WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s top environmental official met privately with the chief executive of Dow Chemical shortly before reversing his agency’s push to ban a widely used pesticide after health studies showed it can harm children’s brains, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s schedule shows he met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris on March 9 for about a half hour at a Houston hotel. Both men were featured speakers at an energy industry conference.
Twenty days later Pruitt announced his decision to deny a petition to ban Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide from being sprayed on food, despite a review by his agency’s scientists that concluded ingesting even minuscule amounts of the chemical can interfere with the brain development of fetuses and infants.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said Tuesday that Pruitt was “briefly introduced” to Liveris at the conference.
“They did not discuss chlorpyrifos,” Bowman said. “During the same trip he also met with the Canadian minister of natural resources, and CEOs and executives from other companies attending the trade show.”
EPA released a copy of Pruitt’s March meeting schedule earlier this month following several Freedom of Information Act requests.
Dow, which spent more than $13.6 million on lobbying in 2016, has long wielded substantial political power in the nation’s capital.
When President Trump signed an executive order in February mandating the creation of task forces at federal agencies to roll back government regulations, he handed the pen to Dow’s chief executive, who was standing at his side. Liveris heads a White House manufacturing working group. His company also wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump’s inaugural festivities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urged Pruitt on Tuesday to take chlorpyrifos off the market. The group representing more than 66,000 pediatricians and pediatric surgeons said it is “deeply alarmed” by Pruitt’s decision to allow the pesticide’s continued use.