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.
On August 9, 2018, the majority of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an opinion in the latest chlorpyrifos case (League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) v. Wheeler, No. 17-71636) granting the petition for review of a 2017 order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that denied an administrative petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos; vacating the 2017 order; and remanding the matter back to EPA with explicit directions to EPA to “revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.” A separate dissent stated that the court should have dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Please see our blog item “EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos” for more information on EPA’s denial of the petition in 2017.
EPA argued in its brief that the court lacks jurisdiction to review the 2017 order denying the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos because Section 408(g)(2)(C) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires EPA to rule on administrative objections to its denial of the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos before judicial review is available under FFDCA Section 408(h)(1).The majority opinion rejected this argument, stating that FFDCA Section 408(h)(1) “does not ‘clearly state’ that obtaining a section (g)(2)(C) order in response to administrative objections is a jurisdictional requirement.” Rather than a jurisdictional limitation, the majority construed the objections process in FFDCA as a non-jurisdictional “claims-processing rule.”In contrast, the dissenting judge agreed with EPA’s argument that the court lacks jurisdiction to review this matter until after EPA responds to the objections to the 2017 order.
After concluding that the objections process is not jurisdictional in character, the majority next considered whether the petitioners should nonetheless be required to exhaust their administrative remedies by waiting until EPA responds to their objections before obtaining judicial review.Although FFDCA Section 408(g)(2)(C) requires EPA to rule on the objections “as soon as practicable,” EPA had taken no action for 13 months after the objections were filed.The majority concluded that the exhaustion requirement should be waived “in light of the strong individual interests against requiring exhaustion and weak institutional interests in favor of it.”
EPA did not specifically address the substantive merits of the 2017 order in its brief, and the majority found that EPA has consequently “forfeited any merits-based argument.”The 2017 order was issued in the context of an administrative record in which EPA has repeatedly determined that the FFDCA standard for maintenance of chlorpyrifos tolerances (“a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide”) could not be met because of the risk of neurodevelopmental effects. The standard for registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) incorporates this same FFDCA standard. Although the 2017 order stated that “the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects is unresolved,” it did nothing to alter these prior EPA determinations. The majority noted that EPA’s assertion that “significant uncertainty” remains regarding the health effects of chlorpyrifos being directly at odds with the “reasonably certainty” standard and “therefore mandates revoking the tolerance under [FFDCA Section 408(b)(2)(A)(i)].” The majority concluded that the possibility that future evidence may contradict EPA’s current determinations cannot justify continued inaction, and that the failure of EPA to proceed with the revocation of the tolerances and the cancellation of the registrations for chlorpyrifos “has now placed the agency in direct contravention of the FFDCA and FIFRA.”
The court’s direct instruction requiring EPA to proceed promptly with revocation of all tolerances and cancellations of all registrations for chlorpyrifos represents an unusually aggressive judicial intervention in the administrative process.Nevertheless, this outcome must be viewed in the context of an eleven year history beginning with an administrative petition that requested the same relief, followed by a writ of mandamus in 2015 from the same court requiring EPA to make a prompt decision on the petition.Although substantial controversy remains concerning the correct interpretation of epidemiology studies with chlorpyrifos, it appears that the court believes that EPA has not taken any action that would support a change in EPA’s prior conclusion that these studies constitute evidence of potential neurodevelopmental effects in children at chlorpyrifos exposure levels below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. Had EPA’s 2017 denial of the administrative petition been accompanied by an amended risk assessment for chlorpyrifos which articulated a changed conclusion, the court may have been less likely to substitute its judgment for that of EPA.The court seemed to find that because the scientific assessments in the current administrative record could not support the “reasonable certainty” standard in the FFDCA, the conclusion it reached on the merits was unavoidable.
Please see our blog item “Oral Argument Held in Case Challenging EPA’s Denial of Petition to Revoke Chlorpyrifos Tolerances” for information on the oral argument that took place on July 9, 2018, and the briefing in this case. Further information on the case proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.
