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(ALC) and human health water quality criteria (HHC) for many chemicals that are classified as “toxic pollutants” are outdated and inadequate.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 NWEA alleges that Washington’s continued use of outdated criteria violates the CWA and poses a risk to species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (Act), specifically Chinook Salmon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.
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)?
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.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, James 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).
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.
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.”
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:
- That every agency must identify two existing regulations to be repealed when they promulgate a new rulemaking;
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Zameer Qureshi
On November 23, 2016, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued two landmark judgments in Case C-673/13 P (Commission v Stichting Greenpeace Nederland and Pan Europe) and Case C-442/14 (Bayer CropScience and Stichting De Bijenstichting v College voor de toelating van gewasbeschermingsmiddelen en biociden).
In Case C-673/13 P, the associations Stichting Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) submitted a request to the European Commission (EC) under Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 for access to a number of documents relating to the initial marketing authorization for glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world for agricultural weeding and the maintenance of urban and industrial areas. The EC granted access to the documents, with the exception of part of the draft assessment report prepared by Germany. The EC justified its refusal by stating that the document in question contained confidential information on the intellectual property rights of the applicants for the glyphosate authorization.
The associations brought an action before the General Court of the European Union (EU) for annulment of the EC’s decision. The General Court upheld that action in its judgment of October 8, 2013. The General Court considered that certain segments of the document in question contained information relating to emissions into the environment. Consequently, the EC was not entitled to invoke the confidentiality of commercial and industrial information, and “should have granted the associations access to those parts.” The EC was not satisfied with the judgment and asked the ECJ to set it aside.
In Case C-442/14, Bijenstichting, a Dutch bee protection association, submitted a request to the Netherlands’ authority responsible for authorizing the marketing of plant protection products and biocidal products (i.e., College voor de toelating van gewasbeschermingsmiddelen en biociden (CTB)) for disclosure of 84 documents concerning marketing authorizations issued by the authority. Bayer, a company holding a large number of these authorizations, objected to the disclosure on the basis that it would “infringe copyright and adversely affect the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information.” CTB authorized disclosure of 35 of the 84 requested documents because they contained information on emissions into the environment, “even though such disclosure could have an adverse effect on the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information.” Under Directive 2003/4/EC, commercial and industrial confidentiality may not be invoked to prevent disclosure of such information.
Bijenstichting and Bayer appealed CTB’s decision before the Netherlands courts, which referred several questions to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling regarding, among other things, whether the information requested by Bijenstichting falls within the concept of “information on emissions into the environment” -- with the consequence that it should be disclosed without Bayer being entitled to object on the grounds that such disclosure could adversely affect the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information.
The ECJ’s judgments clarify what must be understood by “emissions into the environment” and “information on [or which relates to] emissions into the environment” within the meaning of the Regulation applicable in Case C-673/13 P and the Directive applicable in Case C-442/14. In both judgments, the ECJ found that the concept of “emissions into the environment” includes the release into the environment of products or substances (e.g., plant protection products or biocides or active substances contained in those products) to the extent that the release is actual or foreseeable under “normal or realistic conditions of use of the product or substance.”
The ECJ concluded, therefore, that this concept is indistinguishable from the concepts of “release” and “discharge” and cannot be restricted to emissions emanating from industrial installations. The ECJ decided that the concept covers emissions resulting from spraying of a product into the air or its use on plants, in water, or in soil. Such limitations, the ECJ opined, would be “at odds with the objective of the regulation and directive for disclosing environmental information as widely as possible.” Additionally, the ECJ decided that Directive 2003/4/EC and Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 cover information on actual and foreseeable emissions from a product into the environment. The ECJ concluded that “purely hypothetical emissions” are not covered by the laws.
The ECJ stated that the concept of “emissions into the environment” must be interpreted as covering not only information on emissions, but also information enabling the public to “check whether the assessment of actual or foreseeable emissions,” on the basis of which the Competent Authority authorized the product or substance in question, is correct.
