Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.
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By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Margaret R. Graham

On April 27, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to Inspector General Arthur Elkins, Jr. at the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting the OIG to conduct an investigation into EPA’s March 29, 2017, order denying the September 2007 petition of the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for the pesticide chlorpyrifos.  The letter refers to the March 29, 2017, order as “Administrator Scott Pruitt’s order,” and asks OIG to address questions specifically targeting the rationale, communications, and consideration that Administrator Pruitt took prior to reaching the decision.   

The letter states that Administrator Pruitt's “hasty reversal of this decision … appears not to be based on EPA’s existing recent scientific findings about the risk, or any new information that contradicts the findings about the health and safety risks of chlorpyrifos.”  Further, the letter asserts that “it does not appear to be consistent with the law, which requires that pesticide products cannot be used unless ‘there is reasonable certainty that no harm will result from the aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue.’”

  1. How did Mr. Pruitt reach the decision he announced on March 29, 2017? What was the timeline leading up to this decision? With whom did he communicate within EPA, the White House, or elsewhere in the Administration? With which outside entities did he communicate? Specifically, did Mr. Pruitt have any communication with staff or representatives of Dow Chemical or any pesticide industry trade groups including CropLife America?
  2. What was the rationale for Mr. Pruitt's decision, and why did he reverse an agency decision that had been years in the making? How was this rationale developed? Was it based on any new information or evidence?
  3. Was Mr. Pruitt's decision consistent with the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act? Did he provide appropriate notice and comment and appropriately consider all relevant comments and information?
  4. Was Mr. Pruitt's decision consistent with the requirements of the FFDCA, which establishes a standard that, to maintain a pesticide tolerance, there must be "reasonable certainty that no harm will result from the aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical petitition to revoke tolerances.pdf residue"? Has the EPA met the "reasonable certainty [of] no harm" standard in the law? Why did Mr. Pruitt note that chlorpyrifos was "widely used" when he announced his decision? Was this "wid[e] use" a factor in Mr. Pruitt's decision, and, if so, was this appropriate under the law? What other factors were taken into consideration by Mr. Pruitt?
  5. Is the EPA accurately and transparently presenting information to the public with regard to previous EPA actions concerning chlorpyrifos? For example, the EPA website for chlorpyrifos on January 2, 2017 contained information indicating that EPA "proposed to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances," and contained a link with detailed information about the health risks and the reasons for the EPA action.  This reference to the proposed ban, and the link to the detailed EPA analysis are no longer available on the chlorpyrifos web page, and the link to the analysis (as of April 3, 201 7) now gives a "Page Not Found" error.

Commentary

This letter not surprisingly continues the debate over the appropriate regulatory status of chlorpyrifos.  Those disappointed by the recent EPA decision, apparently including Senator Warren and Representative Pallone, want to press EPA to explain in more detail not only the reasons for the decision not to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances at this time, but also the rationale EPA used to rebut what they believe to be the decision-making record that EPA had accumulated over the last two to three years.

The explanation that the arrival of new leadership at EPA with the Administration led to a change in position is perhaps only part of the answer.  The change in Administration did not change the underlying statutory requirements governing EPA’s registration, reregistration, and tolerance decisions, and EPA relied on these requirements as the basis for its decision not to make a decision at this time, as discussed in EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos.

EPA’s response to any investigation initiated by this letter, as well as the OIG response, will be watched closely by all stakeholders.


 
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By Susan M. Kirsch and Margaret R. Graham

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will be hosting several events to gather input on regulatory actions that could be repealed, replaced or modified as part of EPA’s regulatory reform efforts under Executive Order (EO) 13777. 

The Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) will host a public meeting on the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) on May 3, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. (EDT), and on May 4, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EDT).  The session on May 4, 2017, will focus on receiving public feedback on pesticide regulatory reform issues.  Registration will be required to attend the May 4, 2017, meeting only.  Interested participants may register here.  The deadline for registration is April 27, 2017

The Office of Water (OW) will also host a listening session on May 2, 2017, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EDT) and participants may either pre-register here to join by phone (space limited) or join via web conference here.  Pre-registration is not required for web participation.  The deadline for registration is April 27, 2017.