In July 2018, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), Human Health Assessment (HHA) Branch, issued its final toxic air contaminant (TAC) evaluation of chlorpyrifos. This final TAC evaluation updates the December 2017 draft evaluation of chlorpyrifos as a TAC for the Scientific Review Panel (SRP) which updated the August 2017 draft and was reviewed by the SRP on TACs, and incorporates certain changes based on SRP recommendations. As part of their review of the December 2017 draft, the SRP recommended “additional and detailed review of developmental neurotoxicity studies, in particular recent in vivo animal studies as well as a more in depth analysis of human effects of chlorpyrifos” and “that DPR reevaluate the critical endpoints, the associated [(uncertainty factors (UF)], and the resulting [reference concentrations (RfC)] and [reference doses (RfD)] for each endpoint.”
DPR determines that a pesticide is a TAC for a non-cancer adverse effect if the projected air concentrations associated with use of the pesticide are more than one tenth of the inhalation RfC established based on animal toxicity and epidemiology data. In the draft TAC evaluation for chlorpyrifos, DPR utilized the threshold for red blood cell acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition in humans and a target margin of exposure (MOE) of 100, including a factor of 10 intended to account for potential neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for RBC AChE inhibition. In the final TAC evaluation for chlorpyrifos, DPR increased the MOE for AChE inhibition to 300, based on deficiencies in the human inhalation parameters used to model the threshold for AChE inhibition.
In addition, the final TAC evaluation establishes a new No Observed Effect Level (NOEL) for neurodevelopmental effects in animal studies with chlorpyrifos reported at exposure levels well below the threshold for AChE inhibition. Based on this NOEL, DPR has derived a new inhalation RfC for neurodevelopmental effects, using a standard MOE of 100 consisting of 10X for interspecies sensitivity and 10X for intraspecies variability. This new inhalation RfC based on neurodevelopmental effects in animal studies is about one-half the revised inhalation RfC based on the threshold for AChE inhibition. Because the modeled spray drift air concentrations for chlorpyrifos are more than one tenth of this new inhalation RfC, DPR concludes “that chlorpyrifos meets the criteria to be listed as a TAC pursuant to the law of California.”
In the final TAC evaluation for chlorpyrifos, DPR concluded that there is sufficient evidence from animal studies to establish a new NOEL for neurodevelopmental effects, which is well below the level that has been shown to cause AChE inhibition in the same animals. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has previously issued a determination that the default 10X safety factor for infants and children established by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) should be retained for chlorpyrifos, this determination was based on epidemiology studies that purported to show adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in humans at exposure levels below the threshold for AChE inhibition. The methodology used in these epidemiology studies has been harshly criticized by the pesticide industry. DPR views these epidemiology studies as providing corroboration, but the new DPR risk assessment is predicated instead on DPR’s view that animal studies with chlorpyrifos report neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for AChE inhibition. The DPR risk assessment based on these animal studies uses a standard MOE of 100. How EPA may or may not view DPR’s conclusion is not known. In light of the August 9, 2018, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) directing EPA to proceed with revocation of all tolerances and cancellation of all registrations for chlorpyrifos, the effect of the DPR conclusion on EPA actions is not clear. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, because the mechanism by which chlorpyrifos would cause such neurodevelopmental effects is unknown and is below the level that causes AChE inhibition, any presumption by EPA that other organophosphate (OP) pesticides may cause the same type of effects will likely be vigorously disputed by industry on scientific grounds.
Please see our blog item Ninth Circuit Directs EPA to Revoke all Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for Chlorpyrifos for more information on the Ninth Circuit’s August 9, 2018, decision.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signaled on June 29, 2018, its intent to prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with potential changes to the regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered [(GE)] organisms.” The EIS will have a significant impact on how APHIS chooses to amend its regulation of GE organisms. APHIS requested comment on issues to be considered in preparing the EIS, as well as how to define the scope of the alternatives and environmental impacts. Comments are due July 30, 2018.
Our full memorandum provides some background, context, and a commentary regarding APHIS’ announcement.
