on DDT hearings and regulation:

Pesticides and Public Health

Unlike the air controversy, which erupted after the agency’s establishment, EPA’s creation coincided with the culmination of the public debate over DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane). A chlorinated hydrocarbon, DDT proved to be a highly effective, but extremely persistent organic pesticide. Since the 1940s, farmers, foresters, and public health officials sprayed it across the country to control pests such as Mexican boll weevils, gypsy moths, and pesky suburban mosquitoes. Widespread public opposition to DDT began with the publication of Rachel Carson’s influential Silent Spring. Reporting the effects of DDT on wildlife, Carson demonstrated that DDT not only infiltrated all areas of the ecological system, but was exponentially concentrated as it moved to higher levels in the food web. Through Carson, many citizens learned that humans faced DDT-induced risks. By 1968 several states had banned DDT use. The Environmental Defense Fund, which began as a group of concerned scientists, spearheaded a campaign to force federal suspension of DDT registration–banning its use in the United States. Inheriting Department of Agriculture (USDA) pesticide registration functions, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) of 1964, EPA was born in the midst of the DDT storm.

In January 1971, a tribunal of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ordered Ruckelshaus to begin the process of suspending DDT’s registration, and to consider suspending its registration immediately. At the end of a sixty-day review process, the administrator reported that he had found no good reason to suspend DDT registration immediateIy. It and several other pesticides–including 2, 4, 5-T (Agent Orange), Dieldrin, Aldrin, and Mirex–did not appear to constitute imminent health threats. This action infuriated many environmentalists.

By 1971, the Environmental Defense Fund had mobilized effective public opposition to DDT. The furor created by Ruckelshaus’s refusal to stop DDT use prompted many to look for sinister political motivations. Some suggested that Mississippi Congressman Jamie Whitten had used his position as chairman of the agricultural appropriations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to make Ruckelshaus conform to the interests of the agrichemical lobby. While actually, Ruckelshaus took his cautious stance for less menacing reasons.

At its creation, EPA not only inherited the function of pesticide registration from USDA, but also the staff that served that function. The USDA economic entomologists who designed the pesticide registration process in the first place preached the advantages of effective pesticides and minimized discussion of debatable health risks. The same staff that had backed USDA Secretary Clifford Hardin’s earlier claim that DDT was not “an imminent hazard to human health or to fish and wildlife” 8 provided Ruckelshaus with the same counsel.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring led to banning DDT and other pesticides.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring led to banning DDT and other pesticides.

Between March 1971 and June 1972, American newspapers reported both sides of the pesticide debate. Some articles recalled the glory days when pesticides saved thousands of lives in World War II; how they had increased agricultural productivity and allowed relatively few farmers to feed the world’s growing population; and how the most besieged insecticides, such as DDT and Mirex, had little human toxicity. Other journalists praised alternative approaches to pest management such as biological controls (predator introduction, sterile males, and pheromone traps), integrated controls (crop rotation and carefully delimited pesticide use), and refinement of other, less persistent chemicals. Some reported the near panic of Northwestern fruit growers facing beeless, and therefore fruitless, seasons. They attributed the lack of pollinating insects to pesticide use.

Throughout the spring of 1972, Ruckelshaus reviewed the evidence EPA had collected during the agency’s hearings on DDT cancellation and the reports prepared by two DDT study groups, the Hilton and Mrak Commissions. Both studies suggested that DDT be phased out due to the chemical’s persistent presence in ecosystems and noted studies suggesting that DDT posed a carcinogenic risk to humans. In June, he followed the route already taken by several states he banned DDT application in the United States. Though unpopular among certain segments of EPA’s constituency, his decision did serve to enhance the activist image he sought to create for the agency, and without prohibitive political cost.

The DDT decision was important to EPA for several reasons. While it did not stop the debate over what constituted appropriate pesticide use, DDT demonstrated the effect public pressure could have on EPA policy decisions. It also made very visible the tightrope act a regulatory agency performs when it attempts to balance the demands for protection of human and environmental health against legitimate economic demands. Furthermore, EPA’s decision set a precedent for regulatory decision-making. As an advocate of the environment, Ruckelshaus and the agency chose to risk erring on the side of protecting human health at the expense of economic considerations–a course that would bring the agency under heavy criticism before the end of its first decade.

Oh, look: EPA ordered DDT to be used to fight malaria in 1972!

October 29, 2014

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not start a “worldwide ban” on using DDT to fight malaria. EPA instead lifted a court imposed ban on use of the pesticide to fight disease.

At least a couple of times a week I run into someone who claims that environmentalists are evil people, led by Rachel Carson (who, they say, may be as evil as Stalin, Hitler and Mao put together), and that their hysteria-and-n0t-fact-based “worldwide ban” on DDT use led to tens of millions of people dying from malaria.