In the pesticide space, EPA-OW is responsible for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Pesticide General Permit (PGP), which requires NPDES permitting for pesticide applications into, over and near “Waters of the United States,” including mosquito abatement activities.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a 2009 decision requiring EPA to regulate pesticides under the NPDES program.  Both industry and state co-regulators have criticized PGP requirements as duplicative, burdensome, and unnecessary for pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Attempts to pass legislation that would eliminate NPDES permitting for FIFRA-compliant pesticides applications have not been successful to date.  EPA’s actions under EO 13777 may offer an administrative mechanism to repeal the PGP.  It is unclear, however, if a repeal would be legally defensible in light of the Sixth Circuit ruling.  Alternatively, EPA could modify the PGP to eliminate the reporting and recordkeeping requirements that opponents find overly burdensome.  Pesticide stakeholders may wish to join the May 2, 2017, OW listening session to provide recommendations.

Written comments on regulatory reforms on all regulatory reforms, including OW and OPP issues, will also be accepted in docket EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190, Evaluation of Existing Regulations, currently open through May 15, 2017.  More details on the NPDES permit for pesticides are available in our blog item EPA Issues Final 2016 NPDES Pesticide General Permit.


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Margaret R. Graham

In a two-page order issued on April 10, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina granted in part a motion for summary judgment filed by “me-too” registrants, Willowood, LLC, Willowood USA, LLC, Willowood Azoxystrobin, LLC, and Willowood Limited (Defendants), regarding Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC’s (Plaintiff) claims of copyright infringement.  Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC v. Willowood, LLC, Case No. 1:15-CV-00274.  The claims at issue (Counts V and VI of Plaintiff’’s complaint) were based on the Defendants’ use of Syngenta’s label.  The court stated that it was granting this part of Defendants’ motion “because the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) precludes copyright protection for the required elements of pesticide labels . . . of me-too registrants.”

Counts V and VI of Plaintiff’s complaint stated that Defendant copied and used substantial portions of Syngenta’s copyrighted work, and that this infringement is “willful and knowing.”  The Defendants’ motion for summary judgment stated with regard to the copyright infringement counts of the complaint:

  • Counts V and VI fail as a matter of law because Defendants’ labels comply with applicable federal regulations and contain language that is mandated by federal law.  Moreover, under settled law, the portions of Plaintiff’s labels that Plaintiff asserts Defendants have copied are not entitled to federal copyright protection.  Finally, to the extent that any portions of Plaintiff’s labels are entitled to copyright protection, Defendants’ copying is permitted under the fair use doctrine.  

The order states that “in enacting FIFRA, Congress intended narrow exception to copyright protection for the required elements of pesticide labels as against me-too registrants.”  The court expressly rejects the lengthy 2005 decision issued by the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which reached a different conclusion in a similar case, stating that it finds the analysis in that decision “unconvincing.”  FMC Corp. v. Control Solutions, Inc., 369 F. Supp. 2d 539, 555-71 (E.D. Pa. 2005).  The court states:  “FIFRA contemplates that a ‘me-too’ applicant will copy from the original pesticide label in ways that would otherwise infringe a copyright.”

Of interest, the court states that its grant of the summary judgment motion with respect to the copyright claims does not need to take into account an expert report or declarations by, among others, former EPA Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) officials Debra Edwards and Lois Rossi, filed by Defendants because “the Court is granting the summary judgment motion on legal grounds unrelated to the proffered evidence.” 

Plaintiff filed its complaint on March 27, 2015.  The complaint included seven counts against Defendants:  the infringement of four patents in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271(a) (Counts I-IV), the two copyright infringement counts (Counts V-VI), and a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (N.C. Gen. Stat § 75-1.1) (Count VII).  Count VII of the complaint was dismissed on August 12, 2016, and on March 24, 2017, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment regarding the infringement of two of the four patents; a decision on the infringement of the remaining two patents is still pending.

Commentary

This opinion, which squarely rejects the 2005 conclusion of another district court, is likely to be of controversy and is the most recent decision in a long-standing debate on this issue between basic registrants and me-too registrants.  EPA in the past has appeared to side with the me-too registrants.  For example, in an August 3, 2005, letter to the Chemical Producers and Distributors Association (CPDA), written in response to the FMC decision, EPA stated that it “has been the practice of [OPP] since the enactment of FIFRA section 3(c)(7)(a) in 1978 to strongly encourage ‘me-too’ product labels to be identical or substantially similar to the labels of the products on which their registrations are based.”  In that letter, EPA stated further:  “Conveying application instructions and safety messages for similar products in different ways increases the likelihood that the product will be misused.”  EPA at the time noted that there were over 650 mostly “me-too” products for just one herbicide (2,4,-D) -- and that having 650 products each having to say some of the required use instructions differently would be impossible.