On July 9, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) held oral argument in League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) v. Pruitt, a case brought to challenge the decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny a 2007 petition by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The 2007 petition requested that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances granted under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and all chlorpyrifos registrations granted under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). After a series of delays and court decisions concerning EPA action on the 2007 petition, the Ninth Circuit issued a writ of mandamus in In re PANNA v. EPA requiring that EPA take action to grant or to deny the petition no later than March 31, 2017. Although EPA proposed in November 2015 to partially grant the 2007 petition and to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances based on concerns about neurodevelopmental effects in children, EPA ultimately decided to deny the entire PANNA and NRDC tolerance revocation petition in a decision dated March 29, 2017. More information on EPA’s March 29, 2017, decision is available in our blog item “EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos.”
After the March 29, 2017 denial decision, the Ninth Circuit denied a motion for further mandamus relief in the PANNA case. The court stated that, once EPA denies a tolerance revocation petition under FFDCA, “[f]iling objections and awaiting their resolution by the EPA Administrator is a prerequisite to obtaining judicial review of EPA’s final response to the petition.” The petitioners in the current LULAC case filed administrative objections to EPA’s denial decision on June 5, 2017, but, on the same date, they also brought a new action seeking immediate judicial review. Five States and the District of Columbia subsequently intervened in the new case. EPA filed a motion to dismiss the LULAC case for lack of jurisdiction on August 21, 2017, but the court denied that motion, without prejudice to EPA renewing its jurisdictional arguments during briefing on the merits.
Background to Tolerance Petition Decision
EPA’s risk assessments concerning the potential neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos have been the subject of scientific controversy for a number of years. In decisions that were the subject of significant criticism and controversy, EPA scientists construed the associations reported in certain epidemiological studies of exposure to chlorpyrifos as evidence that chlorpyrifos may cause neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels that are less than the threshold for induction of acetylcholinesterase inhibition. In November, 2016, EPA issued an updated risk assessment for chlorpyrifos and all organophosphate (OP) pesticides based on the same epidemiology studies, which included a determination that EPA would retain the default 10X safety factor established by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) for chlorpyrifos and for all OP pesticides. Pesticide industry representatives have raised concerns about the design and conduct of the chlorpyrifos epidemiology studies, the scientific plausibility of the proposed association of neurodevelopmental effects with low level chlorpyrifos exposure, and the rationale for extending the FQPA determination to OP pesticides other than chlorpyrifos.
Prior to the change in administration in 2017, it appeared that EPA would proceed with its 2015 proposal to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances based on the 2016 updated risk assessment. Instead, on March 29, 2017, EPA decided to deny the 2007 petition and to defer its ultimate scientific decision concerning the neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos until after EPA completes the currently pending registration review process for chlorpyrifos.
Briefs in the LULAC Case
In their briefs, the petitioners and the intervenors in the LULAC case have objected to further delay in EPA’s scientific decision concerning the neurodevelopmental risks presented by chlorpyrifos, as well as to the procedures specified by FFDCA that would require that they await resolution of their objections before seeking judicial review. From their perspective, EPA has already determined repeatedly that continued chlorpyrifos exposure is unsafe for infants and children, and EPA is therefore required to proceed with immediate revocation of all chlorpyrifos tolerances.
In their briefs, the petitioners and the intervenors argued that the procedures required by FFDCA are not jurisdictional, and that the court therefore has discretion to waive exhaustion of these procedures. They also argued that exhaustion should be waived in this instance because allowing EPA time to rule on their objections would ultimately be futile, and because further delay would perpetuate EPA’s purported disregard of the FFDCA safety standard. Further, they argued that, if immediate review is not available under FFDCA, it should be available under FIFRA because EPA also denied a request to cancel the FIFRA registrations for chlorpyrifos. Finally, the petitioners requested during briefing that the court issue “a writ of mandamus directing EPA to decide LULAC’s objections within 60 days.”
In its brief, EPA argued that the petitioners lack any jurisdiction to bring the current case because the detailed procedures specified in the FFDCA are jurisdictional in nature, and exhaustion of these procedures therefore cannot be waived by a reviewing court. EPA also argued that, even if the court could waive the exhaustion requirement, the petitioners have raised the same issues in their objections as they raised in their briefs, and there is no basis for the court to presume that allowing EPA to address these issues would be futile. Moreover, EPA argued that FFDCA Section 346a(h)(5) expressly precludes separate judicial review under FIFRA of EPA’s decision concerning the 2007 petition. Finally, EPA contended in its brief that the petitioners’ request for a writ of mandamus must be denied because the petitioners did not follow the procedure for making such a request in Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 21(a).