In Case C-673/13 P, the ECJ set aside the judgment of the General Court insofar as the General Court considered that it is sufficient that information relates “in a sufficiently direct manner” to emissions into the environment for it to be covered by Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006. The ECJ referred the case back to the General Court of the EU for determination of whether the information at issue relates to emissions into the environment, and, if necessary, for ruling on the parties’ arguments that were not examined in its judgment. Case C-442/14 has also been referred back to the lower court.
The ECJ’s judgments clarify that public interest in “information on emissions into the environment” is important and oftentimes overrides commercial interests. The ECJ’s rulings have potentially significant and widespread implications for companies seeking to protect trade secrets and other sensitive information. The ECJ’s reasoning in its judgment can be applied to information submitted in relation to chemical products other than pesticides that are intended for uses that involve releases into the environment. The ECJ’s judgments have been criticized for not addressing risks of substantial harm to pesticide industry innovators and their proprietary rights if studies are now deemed subject to the EU’s disclosure mandate -- data developers will need to consider this possibility and take measures to protect their sensitive information.
By James V. Aidala and Margaret R. Graham
On January 12, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products (Mitigation Policy) which describes methods for addressing acute risks to bees from pesticides. EPA states that this Mitigation Policy is “more flexible and practical than the proposed policy” that was issued on May 29, 2015, and it has “made modifications to its approach with the goal of better targeting compounds that pose an acute risk, and with the goal of reducing potential impact of this effort on growers.” EPA states that it will use its Tier 1 acute risk assessment to, in part, determine the products that trigger concerns about pollinator risk that the label restrictions are intended to address. EPA will begin implementing this Policy in 2017 by sending letters to registrants describing steps that must be taken to incorporate the new labeling. More information on the Mitigation Policy, including its supporting documents, and EPA’s response to comments submitted on the proposed policy, is available on www.regulations.gov under Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0818.
Also on January 12, 2017, EPA published preliminary pollinator-only risk assessments for the neonicotinoid insecticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, and an update to its preliminary risk assessment for imidacloprid, published in January 2016. EPA states that the preliminary assessments for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran are similar to the preliminary pollinator assessment for imidacloprid, in that they showed that “most approved uses do not pose significant risks to bee colonies,” but “spray applications to a few crops, such as cucumbers, berries, and cotton, may pose risks to bees that come in direct contact with residue.” As for the updated imidacloprid assessment, EPA states that is looked at potential risks to aquatic species, and identified some risks for aquatic insects. Interested parties will have 60 days to comment on the preliminary risk assessments after notice is published in the Federal Register. In terms of comments, EPA states that it is especially interested in getting input from stakeholders “on the new method for assessing potential exposure and risk through pollen and nectar.” Links to risk assessment dockets for each individual insecticide are available on EPA’s website under Schedule for Review of Neonicotinoid Pesticides. EPA states it is hopes to release the final neonicotinoid risk assessments by mid-2018.
The revised Mitigation Policy has been long in coming since it was first released over eighteen months ago. The delay in revising its approach reflects the complexity of the comments submitted, and EPA’s deliberateness in more finely crafting its policies, given the passage of time and other considerations. This revised policy contains more flexibility and explicit discussion of the need for exceptions to blanket requirements in response to some of the comments received on the earlier proposal. There remains significant public and regulator concern about the possible impacts on pollinators from pesticide use, however, there is currently less of a manic tone to EPA’s statements and actions.
For example, when discussing how EPA will approach changing the labels of the affected universe of pesticide products, there is a much less onerous tone and no specific deadlines for registrants to submit revised labels “or else.” (The 2013 directives to registrants included demands for thousands of revised labels to be submitted within six weeks “or else” -- EPA would take “appropriate action” under FIFRA.) EPA reminds us all that it retains authority to impose these new requirements broadly, a statement that will strike some as regulatory overreach, but the tone and approach is more in line with past EPA “guidance” about how it will approach a new or revised regulatory concern.