Nonetheless, some elements of the label might be viewed as proprietary -- the “look and feel” of a product label, perhaps certain fonts, and trademarked product name (as opposed to the active ingredient name).  It remains to be seen whether the April 10, 2017, order is the last judicial word on this subject or whether the issue will continue to be litigated.  It is an issue that all registrants should monitor closely.  


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala

On April 5, 2017, Petitioners Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (Petitioners) filed a Motion for Further Mandamus Relief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals proceedings regarding the chlorpyrifos tolerances.  In the motion, Petitioners respond to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) order signed on March 29, 2017, which denied the petition to revoke tolerances.  Petitioners state that EPA’s response to the petition (the order) is “no response at all and not what this Court ordered EPA to do,” and asks the court to “grant further mandamus relief, giving EPA 30 days to act on its findings that chlorpyrifos exposures are unsafe and to establish deadlines for the next steps in the revocation and cancellation processes for chlorpyrifos.”  Specifically, Petitioners request that the court order EPA to:

  1. Take regulatory action within 30 days on its finding that chlorpyrifos is unsafe and “make it abundantly clear that what is required within 30 days is final regulatory action based on the neuro-developmental and other risks posed by chlorpyrifos exposures”;
  2. Resolve objections to its final regulatory action within 60 days, as opposed to “as soon as practicable after receiving the arguments of the parties,” because, Petitioners assert, EPA otherwise may put off their response for a long period of time;
  3. Require EPA to issue a notice of intent to cancel all chlorpyrifos uses within 60 days, “consistent with its risk assessments and findings that chlorpyrifos is unsafe,” as it has “found drinking water contamination from all chlorpyrifos uses, including nonfood uses, and will need to take regulatory action to end such uses in addition to stopping food uses”; and
  4. File six-month status reports until the tolerance revocation process and the cancellation proceedings are complete. 

Commentary

It is no surprise that the Petitioners who were disappointed by EPA’s denial of the petition one week ago have now continued their advocacy against the use of chlorpyrifos.  As we note in our previous blog item EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos, EPA articulated its reason for the denial as of this time, but this in itself did not articulate its determination that the registration and associated tolerances met the requirements of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).  EPA’s response to this latest legal skirmish will be of interest, as will the court’s response to it.  .

More information on the proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala

On March 29, 2017, U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Pruitt signed an order denying the September 2007 petition of the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for the pesticide chlorpyrifos.  This is the latest EPA action in a long and contentious battle concerning chlorpyrifos tolerances and registrations, and is likely not the end of this story.

EPA’s decision denying the petition addresses each of the petition’s ten claims and the history of EPA’s review and responses to those claims.  Much attention will be paid to the order’s discussion of three of the claims, which the order states all relate to the same issue:  “whether the potential exists for chlorpyrifos to cause neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels below EPA’s existing regulatory standard (10% cholinesterase inhibition).”  The order states that because “Congress has provided that EPA must complete registration review by October 1, 2022,” and because EPA has “concluded that it will not complete the human health portion of the registration review or any associated tolerance revocation of chlorpyrifos without first attempting to come to a clearer scientific resolution” on the issues concerning potential neurodevelopmental effects in children, EPA is denying the claims, given the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ August 12, 2016, order that “made clear” that further extensions to the March 31, 2017, deadline for responding to the petition would not be granted.  EPA states that the “science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved,” and “further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos.”

The order will become effective as soon as it is published in the Federal Register.  More information on the prior proceedings concerning this matter is available on our blog under key phrase chlorpyrifos.

Commentary

This decision by EPA under the Trump Administration to deny the petition is not surprising, given the rhetoric of reducing regulatory burdens and the need to stop regulatory “overreach” by agencies like EPA which has been accused of making politically driven decisions.  EPA's press release captures this, quoting Administrator Pruitt stating (in part):  "By reversing the previous Administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making -- rather than predetermined results.”

EPA has, however, “kicked the can down the road” to some extent on the key science issue -- whether EPA appropriately evaluated epidemiology studies which reported that exposures to the pesticide had adverse neurological impacts on infants and children -- an issue that affects not only chlorpyrifos, but the other organophosphates (OP) that EPA has concluded are subject to a Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X factor based on these studies.  (See EPA’s September 15, 2015, Literature Review on Neurodevelopment Effects & FQPA Safety Factor Determination for the Organophosphate Pesticides.)    