During the oral arguments on July 9, 2018, two of the three judges on the Ninth Circuit panel reportedly expressed frustration concerning the prospect for years of further delay before EPA makes its ultimate decision concerning chlorpyrifos. Although it is not clear how the court would overcome the formidable jurisdictional barriers to immediate judicial review, it appears that some sort of judicial decision or order compelling EPA to take more immediate action on chlorpyrifos is a possibility. More information regarding these proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.
Antimicrobial Product Evaluation Program (APEP) for Products with Public Health Claims in the Marketplace
On June 21, 2018, during the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) webinar, EPA discussed the new draft risk-based strategy for ensuring the performance of public health antimicrobial products and announced the intended replacement of the former Antimicrobial Testing Program (ATP) with the new Antimicrobial Product Evaluation Program (APEP). Comments on the draft risk-based strategy may be submitted to EPA until July 16, 2018.
Public health antimicrobial products are those products that bear a claim to control microorganisms that pose a threat to human health, and whose presence cannot readily be observed by the user, including microorganisms infectious to people in any area of the inanimate environment. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires product performance (i.e., efficacy) data to support registration of antimicrobial products bearing a public health claim.
EPA began the webinar with an overview of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report entitled “EPA Needs a Risk-Based Strategy to Assure Continued Effectiveness of Hospital-Level Disinfectants.” Report #16-P-0316 (Sept. 19, 2016). OIG conducted a review of EPA’s ATP to “determine whether the program ensures the efficacy of EPA-registered hospital sterilants, disinfectants, and tuberculocides (“hospital-level disinfectants”); and to evaluate options for improving the ATP.” See Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s article dated September 21, 2016, “Results of EPA OIG’s Review of EPA’s Antimicrobial Testing Program” for a full summary of the OIG report. In the 2016 report, OIG recommends OPP suspend administering the current ATP and develop a risk-based strategy to assure the effectiveness of public health pesticides used in hospital settings once products are in the marketplace. EPA agreed with OIG’s recommendations.
EPA provided that “[t]he intent of the [APEP] is to ensure continued effectiveness of antimicrobial products with public health claims (hospital disinfectants, tuberculocides, and other health care claims) in the marketplace. The maintenance and development of technically-sound test methods, quality improvement tools (e.g., peer review of new protocols), and outreach and stewardship activities will further support the program.”
The risk-based testing strategy will ensure the effectiveness of public health pesticides used in hospital settings by:
Risk-based factors under consideration by EPA include:
OIG recommends a functional program begin after registration review is completed in 2022. According to OIG, the development of a solid, acceptable testing strategy is key -- the strategy must be finalized and communicated to regulated and public health communities. OIG specified other EPA outreach activities for the testing program that must be considered, e.g., setting and clearly communicating goals and establishing the baseline reporting mechanisms.
EPA expects to release this final strategy in November 2018 and seeks public input prior to implementation. Please submit your comments on this topic by July 16, 2018, to the Office of Pesticide Programs Docket, EPA-HQ-OPP-2018-0265 at https://www.regulations.gov.
For additional information, please visit https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/antimicrobial-testing-program or https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/webinar-risk-based-strategy-ensure-continued-effectiveness-hospital.
EPA Issues Final Rule Delaying Compliance Date for Human Subjects Policy by Six Months; Institutions May Utilize Three Burden-Reducing Provisions during the Delay
On June 19, 2018, 16 federal agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), issued a final rule delaying until January 21, 2019, the general compliance date for 2017 revisions to the policy governing studies with human subjects that are sponsored or utilized for regulatory purposes by the federal government (83 Fed. Reg. 28497). These revisions to the human testing policy were adopted on January 19, 2017, in a final rule (82 Fed. Reg. 7149) that amended and expanded the “Common Rule” governing human testing originally promulgated in 1991. The 2017 revisions to the human testing policy were originally scheduled to take effect on January 19, 2018, but the agencies published an interim final rule on January 22, 2018, that delayed the effective date for the new policy until July 19, 2018. Thereafter, on April 20, 2018, the same 16 agencies published a proposed rule (83 Fed. Reg. 17595) to delay the general compliance date for an additional six-month period, and to allow regulated entities to implement certain burden-reducing provisions during this interim period.