Each point of the rant is false.

air pollution control activities in the Four Corners area of the U.S., in the 1970s -- soon after the agency completed its hearings and rule making on the pesticide DDT.  EPA photo.

EPA Administrator William Rucklshaus during an airplane tour of air pollution control activities in the Four Corners area of the U.S., in the 1970s — soon after the agency completed its hearings and rule making on the pesticide DDT. EPA photo.

But lack of truth to claims doesn’t stop them from being made.

Serious students of history know better, of course.  Federal agencies, like EPA, cannot issue orders on science-based topics, without enough hard science behind the order to justify it.  That’s the rule given by courts, inscribed in law for all agencies in the Administrative Procedure Act (5 USC Chapter 5), and required of EPA specifically in the various laws delegating authority to EPA for clean air, clean water, toxics clean up, pesticides, etc.   Were an agency to issue a rule based on whim, the courts overturn it on the basis that it is “arbitrary and capricious.”  EPA’s 1972 ban on DDT use on certain crops was challenged in court, in fact — and the courts said the science behind the ban is sufficient.  None of that science has been found faulty, or the DDT manufacturers and users would have been back in court to get the EPA order overturned.

Reading the actual documents, you may discover something else, too:  Not only did the EPA order apply only to certain crop uses, not only was the order restricted to the jurisdiction of the EPA (which is to say, the U.S., and not Africa, Asia, nor any area outside U.S. jurisdiction), but the order in fact specifically overturned a previously-imposed court ruling that stopped DDT use to fight malaria.

That’s right: Bill Ruckelshaus ordered that use of DDT fight malaria is okay, in the U.S., or anywhere else in the world.

Quite the opposite of the claimed “worldwide ban on DDT to fight malaria,” it was, and is, an order to allow DDT to be used in any disease vector tussle.

How did the ranters miss that?

Here are the relevant clauses from the 1972 order, from a short order following a few pages of explanation and justification:

Administrator’s Order Regarding DDT

Order. Before the Environmental Protection Agency. In regard: Stevens Industries, Inc., et al. (Consolidated DDT Hearings). I.F.&R. Docket No. 83 et al.

In accordance with the foregoing opinion, findings and conclusions of law, use of DDT on cotton, beans (snap, lima and dry), peanuts, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, fresh market corn, garlic, pimentos, in commercial greenhouses, for moth-proofing and control of bats and rodents are hereby canceled as of December 31, 1972.

Use of DDT for control of weevils on stored sweet potatoes, green peppers in the Del Marva Peninsula and cutworms on onions are canceled unless without 30 days users or registrants move to supplement the record in accordance with Part V of my opinion of today. In such event the order shall be stayed, pending the completion of the record, on terms and conditions set by the Hearing Examiner: Provided, That this stay may be dissolved if interested users or registrants do not present the required evidence in an expeditious fashion. At the conclusion of such proceedings, the issue of cancellation shall be resolved in accordance with my opinion today.

Cancellation for uses of DDT by public health officials in disease control programs and by USDA and the military for health quarantine and use in prescription drugs is lifted. [emphasis added]

In order to implement this decision no DDT shall be shipped in interstate commerce or within the District of Columbia or any American territory after December 31, 1972, unless its label bears in a prominent fashion in bold type and capital letters, in a manner satisfactory to the Pesticides Regulation Division, the following language:

  1. For use by and distribution to only U.S. Public Health Service Officials or for distribution by or on approval by the U.S. Public Health Service to other Health Service Officials for control of vector diseases;
  2. For use by and distribution to the USDA or Military for Health Quarantine Use;
  3. For use in the formulation for prescription drugs for controlling body lice;
  4. Or in drug; for use in controlling body lice – to be dispensed only by physicians. [emphasis added]

Use by or distribution to unauthorized users or use for a purpose not specified hereon or not in accordance with directions is disapproved by the Federal Government; This substance is harmful to the environment.

The Pesticides Regulation Division may require such other language as it considers appropriate.

This label may be adjusted to reflect the terms and conditions for shipment for use on green peppers in Del Marva, cutworms on onions, and weevils on sweet potatoes if a stay is in effect.

Dated: June 2, 1972

William D. Ruckelshaus

[FR Doc.72-10340 Filed 7-6-72; 8:50 am]
Federal Register, Vol. 37, No. 131 – Friday, July 7, 1972 pp. 13375-13376

Here is the entire order, in an image .pdf format.


EPA approves CO2 permit for Texas steel maker; anyone notice?