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) members who reviewed EPA’s approach, based on these studies with regard to chlorpyrifos, generally had concerns with its proposed approach.  When EPA nonetheless issued its renewed call for revocation of the tolerances in November 2016, eight days after the Presidential election, it was seen by some as partly (if not fully) driven by a “political” calculus which ignored the lack of support of the FIFRA SAP. 

The November 2016 proposal was based on more than the epidemiology studies which have proven controversial.  At the same time, EPA’s arguments in the November notice relied on some of the earlier findings about  the studies and FIFRA SAP’s review to fashion a “hybrid” approach which, not surprisingly, supported EPA’s previous conclusions.

This has led to charges of “politics over science” on all fronts, but in responding to the court deadline for a final decision by March 31, 2017, EPA has now declared it does indeed need more time to resolve the science issues, and argues that the general registration review process, with the chlorpyrifos review scheduled for 2022, gives EPA more time than what the court imposed.  EPA has concluded that if a decision is needed now, the required burdens have not been met to change the current status of the pesticide.  The order states:

  • Following a review of comments on both the November 2015 proposal and the November 2016 notice of data availability, EPA has concluded that, despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos.  EPA has therefore concluded that it will not complete the human health portion of the registration review or any associated tolerance revocation of chlorpyrifos without first attempting to come to a clearer scientific resolution on those issues.

EPA has determined it needs more time, however frustrating that may be, to sort out the science.  As such, it is allowing chlorpyrifos use to continue, but objections to EPA’s decision are expected by the petitioners who originally pushed for the tolerance revocations.  The effect on other OPs with regard to the application of the FQPA uncertainty factor is unclear, at best.  The science debate will rage on, with no clear timeline or process for how the ultimate resolution of these questions will be “final.”  This political and legal back-and-forth may become the new normal for the Trump Administration as it seeks to balance a more “business friendly” regulatory approach with the stringent requirements of the statutory duties of underlying authorizing legislation across all of EPA’s programs. 


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell and Margaret R. Graham

On March 20, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the Federal Register a notice that it was delaying the effective date of five regulations, including the final rule on the certification of pesticide applicators.  The effective date for this final rule is now May 22, 2017 (original effective date was March 6, 2017).  In the notice, EPA states that it is “taking this action to give recently arrived Agency officials the opportunity to learn more about these regulations and to decide whether they would like to conduct a substantive review of any of these regulations.”  The new effective date of May 22, 2017, could be delayed further if EPA officials decide to conduct a substantive review.  More information on the pesticide applicator certification rule is available in our memorandum Final EPA Rule Requires Stronger Standards for Applying Riskiest Pesticides.


 
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By Susan M. Kirsch and Lisa M. Campbell

On February 21, 2017, the Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) filed a Clean Water Act (CWA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District that involves a number of pesticide active ingredients in addition to other chemicals.  The lawsuit seeks to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to NWEA’s 2013 Petition for Rulemaking to Update the Water Quality Criteria for Toxics in the State of the Washington (NWEA v. EPA, No.: 2:17-cv-00263).  NWEA asserts that Washington’s aquatic life water quality criteria (ALC) and human health water quality criteria (HHC) for many chemicals that are classified as “toxic pollutants” are outdated and inadequate.  The chemicals at issue include the pesticide active ingredients acrolein, carbaryl, copper, diazinon, demeton, malathion, and methoxychlor.  NWEA alleges that Washington’s continued use of outdated criteria violates the CWA and poses a risk to species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (Act), specifically Chinook Salmon and Southern Resident orca whales.

Under the CWA, states develop and adopt water quality criteria and are required on a triennial basis to review and revise or develop new criteria if appropriate to protect designated uses (e.g., recreation, wildlife protection).  As part of this triennial review process, states are required to consider any recommended new or revised quality criteria published by EPA.  States may adopt the criteria that EPA publishes, modify EPA’s criteria to reflect site-specific conditions, or adopt different criteria based on other scientifically-defensible methods.  Criteria are a component of water quality standards that inform the development of total maximum daily load (TMDL) calculations, discharge limits in permits, and management of nonpoint sources of pollution, including agricultural run-off.  If state criteria are inadequate for the protection of designated uses, EPA may step-in to issue updated criteria, and can be compelled to promulgate criteria by citizen suit action. 