The rule delaying the effective date of the 2017 revisions for an additional six months takes effect on July 19, 2018. In the period between July 19, 2018, and January 21, 2019, regulated entities must continue to comply with the requirements of the human testing policy as it was in effect prior to the 2017 revisions. Notwithstanding this general rule, affected institutions will be permitted (but not required) to implement, for certain research, three burden-reducing provisions. Those three provisions are:
The principal purposes of the additional delay in implementation of the 2017 revisions to the human testing Common Rule are to allow more time for affected institutions to prepare for compliance and for the federal agencies that have adopted the new policy to issue further guidance. The final rule states that the agencies do not expect that any additional delay in the implementation of the policy will be needed.
EPA to Publish NOA for WPS Training Materials; Employers Required to Provide Expanded Training within 180 Days
On June 14, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will soon publish in the Federal Register a Notice of Availability (NOA) stating that worker safety training materials, including the expanded subject matter required by the 2015 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Worker Protection Standard (WPS) for agricultural workers and pesticide handlers, are available for use. The prepublication version of the NOA is available on EPA’s website. The NOA confirms that the publication “triggers the WPS requirement that training programs must include all of the topics specified in the 2015 revisions to the WPS.” Because the 2015 WPS rule is already in effect, employers must provide expanded training addressing these topics within 180 days of publication. The expanded training materials that are the subject of the NOA were developed through a cooperative agreement with the Pesticide Education Resources Collaborative (PERC), and are available on PERC’s website.
EPA previously issued a Federal Register notice on December 21, 2017, stating that it “expects to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in FY 2018 to solicit public input on proposed revisions to the WPS requirements for minimum age, designated representative, and application exclusion zone.” In this 2017 notice, EPA stated that it did not expect to issue the NOA for training materials addressing the 2015 WPS rule until after completing a rulemaking concerning these proposed revisions. This deferral of the NOA would have significantly delayed the expanded training for handlers and agricultural workers contemplated by the 2015 rule. In the NOA, EPA states that it is still reconsidering the same three requirements, and that “if those requirements are changed through a final rulemaking, training materials may need to be amended to reflect such changes.”
On May 30, 2018, two complaints were filed against EPA in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging EPA’s decision to defer publication of the NOA. More information on these lawsuits is available in our blog item "Lawsuits Filed in Federal District Court Regarding WPS Training Delay." Because publication of the new NOA will afford the plaintiffs in these cases all of the substantive relief they were seeking, it appears that these actions will now be moot other than any request for attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the plaintiffs.
By Carla N. Hutton and Jessie Nguyen
On May 9, 2018, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) posted the Spring 2018 Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan. OIRA states that the semi-annual Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan “provide uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory actions under development throughout the Federal government, covering over 60 departments, agencies, and commissions.” Below are highlights of rulemakings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) that are related to pesticides:
On May 30, 2018, two complaints were filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Both of these suits concern a decision by EPA to defer publication of a notice of availability (NOA) of training materials prepared pursuant to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), 40 C.F.R. Part 170. The WPS was originally promulgated in 1974, substantially amended in 1992, and then revised again in 2015. Although the 2015 revisions to the WPS are currently in effect, employers are not required to adopt new training programs for agricultural workers and handlers until 180 days after EPA publishes the NOA announcing the availability of the new training materials in the Federal Register.
On December 21, 2017, EPA issued a Federal Register notice indicating that it “expects to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in FY 2018 to solicit public input on proposed revisions to the WPS requirements for minimum age, designated representative, and application exclusion zones.” In this 2017 notice, EPA acknowledged that the WPS provisions it will propose to revise are already in effect and that training materials consistent with the 2015 rule have already been prepared, but stated that EPA does not expect to issue the NOA for these new training materials until after it completes a rulemaking concerning the proposed revisions to the 2015 WPS rule. The plaintiffs in both of the new district court cases are challenging the decision of EPA to defer issuance of the NOA, which has delayed the timetable for expanded training for agricultural workers and handlers contemplated by the 2015 WPS rule.
