This has been a bad week for the US Environmental Protection Agency. On the same day the agency had to admit that it fouled a Colorado river with millions of gallons of toxic mine waste, federal judges in Seattle told the EPA to quit stalling and dithering about a controversial pesticide.
The appeals court judges took the unusual step of issuing a mandamus against the EPA - that is, a blunt order to make a decision on the use of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide banned for residential use but still widely applied in agriculture.
Clorpyrifos is a neuro-toxin which attacks the nervous system.
The judges noted wryly that while filibustering may be a venerable tradition in the US Senate, it is frowned upon in agencies tasked with protecting human health.
And the issue has been filibustered for years - nearly nine years. The judges said the EPA has stalled with - quoting here - a litany of partial status reports, missed deadlines and vague promises of future action.
But the administrative shell game, the judges said, amounts to an egregious delay - too little too late - and warrants mandamus relief.
Kristen Boyles, a Seattle lawyer for Earthjustice, applauded the rare order. She said - quoting - EPA has dragged its feet too long on the issue of basic human health protection."
The EPA was ordered to have a full and final response by October 31st. The petition to ban the pesticide was filed in 2007.