NWEA alleges that Washington has failed to adopt HHC or ALC for several toxic pollutants since 1992.  In November 2016, EPA published a final rule updating Washington’s HHC for toxics.  81 Fed. Reg. 85417.  NWEA asserts that the revised HHC do not address the full spectrum of HHC, as updates for arsenic, dioxin, and thallium were not included.  NWEA also argues that updated HHC do not alleviate the ongoing risk to aquatic life from Washington’s inadequate ALC.  EPA has not responded to NWEA’s complaint.

It is unclear how EPA will respond to NWEA’s suit.  Often a state will work simultaneously to develop its own criteria that will meet EPA approval.  Registrants associated with the pesticides at issue should prepare for potentially forthcoming proposals of more stringent criteria.  The proposal and promulgation of new criteria is a lengthy process and requires public notice and comment.  It may well be at least two years before either EPA or Washington issues proposed updates for ALC.  A compilation of the latest EPA recommended ALC is accessible here.  The criteria values in the table provide some indication of the direction that may be taken in future updates.  


 
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By Susan M. Kirsch

President Trump’s February 28, 2017, Executive Order (E.O.) directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to rescind and replace the Clean Water Rule (CWR) is the latest development in the attempt to resolve the long-standing question of which surface waters and wetlands may be federally regulated and subjected to permitting under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  Critics of the CWR assert that it would have drastically expanded the reach of the CWA and created regulatory uncertainty around land features and water features that were not previously considered WOTUS, such as dry creek beds, ditches, and isolated wetlands.  Since 2011, pesticide applications into, over, or near WOTUS are permitted under the CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program due to a 2009 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruling.  Agricultural producers and pesticide applicators have opposed the permitting largely on the grounds that it is duplicative and unnecessary to regulate pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Although the CWR would have arguably expanded the scope of the waters requiring pesticide permitting, the replacement or elimination of the CWR will not end NPDES requirements for pesticides.  Opponents continue to push for legislation that would eliminate all CWA permitting for FIFRA-compliant pesticide applications.  More details on the NPDES permit for pesticides is available in our blog item EPA Issues Final 2016 NPDES Pesticide General Permit.

Additional information on the anticipated fate of WOTUS, as well as a summary and comparison of some of the key concepts and provisions within the CWR are available in our memorandum What’s Next for “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS)?


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On February 22, 2017, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced it was extending the filing date for applications to register products made from pesticide impregnated materials bearing pesticide claims from March 1, 2017, to July 1, 2017.  Specifically, each retailer (or authorized representative) of an affected product must submit an Application for Pesticide Registration (DPR-REG-030) to DPR by July 1, 2017.  DPR’s California Notice 2015-13 issued on December 11, 2015, informed pesticide product registrants and stakeholders of DPR’s intention to register products made with pesticide impregnated materials and bearing pesticide claims. 

The February 22 notice also states the following in terms of the requirements:

  • Each company with products made from pesticide impregnated material and sold under their own company name into or within California is required to register the product(s) as a pesticide;
  • The product must bear a federally approved pesticide label; DPR will assign a separate California-only registration number for purposes of tracking sales and use of the products in California;
  • Each company will need to obtain at least one registration for each use category of product sold (e.g., the apparel use category includes wearable items such as jackets, shirts, hats, socks, pants, and shorts; the non-apparel use category includes non-wearable items such as bedding, tents, seat covers, chopping blocks, shower curtains, and mouse pads); and
  • If items are impregnated with different pesticides or different percentages of the same pesticide, separate registrations will be required.

The requirements set forth in this notice do not apply to products that satisfy the requirements to be a treated article, including the requirement that any claims be related to protection of the article/substance itself.  The notice applies instead to those pesticide impregnated materials that include pesticidal claims that are not limited to protection of the material.  More information on the December 2015 notice is available in our blog item California Issues Notice Requiring Registration for Products Made From Pesticide Impregnated Materials and Bearing Pesticide Claims.