The first of two complaints was filed by Rural & Migrant Ministry, et al. (RAM) v. EPA, Case No. 1:18-cv-04743. RAM’s complaint includes four causes of action based on EPA’s failure to issue the NOA. RAM alleges that this failure is “arbitrary and capricious,” constitutes “agency action unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed,” and violates the publication requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Federal Register Act. RAM requests a declaratory judgment that EPA has violated the APA and the Federal Register Act, and injunctive relief to require immediate publication of the NOA.
The second complaint was filed by the States of New York, California, and Maryland, New York v. Pruitt, Case No. 1:18-cv-04739. These State plaintiffs also contend that EPA’s failure to publish the NOA is “arbitrary and capricious,” and constitutes “action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.” Like RAM, the State plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment and an injunction requiring that EPA immediately publish the NOA for the expanded training materials. EPA will presumably seek consolidation of the two cases, which both challenge the same EPA actions and seek comparable relief.
The principal question presented by these two WPS cases is whether EPA can lawfully defer full implementation of the expanded training required by the 2015 WPS while it undertakes and completes a new rulemaking to revise certain provisions of the same rule. Although EPA acknowledges that it has prepared the written materials needed to effectuate the expanded training required by the 2015 WPS, EPA will likely argue that it is both more efficient and less confusing for employers and workers to use the existing training materials until after EPA has finished revising the WPS. In contrast, the plaintiffs in these two cases will argue that the 2015 WPS is already in effect, and that the protection for workers associated with the expanded training required by this rule has been improperly delayed by EPA without any prior notice and comment rulemaking.
The decision by EPA to defer full implementation of the 2015 WPS while EPA considers potential revisions to the WPS may be deemed analogous in some respects to other EPA actions that delayed the effective date for a rule expanding requirements for certified applicators who apply restricted use pesticides (RUP). In a decision issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on March 21, 2018, the court vacated several EPA actions that had delayed the effective date for the RUP rule, holding that EPA was required to provide notice and opportunity for comment before taking such actions and that EPA lacked “good cause” for acting without notice and comment. See Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, Pineros Y Campesinos Unidoa Del Noroeste v. Pruitt, Case No. 17-cv-03434-JSW.
The current cases may be distinguished from the actions EPA took to defer the effective date for the RUP rule because EPA has declined to take affirmative action to effectuate certain requirements in the 2015 WPS, rather than deferring the effective date for any of the requirements in that rule. It remains to be seen whether the district court will consider this procedural distinction to warrant a different outcome.
On May 25, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an extension of the comment period of the proposed rule entitled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” (Science Rule) that EPA issued on April 30, 2018. 83 Fed. Reg. 24255. The Federal Register notice states that EPA will extend the comment period from May 30, 2018, to August 16, 2018. EPA states that it is making these changes “in response to public requests for an extension of the comment period and for a public hearing.” It is noteworthy that the extension was issued on the heels of EPA’s receipt of letters, one submitted by eight Attorneys General and another by 20 Senators, addressing the proposal, as described below. Comments can be filed in Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OA-2018-0259 on www.regulations.gov.
EPA’s notice also announces that it will be holding a public hearing for the proposed rule on July 17, 2018, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (EDT) in Washington, D.C. that will provide “the public with an opportunity to present oral comments regarding [the Science Rule]”; and will “provide interested parties the opportunity to present data, views, or arguments concerning the proposal.” The notice states that EPA may ask clarifying questions during the oral presentations, but will not respond to the presentations at that time. Registration for the public hearing will be available online; registration information is available in the Federal Register notice.
EPA’s extension and its grant of requests for a public hearing follows closely in time of its receipt, on May 7, 2018, of a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt from eight Attorneys General -- those of New York, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia -- expressing their concern regarding the Science Rule. The letter requests EPA to withdraw the proposed rule and to consult with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The letter states that if EPA is unwilling to withdraw the rule, then EPA should extend the comment period by at least 150 days to “provide for appropriate consultation with the [NAS],” as “a full six-month comment period … is necessary to provide the public and other stakeholders a meaningful opportunity to evaluate the proposal and its implications for the agency’s ability to meet its obligation to protect public health and the environment under federal environmental laws.”