Similar to what EPA previously concluded about imidacloprid, where that assessment concluded that the most controversial use -- corn seed treatments -- did not indicate a risk concern, EPA did include in its summary about the other three neonicotinoid pesticides that:
- The assessments for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, similar to the preliminary pollinator assessment for imidacloprid showed: most approved uses do not pose significant risks to bee colonies. However, spray applications to a few crops, such as cucumbers, berries, and cotton, may pose risks to bees that come in direct contact with residue.
This might unfairly be summarized as: after years of regulatory analysis EPA has concluded that if insecticides come into direct contact with insects, there is likely to be a risk to the exposed insect.
This conclusion would be too simplistic since EPA and other regulatory bodies have expressed concern about what unintended exposures to insecticides might cause, and more generally the possibility of colony level impacts on honeybee and other pollinator populations from pesticide use. Some critics will continue to insist that EPA broaden its regulatory approach to more than just pesticides used for crops under contracted pollinator services. The broader issue of pesticide drift and possible impacts on non-target species will continue to be a concern for all pesticides.
Perhaps the more deliberate consideration of needed data generation and assessment that seems to be the current approach will allow both more refined regulatory controls if needed, and a reduction in the sometimes hot rhetoric which has accompanied the pollinator issues.
Lastly, although this revised Mitigation Policy and the three new preliminary assessments are not unexpected next steps as part of the ongoing registration review program for pesticides, given their very late release -- less than ten days before the arrival of a new Administration -- some might question whether this is part of the “midnight regulations” pushing the political agenda of the outgoing Administration. The new leadership may revise what has been released, and may come to different conclusions about any needed restrictions. That said, the issue of whether certain pesticides are having a dangerous impact on honeybee populations will continue to be a concern for regulators both in the U.S. and globally.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 4, 2017, the White House announced the release of the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (2017 Update). The Update to the Coordinated Framework provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to regulating biotechnology products. Together with the National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products, published in September 2016, the Update to the Coordinated Framework offers a “complete picture of a robust and flexible regulatory structure that provides appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology.” Within that regulatory structure, the federal agencies “maintain high standards that, based on the best available science, protect health and the environment, while also establishing transparent, coordinated, predictable and efficient regulatory practices.” To help product developers and the public understand what the regulatory pathway for products might look like, the 2017 Update presents information about agency roles and responsibilities in several forms, including:
- Graphics that illustrate agency-specific overviews of regulatory roles;
- Case studies that demonstrate how a product developer might navigate the regulatory framework; and
- A comprehensive table that summarizes the current responsibilities and the relevant coordination across EPA, FDA, and USDA for the regulatory oversight of an array of biotechnology product areas.
In its blog item, “Increasing the Transparency, Coordination, and Predictability of the Biotechnology Regulatory System,” the Obama Administration acknowledges that while the 2017 Update represents “remarkable progress by the EPA, FDA, and USDA to modernize the regulatory system for biotechnology products, much work remains.” EPA, FDA, and USDA will consider the comments submitted in response to the proposed 2017 Update and information gathered during the three public engagement sessions hosted by EPA, FDA, and USDA to inform ongoing and future agency activities. In addition, the agencies commissioned an independent study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on future biotechnology products. When completed, the agencies will consider the study’s findings, as well as the comments. More information on the Update to the Coordinated Framework will be available in our forthcoming memorandum, which will be available on our website under the key phrase biobased products, biotechnology.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Oscar Hernandez, Ph.D., Lara A. Hall, MS, RQAP-GLP, and Margaret R. Graham
On December 29, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice regarding the availability of final test guidelines, OCSPP Series 850 Group A -- Ecological Effects, part of a series of test guidelines established by the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) for use in testing pesticides and chemical substances to develop data for submission to EPA under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The notice states that these test guidelines “serve as a compendium of accepted scientific methodologies and protocols that are intended to provide data to inform regulatory decisions,” and they “provide guidance for conducting the test, and are also used by EPA, the public, and companies that submit data to EPA.” The test guidelines will be accessible through EPA Docket ID Numbers EPA-HQ-OPPT-2009-0150 through EPAHQ-OPPT-2009-0159, and EPA-HQ-OPPT-2009-0576 on www.regulations.gov.