 
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By Lynn L. BergesonJames V. Aidala, and Margaret R. Graham

On February 14, 2017, in the House of Representatives, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced H.R. 1029, the “Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017,” which reauthorizes the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA).  H.R. 1029 was immediately referred to the Agriculture Committee and to the Energy and Commerce Committee; it was passed by the Agriculture Committee on February 16, 2017.  Per Agriculture Committee Chair Michael Conaway’s opening statement at the Business Meeting markup of H.R. 1029, changes to PRIA include “reasonable increases in registration fees, funding for Good Laboratory Practices, and a seven year reauthorization as opposed to the five-year reauthorizations of the past.”  H.R. 1029 would allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collect up to 31 million in registration fees (up from 27.8 million) per year from fiscal years (FY) 2017-2023.  It also includes the following registration increases for FY2017 through FY2023:

  • The maximum annual fee for registrants holding 50 pesticide registrations or less would be $129,400 (up from $115,500);
  • The maximum annual fee for registrants holding over 50 pesticide registrations would be $207,000 (up from $184,800);
  • The maximum annual fee payable for a small business registrant holding 50 pesticide registrations or less would be $79,100 (up from $70,600); and
  • The maximum annual fee payable for a small business registrant holding over 50 pesticide registrations would be $136,800 (up from $122,100).

Commentary

PRIA represents a commitment by the pesticide registrants to help with the continued resource issues of the pesticide regulatory program.  This has become an issue of increased concern with the arrival of the Trump Administration after campaign rhetoric about eliminating EPA and cutting budgets.  Fees are seldom a popular topic, but an essential program component.  Without staff and resources to approve pesticide registrations, registrants would be left with new products destined to pile in EPA in-boxes.  PRIA is designed to help maintain some certainty and predictability to the review process.

Of some note is that in recent years Congress has appropriated funds at a level below the statutory minimum that originally was a line in the sand which, if breeched, would de-authorize EPA’s authority to charge application fees.  The regulated community has reluctantly supported Congressional action to lower this “minimum” level of funding to hold onto the programmatic progress which has been made since the first PRIA authorization.  This appears to be an uneasy acceptance of the budget realities surrounding federal spending on discretionary, non-defense expenditures.  


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson, Sheryl Lindros Dolan, and Margaret R. Graham

On February 17, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance revising its recommendation regarding controlling Candida auris (C. auris) infections in U.S. healthcare facilities.  The CDC guidance now recommends a “thorough daily and terminal cleaning and disinfection” of patient rooms in which C. auris infection or colonization was present … with the use of an [EPA]-registered hospital-grade disinfectant effective against Clostridium difficile [(C. difficile)] spores.”  The new guidance updates the CDC’s clinical alert on C. auris issued in June 2016 after receiving reports from international healthcare facilities that C. auris, “an emerging multidrug-resistant (MDR) yeast, [was] causing invasive healthcare-associated infections with high mortality.”  Previously, CDC recommended use of an EPA-registered disinfectant with a fungal efficacy claim.
 
As EPA is responsible for regulating hospital disinfectants and other antimicrobial pesticides used in healthcare facilities, this updated guidance has particular interest and significance for registrants of hospital disinfectant products.  EPA maintains a list of registered antimicrobial products effective against C. difficile (List K) and states that “Guidance to the companies that register antimicrobial products and seek label claims against C. auris is under development.”


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson, James V. Aidala, and Margaret R. Graham

On February 2, 2017, Dominic J. Mancini, Acting Administrator of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) issued interim guidance in a questions and answers format (Q&A) to implement President Trumps’s recent Executive Order (EO) regarding the costs of agency rulemaking, Memorandum:  Interim Guidance Implementing Section 2 of the Executive Order of January 30, 2017, Titled “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.”  More information on the EO is available in our blog item EPA Issues Report to Congress on Implementing Amended TSCA Provisions, President Trump Issues Memo and Order on Reducing Federal Regulations.

The OMB memorandum, issued for regulatory policy officers and executive departments and agencies and managing and executive directors of certain agencies and commissions, states that it explains three requirements specified in the EO:

  1. That every agency must identify two existing regulations to be repealed when they promulgate a new rulemaking;
  2. That there can be no incremental costs (no greater than zero) for any new regulations or for the repeal of any regulations for fiscal year (FY) 2017, unless otherwise required by law or consistent with advice provided in writing by the OMB Director; and
  3. In furtherance and in relation to # 1, if there are any new incremental costs, they will be offset by the elimination of the existing costs of at least two prior regulations.

Agencies planning to issue one or more significant regulatory action on or before September 30, 2017 (the end of FY 2017), are directed to provide:  (1) “[a] reasonable period of time before the agency issues that action, identify two existing regulatory actions the agency plans to eliminate or propose for elimination on or before September 30, 2017”; and (2) “[f]ully offset the total incremental cost of such new significant regulatory action as of September 30, 2017.” 