On May 14, 2018, 20 Senators submitted a letter to Pruitt requesting that the comment deadline be extended, to July 30, 2018, stating that this extra time would give “stakeholders adequate time to draft and submit thorough, well-reasoned comments,” as the rule is “expected to have a significant effect on the types and number of scientific studies EPA considers during rulemaking” and “implicates patient privacy.”
It is not clear if the extension of time for public comment indicates a desire to develop a more thorough record behind whatever may emerge as the final rule or is a reaction to some of the intense opposition to the entire scheme. “EPA Science” has been controversial and an emerging political issue for some time, but the reaction to the proposal has been intense even in comparison to many of the changes the Trump Administration has sought to impose on other EPA policies and procedures. To some degree, if the Trump Administration hopes to change EPA’s fundamental approach to decision-making, the sooner the better for the potential to leave a lasting change in place. Meanwhile, even from a relatively neutral perspective, the proposal is complicated as to how such new requirements would work -- what it applies to, or how some of the critical new terms would be defined (e.g., “pivotal science”), among other complex elements. This complexity may be its ultimate undoing, or perhaps careful consideration of voluminous (and much critical) public comment will hone the proposal into something more likely to achieve its stated goals.
More information about the Science Rule is available on our blog and in our memorandum EPA Releases Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Proposed Rule.
EPA Holds Environmental Modeling Public Meeting on the Quantitative Use of Surface Water Monitoring Data in Pesticide Risk Assessment
On May 23, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held an “Environmental Modeling Public Meeting” (EMPM). As stated in the April 12, 2018, Federal Register notice announcing the meeting, the “EMPM provides a public forum for EPA and its stakeholders to discuss current issues related to modeling pesticide fate, transport, and exposure for pesticide risk assessments in a regulatory context.” The overall theme of the EMPM was the quantitative use of surface water monitoring data.
The morning session featured a series of presentations by representatives from EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Washington State Department of Agriculture concerning the development of a framework to use surface water monitoring data quantitatively in pesticide risk assessments. A major focus of the presentations was the exploration and evaluation of the capabilities of the USGS recently-developed model SEAWAVE-QEX to improve the robustness of surface water monitoring datasets so that they might be used in pesticide risk assessments. Further public presentations on the evaluation and development of the framework are scheduled at the American Chemical Society meeting to be held on August 19-23, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts. There are plans to hold a Scientific Advisory Panel meeting on the framework in 2019, but no exact date has been set.
The afternoon session consisted of presentations by representatives of the registrant community. Topics addressed included developments in the use of surface water monitoring data in quantitative risk assessment, a statistical analysis of non-targeted monitoring data at the watershed scale, the creation of a curated database of water and sediment monitoring data for synthetic pyrethroids, the use of high-resolution spatial and temporal monitoring data to parameterize watershed scale drift exposure predictions, and an evaluation of model predictability using monitoring data and refined pesticide use at the watershed level.
Registrants should monitor these activities, as this effort at EPA represents a potential shift away from the current reliance exclusively on estimated water concentrations in quantitative human health and ecological risk assessments.
On April 30, 2018, the U.S. District Court for D.C. issued a memorandum opinion that sets forth the reasons for its denial of defendant Monsanto Company’s (Monsanto) motion to dismiss in a case in which the plaintiffs allege that certain glyphosate label claims violate the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (DCCPPA) (Opinion). The order denying Monsanto’s motion to dismiss was issued on March 31, 2018, but did not provide any substantive discussion as to why it was denied, only that a statement that the reasons would be provided in 30 days.