June 19, 2014

Here’s the press release from EPA’s Region 6 office:

EPA Finalizes Greenhouse Gas Permit for Voestalpine Iron Production Plant
$740M facility in San Patricio Co., TX, will bring 1,400 construction jobs and150 permanent jobs

DALLAS – (June 16, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final greenhouse gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Voestalpine for an iron production plant in San Patricio County, TX. The facility’s process for producing iron will use minimal natural gas and will be 40 percent more efficient than traditional methods. The permit is another in the series of permits drafted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and issued by EPA under a program to facilitate timely permitting for applicants in the State of Texas.

“Voestalpine shows energy efficiency is a common-sense strategy for success, not just in business but for the environment as well,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “The joint EPA and TCEQ permitting program is helping Texas business grow while building greener plants.”

The plant will reduce iron ore pellets, which will be used as raw material input at steel mills. The direct reduced iron process will use only clean-burning natural gas instead of solid fossil fuels. The estimated project cost is $740 million and will bring 1,400 construction jobs to the area. Once complete, the facility will create around 150 permanent jobs.

In June 2010, EPA finalized national GHG regulations, which specify that beginning on January 2, 2011, projects that increase GHG emissions substantially will require an air permit.

EPA believes states are best equipped to run GHG air permitting programs. Texas is working to replace a federal implementation plan with its own state program, which will eliminate the need for businesses to seek air permits from EPA. This action will increase efficiency and allow for industry to continue to grow in Texas.

EPA has finalized 43 GHG permits in Texas, proposed an additional six permits, and currently has 21 additional GHG permit applications under review and permit development in Texas.

For all of the latest information on GHG permits in Texas please visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r6/Apermit.nsf/AirP

Connect with EPA Region 6:
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eparegion6
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/EPAregion6
Activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.htm

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria.  Architecture News Plus image

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria. Architecture News Plus image. Voestalpine plans to build a $740 million steel plant near Corpus Christi, Texas.

This is big news, really.  Texas constantly complains about regulations on greenhouse gases, and regularly and constantly sues EPA to stop regulation.  Texas and it’s wacky governor Rick Perry constantly complain that EPA regulation harms jobs, and that permits never really get issued.  So this announcement should be front page news in most Texas newspapers.

How was it covered?

That’s it for Texas media.  Where are the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express, the El Paso Times?  Big market TV and radio?

National coverage was limited to low-circulation newsletters.

Seems to me that these issues of actual action on climate change, are under-reported.


Groundbreaking for Voestalpine facility near Corpus Christi, Texas

Caption from Voestalpine LLC: After about a year of preparation, Wolfgang Eder, CEO of voestalpine, broke ground today for the construction of a direct reduction plant in Texas (USA). This EUR 550 million investment is the largest foreign investment in the history of the Austrian Group. The voestalpine Texas LLC plant is being constructed at the La Quinta Trade Gateway Terminal in close proximity to the City of Corpus Christi. Starting in 2016, the plant will produce two million tons of HBI (Hot Briquetted Iron) and DRI (Direct Reduced Iron) annually and will supply Austrian locations, such as Linz and Donawitz, with “sponge iron” as a premium raw material. With the new facility, voestalpine can significantly reduce production costs in Europe. The highly automated plant will create 150 jobs.

No, Congress did not “overreact” to DDT

October 30, 2013

Looking for something else, I restumbled on the Constitution Club, where they continue to club the Constitution, its better principles, and especially the great nation that the document creates.

And one of those grotesquely inaccurate posts blaming liberals for everything sprang up — bedbugs, this time.  If only those liberals had let the good DDT manufacturers poison the hell out of the entire planet, the blog falsely claims, there would be no concern for bedbugs surging in hotels worldwide today, and especially not in Charlotte, North Carolina, back during the Democratic National Convention.

A meeting of a chapter of Constitution clubs? Wikipedia image

A meeting of a chapter of Constitution clubs? Wikipedia image

Looking through the archives, I now recall I dealt with most of this issue on this blog before.

The post’s author made a response I hadn’t seen.  God help me these idiots do need a trip to the intellectual woodshed.  He said “Congress overreacted on DDT, I think. It likes to do that.”

In reality, Congress did nothing at all, other than pass the law regulating pesticides, if we stick to the real history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the rule on DDT, which still stands today.  Over react?  Two federal courts had to twist EPA’s arm to get any action at all, and after delaying for nearly two years, EPA’s rule didn’t ban DDT except for outdoor use on crops, which by that time meant cotton in a handful of states in the U.S. — DDT has never been banned in Africa nor Asia, Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty notwithstanding.

Oh, hell. Put it on the record.

I wrote:

Did Congress ever “react” to DDT?