The changes to test guidelines are varied. Some of the changes include:
- Simple cosmetic changes, e.g., presentation of test conditions, test validity criteria, and equations for calculating response measurements;
- Housekeeping changes, e.g., the addition of final versions of draft guidelines that had not been prepared in final yet;
- The addition of a limit test option to several acute invertebrate toxicity tests;
- Changes from “cut off” dosages in existing guidelines to limit concentrations and a change in the limit concentration for industrial chemicals from “1,000 milligrams/liter (mg/L)” to “100 mg/L” for acute toxicity tests and “10 mg/L” for chronic tests; and
- Changes to terminology, e.g., to clarify 10-day versus acute exposures for sediment-dwelling invertebrate toxicity tests and saltwater versus marine conditions.
The addition of a limit test option aligns well with the new TSCA mandate to reduce vertebrate testing as a matter of federal policy. EPA notes that certain guidelines were not issued in final, but remain available for reference as draft guidelines. In that certain ecological effects guidelines relate to guidelines already developed for the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), EPA notes that it will consider test design elements from the relevant EDSP guidelines in the development of OSCPP 850 series guidelines.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Karin F. Baron, and Margaret R. Graham
On December 20, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the start of a pilot program to evaluate the usefulness and acceptability of a mathematical tool (the GHS Mixtures Equation), which is used in the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). EPA states that the goal of the pilot program is to “evaluate the utility and acceptability of the GHS Mixtures Equation as an alternative to animal oral and inhalation toxicity studies for pesticide formulations.”
For this pilot program, EPA is requesting submission of acute oral and acute inhalation toxicity study data paired with mathematical calculations (GHS Mixtures Equation data) to support the evaluation of pesticide product formulations; instruction for doing so are available on the GHS Equation Pilot Program webpage, and Guidance on the GHS Mixtures Equation is available in the Guidance on the Application of the CLP (Classification, Labeling and Packaging) Criteria.
The program is an interesting approach considering the conceptual differences of risk assessment and hazard determination that exist at the core of EPA risk approaches and GHS fundamentals. Also, the definition of the EPA Categories compared to GHS has been problematic for hazard communication applications.
Mixture calculation tools rely on the availability of data for all components and would only be applicable if the data for each were generated using the same species under similar exposure conditions.
This pilot program is being developed under EPA’s initiative to develop non-animal alternatives for acute toxicity testing, as well as EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs’ Strategic Vision for Adopting 21st Century Science Methodologies. More information on these initiatives can be found on our Pesticide Law and Policy blog under key phrase “toxicity testing.”
By Margaret R. Graham
On November 29, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the issuance of its new guidance for testing pesticides designed to reduce animal testing for acute dermal toxicity for pesticides, Guidance for Waiving Acute Dermal Toxicity Tests for Pesticide Formulations & Supporting Retrospective Analysis, in final. This guidance was issued as part of the Office of Pesticide Programs’ (OPP) Strategic Vision for implementing the 2007 National Research Council’s report on Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century.
OPP states that it “receives about 200-300 dermal formulation toxicity tests annually, each of which generally use 10 animals per test,” and “[w]e expect this waiver guidance to save 2,500 or more laboratory animals every year.” Further, as described in OPP Director Jack Housenger’s March 17, 2016, letter to stakeholders, “[t]his new policy represents significant progress toward EPA’s goal of significantly reducing the use of animals in acute effects testing.”
More information on OPP’s Strategic Direction for Adopting 21st Century Science Methodologies is available on EPA’s website and in our blog item EPA’s OPP Releases Guidance Documents Related to Strategic Vision for Adopting 21st Century Science Methodologies.