The memorandum’s Q&As cover 23 questions under three categories:  Coverage; Accounting Questions; and Process and Waiver Questions.  A few of the stated answers include:

  • The requirements only apply to significant regulatory actions issued between noon on January 20, 2017, and September 30, 2017;
  • New significant guidance or interpretive documents will be addressed on a case-by-case basis;
  • Regulatory actions issued before January 20 that are vacated or remanded by a court after that date will not qualify for savings, but regulatory actions overturned by subsequently enacted laws will qualify, on a general basis;
  • Costs should be measured as the opportunity cost to society, and be annualized as defined in and in accordance with OMB Circular A-4, a Memorandum on Regulatory Analysis issued in 2003;
  • Regulatory actions should be eliminated before or on the same schedule as the new regulatory action they offset (to the extent feasible);
  • Regulatory savings by a component in one agency can be used to offset a regulatory burden by a different component in that same agency; and
  • An agency that is not able to generate sufficient savings to account for its regulatory actions may submit a request to the OMB Director to request a transfer of savings from another agency. 

Commentary

This guidance about the meaning and implementation of the EO will provide greater direction to the broad goals of the Trump Administration’s desire to “reduce regulation.”  On its face, this “2 for 1” directive is a clear message to the agencies to reduce the regulatory burdens of their work, mostly regardless of the particular mission or underlying legislative requirements of the affected programs.

One obvious target of such effort is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), widely criticized during the Trump campaign and in the party platform as causing harm to the economy and hindering economic growth.  Like any broad campaign rhetoric that becomes more substantive as the specifics are rolled out, it is interesting to see what the possible exceptions are or to speculate where implementing the broad rhetorical goal will lead to unpredictable outcomes.  An example might be how reductions in record-keeping costs in one EPA program might offset new regulatory costs in another:  this ironically may give new internal value to some parts of EPA which have routinely been more heavy-handed in imposing regulatory requirements.  “Burdensome and unnecessary” requirements imposed by the enforcement office may be of help in the ability to propose new water program regulations -- or any number of odd fellow combinations may come to the surface. 

Other unanticipated consequences will also include those regulations that are actively supported by the affected regulated entity.  The pesticide industry is one example where a regulation establishing the allowable amount of a pesticide used on food -- the tolerance -- is essential for completing the registration process allowing the use of a new pesticide.  So this kind of regulation fosters innovation and economic return to the industry, and without this regulation, the product will not make it to market.  So the new Administration policies must allow for and distinguish between a sort of “good” regulation and a “bad” regulation -- all fitting within the broad rhetorical directive of a “2 for 1” approach to reducing regulatory burdens.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson, Lisa R. Burchi, and Margaret R. Graham

A tentative ruling issued January 26, 2017, in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al., Case No. 16 CE CG 00183, by the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno, granted the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA or Defendant) motion for judgment on the pleadings as to Monsanto Company’s (Monsanto) petition and complaint, and sustained the demurrers to Monsanto’s petition and complaint (Sierra Club) and California Citrus’ complaint in intervention, for failure to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action.  The tentative ruling was issued prior to the hearing date of January 27, 2017.  If this ruling is made final, Monsanto’s case will be dismissed, but Monsanto has stated it will challenge the tentative ruling. 

Monsanto’s complaint alleged various violations committed by OEHHA under the U.S. and California Constitutions in listing glyphosate on the Proposition 65 (Prop 65) list of chemicals that are known to the state to cause cancer.  Monsanto argues, for example, that OEHHA engaged in an unconstitutional delegation of its rulemaking authority to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) when it used the IARC’s classification of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” as the basis for the Prop 65 listing.  Specifically, Monsanto argued that the Labor Code listing mechanism upon which the glyphosate listing is based is unconstitutional because OEHHA “cedes the basis of its regulatory authority to an unelected and non-transparent foreign body that is not under the oversight or control of any federal or state government entity.”  The five constitutional violations that Monsanto claimed are:  (1) a violation of the due process clauses of the California and U.S. Constitutions; (2) a violation of free speech under the California and the U.S. Constitutions; (3) a violation of the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution; (4) a violation of the California Constitution regarding the naming/identifying of IARC (Article II, Section 12); and (5) a violation of the California Constitution through empowering IARC to make laws applicable to California (Article IV, Section 1).