EPA was tasked by the 1950s’s FIFRA to check out safety of pesticides, and did.  FIFRA had recently been amended to give EPA (USDA, before) power to ban a pesticide outright. Two federal courts found DDT eminently worthy of such an outright ban, but refrained from ordering it themselves as they saw the law to require, on the promise of EPA to conduct a thorough scientific review.  At some length, and irritation to the Eisenhower appointees to the courts, EPA got around to an administrative law hearing — several months and 9,000 pages.  In a panic, the DDT manufacturers proposed a new label for DDT before the hearings got started, calling DDT dangerous to wildlife, and saying it should be used only indoors to control health-threats.  Alas, under the law, if DDT were allowed to stay for sale over the counter, anyone could buy it and abuse it.  The hearing record clearly provided proof that DDT killed wildlife, and entire ecosystems.  But, it was useful to fight diseases, used as the proposed label suggested . . .

Administrator William Ruckelshaus took the cue the DDT manufacturers offered.  He issued a rule banning DDT from outdoor use on agricultural crops except in emergencies with a permit from EPA.  But he specifically allowed U.S. manufacturers to keep making the stuff for export to fight malaria in distant nations, and to allow DDT makers to keep making money.

“Over-reacted” on DDT?  Not Congress, and not EPA.  The rule was challenged in court, twice.  The appellate courts ruled that the scientific evidence, the mountains of it, fully justified the rule, and let it stand.  (Under U.S. law, agencies may not act on whim; if they over-react, they’ve violated the law.)

How bedbugs react to DDT today. Articulate.com

How bedbugs react to DDT today. Articulate.com

No study conducted carefully and judiciously, and passed through the gauntlet of peer review, since that time, has questioned the science conclusions of that rule in any significant way — if any study questioned the science at all (there are famous urban legends, but most of them lead back to people who didn’t even bother to do research, let alone do it well and publish it).

But so-called conservatives have faith that if Congress will just repeal the law of gravity, pigs can fly.  In the real world, things don’t work that way.

How bedbugs view DDT in the 21st century.

How bedbugs view DDT in the 21st century.

I’ve captured most of the earlier exchanges below the fold; one can never trust so-called conservatives to conserve a record of their gross errors.  They’re there for the record, and for your use and edification.

Read the rest of this entry »

Clean Water Act at 40

October 18, 2012

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

In this photo, an entry in the 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photography Contest, can you tell the answer to Ben  Franklin’s not-rhetorical question:  “Is this a rising, or setting sun?”

Sun and ocean, entry in 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photo Contest

Sun and ocean, entry in 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photo Contest – click to contest site to see whether it is a rising or setting sun.  Photo by Ramsay age 14,
and Kyle age 43

We’re in the home stretch for the 2012 elections.  Are your congressional representatives among those who have pledged to cut funding for enforcement of the Clean Water Act?  Are they among those who have pledged to kill EPA?

How would that affect beaches like the one pictured above, by Ramsay and Kyle?

Nancy Stoner wrote at an EPA blog:

I am proud to be at EPA in 2012 for the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s foremost law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. I often think about how a generation ago, the American people faced health and environmental threats in their waters that are almost unimaginable today.

Municipal and household wastes flowed untreated into our rivers, lakes and streams. Harmful chemicals were poured into the water from factories, chemical manufacturers, power plants and other facilities. Two-thirds of waterways were unsafe for swimming or fishing. Polluters weren’t held responsible. We lacked the science, technology and funding to address the problems.

Then on October 18, 1972, the Clean Water Act became law.

In the 40 years since, the Clean Water Act has kept tens of billions of pounds of sewage, chemicals and trash out of our waterways. Urban waterways have gone from wastelands to centers of redevelopment and activity, and we have doubled the number of American waters that meet standards for swimming and fishing. We’ve developed incredible science and spurred countless innovations in technology.

But I realize that despite the progress, there is still much, much more work to be done. And there are many challenges to clean water.

Today one-third of America’s assessed waterways still don’t meet water quality standards. Our nation’s water infrastructure is in tremendous need of improvement – the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a D-, the lowest grade given to any public infrastructure. The population will grow 55 percent from 2000 and 2050, which will put added strain on water resources. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution is increasingly harming streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters. Climate change is predicted to bring warmer temperatures, sea level rise, stronger storms, more droughts and changes to water chemistry. And we face less conventional pollutants – so-called emerging contaminants – that we’ve only recently had the science to detect.

The absolute best path forward is partnership – among all levels of government, the private sector, non-profits and the public. It is only because of partnership that we made so much progress during the past 40 years, and it is partnership that will lead to more progress over the next 40 years.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has been part of protecting water and for working to ensure that this vital resource our families, communities and economy depends on is safeguarded for generations to come.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water

Tell us about your favorite stretch of clean water, in comments.



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