By: Lisa M. Campbell and Susan Hunter Youngren, Ph. D.
Spray drift and volatilization issues increasingly are significant issues in pesticide product risk assessments. Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued drafts of key guidance documents, which focused on issues that were key in the chlorpyrifos petition response, and more recently, at least one registration review decision that reflects current and still evolving EPA policy on spray drift and volatilization issues.
How potential for spray drift and for volatilization are identified and then managed are likely to be key elements of ongoing and future risk assessments underlying forthcoming EPA registration and reregistration, with significant potential impact on these decisions. Registrants should monitor closely the policies, EPA decisions implementing them, and their potential impact on their products, particularly given the public interest in these issues.
The EPA documents issued in the past eight or so months are significant, particularly given the years of controversy and difficulty in past attempts to propose a clear and “simple” definition of “drift.” The perception by some advocacy groups is that EPA is not adequately addressing alleged harms posed by drift, and resulting appeals for court intervention will undoubtedly complicate the matrix of considerations influencing EPA’s policy. These reasons alone make monitoring the development of these policies critical for registrants.
By Timothy D. Backstrom
In a wide-ranging decision issued on August 13, 2014, in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA (N.D. Cal.) (often referred to as the “Mega ESA” case), Magistrate Judge Spero has dismissed most of the claims by the Plaintiffs that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to consult or to reinitiate consultation under Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) in connection with EPA’s registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) of a variety of pesticides. This decision is significant not only for its findings concerning judicial review of consultations under the ESA, but also for the potential effect on challenges to generic reregistration decisions, and on individual product actions based on those EPA decisions. Registrants should carefully consider the impact of this decision on potential challenges to EPA actions involving their products. A copy of the decision is available online.
The ESA claims that were dismissed fall in three principal categories: (1) claims concerning Reregistration Eligibility Decisions (RED) for which the general six-year statute of limitations has expired; (2) claims concerning REDs that are reviewable only in the Court of Appeals under FIFRA Section 16(b) and that were not brought in that court within the applicable 60-day period; and (3) claims based solely on Plaintiffs’ allegations that EPA retains ongoing discretionary control over pesticide registration. Claims by the Plaintiffs that currently survive this decision, at least pending further submissions by the Parties, include claims concerning EPA’s reregistration of specific pesticide products, and claims concerning EPA’s failure to reinitiate consultation for any pesticidal active ingredients that were subject to prior Biological Opinions issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for which the process of reregistration is not yet complete.
On August 7, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has consolidated information on soil fumigants and placed it on a new “user-friendly” website. In an e-mail announcing the launch of its new Soil Fumigant Toolbox, EPA noted that the site is intended to reduce exposure to agricultural workers and the public. The website includes information on soil fumigants, buffer zones, and information targeted for communities, certified applicators of soil fumigants, and state and Tribal environmental agencies. EPA’s soil fumigant website is available online.
By Lisa M. Campbell
On July 7, 2014, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a petition requesting that EPA commence a Special Review for the neonicotinoid pesticides, including six specific active ingredients (dinotefuran, acetamiprid, clothianidin, thiacloprid, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam), based on the risk that NRDC believes this class of compounds poses to honey bees and native bees. In the petition, NRDC alleges that neonicotinoids “may suppress bee immunity, disrupt brood cycles, impair foraging behavior by interfering with memory and learning, and cause disorientation, preventing bees from finding their way back to the hive.” By submitting this petition, NRDC effectively asks that EPA expedite the evaluation of the effect of this class of active ingredients on pollinators that EPA already intends to undertake as part of the Registration Review process required by Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(g), 7 U.S.C. § 136a(g). A copy of the petition is available online.
By James V. Aidala
On June 20, 2014, President Obama issued a Presidential memorandum entitled “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” The memorandum creates a Pollinator Health Task Force, which will be co-chaired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Task Force will develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, which includes a Pollinator Research Action Plan, Public Education Plan, and public-private partnerships. In addition, Task Force members will take steps to increase and improve pollinator habitat. The Presidential memorandum is available online.
Various stakeholders anticipated some kind of Presidential activity during Pollinator Week, and these pronouncements establish some new initiatives that are not likely too controversial among the pesticide registrant community. Nevertheless, their issuance and activities that will take place as a result of them bear close attention and monitoring from the registrant community, particularly as advocacy groups may see the actions as too little.
Under the Presidential memorandum, the Pollinator Health Task Force has 180 days to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy, which shall include explicit goals, milestones, and metrics to measure progress.