The tentative ruling details the court’s arguments concerning Monsanto’s failure to state facts/insufficiently allege its claims for each of the claims.  Concerning the first allegation on the unconstitutional delegation of authority, the court stated “there is no support for Monsanto’s conclusion that the OEHHA has unconstitutionally delegated its rulemaking authority to the IARC,” since, in part, “the voters and the legislature have established the basic legislative scheme and made the fundamental policy decision with regard to listing possible carcinogens under Proposition 65, and then allowed the IARC to make the highly technical fact-finding decisions with regard to which specific chemicals would be added to the list.”  The court also found no support for any of Monsanto’s other claims.  As of February 1, 2017, the ruling was not yet made final. 


 
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By Lisa M. Campbell and Margaret R. Graham

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has scheduled a final rule to be published on on January 26, 2017, which will temporarily delay the effective date of certain regulations until March 21, 2017.  This final rule is being issued in accordance with the Presidential directive entitled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” issued January 20, 2017.  Among the 30 regulations that meet those criteria is the final rule Pesticides; Certification of Pesticide Applicators, which revises EPA’s regulations concerning the certification of applicators of restricted use pesticides which was scheduled to be effective as of March 6, 2017.  The final rule states that it “may consider delaying the effective dates … beyond March 21, 2017,” but in that event, “the Agency would propose any later effective date for public comment.”  More information on this final rule is available in our memorandum Final EPA Rule Requires Stronger Standards for Applying Riskiest Pesticides.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), together with a host of other federal agencies, announced revisions via a final rule to modernize, strengthen, and make more effective the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects that was originally promulgated as a Common Rule in 1991.  82 Fed. Reg. 7151.  The Federal Register publication states that this final rule is intended to “better protect human subjects involved in research, while facilitating valuable research and reducing burden, delay, and ambiguity for investigators, and “these revisions are an effort to modernize, simplify, and enhance the current system of oversight.”  The rule will become effective on January 19, 2018.  The compliance date is also January 19, 2018, with some exceptions.

The final rule differs in important ways from the proposed rule issued on September 8, 2015; most significantly, several proposals are not being adopted.  Other minor changes have been to improve the rule and for purposes of clarity and accuracy.  Some of the changes include:

  • It does not adopt the proposal to require that research involving nonidentified biospecimens be subject to the Common Rule, and that consent would need to be obtained in order to conduct such research.
  • To the extent some of the proposals relied on standards that had not yet been proposed, the final rule either does not adopt those proposals or includes revisions to eliminate such reliance.
  • It does not expand the policy to cover clinical trials that are not federally funded.
  • It does not adopt the proposed new concept of ‘‘excluded’’ activities.  Generally, activities proposed to be excluded are now either described as not satisfying the definition of what constitutes research under the regulations or are classified as exempt.
  • The proposed revisions to the exemption categories have been modified to better align with the longstanding ordering in the final rule. It does not include the proposed requirement that exemption determinations need to be made in specified ways.
  • It does not include the proposed standardized privacy safeguards for identifiable private information and identifiable biospecimens.
  • It does not adopt the most restrictive proposed criteria for obtaining a waiver of the consent requirements relating to research with identifiable biospecimens.

The final rule makes the following significant changes to the Common Rule:

  • Establishes new requirements regarding the information that must be given to prospective research subjects as part of the informed consent process.
  • Allows the use of broad consent (i.e., seeking prospective consent to unspecified future research) from a subject for storage, maintenance, and secondary research use of identifiable private information and identifiable biospecimens.  Broad consent will be an optional alternative that an investigator may choose instead of, for example, conducting the research on nonidentified information and nonidentified biospecimens, having an institutional review board (IRB) waive the requirement for informed consent, or obtaining consent for a specific study.
  • Establishes new exempt categories of research based on their risk profile.  Under some of the new categories, exempt research would be required to undergo limited IRB review to ensure that there are adequate privacy safeguards for identifiable private information and identifiable biospecimens.
  • Creates a requirement for U.S.-based institutions engaged in cooperative research to use a single IRB for that portion of the research that takes place within the United States, with certain exceptions. This requirement becomes effective three years after publication of the final rule.
  • Removes the requirement to conduct continuing review of ongoing research for studies that undergo expedited review and for studies that have completed study interventions and are merely analyzing study data or involve only observational follow up in conjunction with standard clinical care.

More information on the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects is available on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ website


 
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