Plaintiffs Beyond Pesticides, et al.’s amended complaint alleges that under the DCCPPA “the claim that Roundup targets an enzyme ‘found in plants but not in people or pets’ is false and misleading because that enzyme ‘is found in people and pets’” (emphasis in original), because, plaintiffs assert, “glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, targets an enzyme that exists in ‘gut bacteria’ found in humans and other mammals.” The amended complaint additionally alleges that Monsanto “is aware that its labels and advertising are false … but continues to repeat this claim because ‘consumers are more likely to buy -- and will pay more for -- weed killer formulations that do not affect people and animals.’”
Monsanto’s motion to dismiss, filed on July 10, 2017, stated that plaintiffs’ “claims are time-barred, that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim because the statement at issue is not false or misleading, and that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by [the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)].”
The Opinion outlines the reasons for the court’s conclusion that the claims are not time-barred, at least for purposes of deciding the motion to dismiss. The Opinion states, in response to some of the arguments that the claims were time-barred, that the court has “little trouble concluding that Plaintiffs’ claims are not time-barred in their entirety,” and that Monsanto is “entitled to renew its argument that some portion of Plaintiff’s claims are time-barred at the summary judgment stage.”
With regard to the court’s decision that plaintiffs “have adequately pleaded a claim” that Roundup’s label is false or misleading under the DCCPPA, the Opinion states: “Roundup supposedly targets an enzyme that is not found in people or animals, but that enzyme is, in fact, found in their gut bacteria.” Moreover, the Court notes that “even if the statement on Roundup’s label is not ‘literally false,’ Plaintiffs have also alleged that it is also misleading.” For these reasons, the Opinion states, the Court “cannot conclude that ‘no reasonable person would be deceived’ by the Roundup label, such that dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims would be appropriate.”
Perhaps of most interest is the Opinion’s discussion of the preemption claim in light of the fact that the claims at issue are claims approved on multiple occasions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its approval of the label. The Opinion states that “Plaintiffs’ claims are not preempted because the DCCPPA, as it relates to pesticide labels, does not impose a broader or different obligation than FIFRA.” Rather, “[u]nder both statutes, false or misleading statements on a pesticide label are proscribed.” The Opinion cites the Supreme Court case Bates v. Dow Agrosciences LLC, 544 U.S. 431 (2005) in stating that “the question is not whether the statute reaches conduct beyond such labeling,” but “whether the statute ‘impose[s] a labeling requirement that diverges from those set out in FIFRA and its implementing regulations’” (emphasis in original). Moreover, the Opinion finds that a request for declaratory relief is not “functionally a requirement that the company change its label.” Instead, the Opinion distinguishes between the declaration that plaintiffs seek, that Monsanto’s label violates the DCCPPA, and an injunction stating that the declaratory relief requested “would not require Monsanto to change its label, even though it might well ‘induce’ it to do so” (emphasis in original). The Court found that for this reason the requested relief is not preempted by FIFRA.
Registrants should pay attention to the potential implications of this case, and others like it, particularly with regard to label claims that EPA has approved. More information on other glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
New Electronic Options for Label and CSF Submission to EPA: An update on the SmartLabel and eCSF Projects
On May 2, 2018, during the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) meeting, EPA announced the progress of its electronic pesticide label data submission project, SmartLabel, and its electronic Confidential Statement of Formula (eCSF) submission project. The SmartLabel and eCSF will be submitted through EPA’s Pesticide Submission Portal (PSP) on the Central Data Exchange (CDX).
EPA is developing the SmartLabel program to improve efficiencies in the submission, review, and approval of pesticide label information. EPA believes creation of electronic master labels as structured data will improve the accuracy and clarity of pesticide label information and will allow it to be revised easily and efficiently.
EPA indicated that the SmartLabel program will use CDX for the creation of labels in XML format. Once uploaded through CDX’s PSP, the label will undergo an internal validation and move through an internal workflow. EPA anticipates this will aid in faster approvals of labels.
The eCSF is an electronic version of EPA’s current paper CSF (EPA Form 8570-4). This eCSF submission option will allow applicants to electronically submit product specification data and will:
The electronic form is anticipated to result in significant time savings for the applicant and the EPA reviewer. EPA stated that most submitted CSF actions are modifications to current formulations and not all fields will need to be re-entered when submitting a modification using eCSF. Additional benefits that EPA believes will result are a reduction in time and effort needed for error corrections, electronic data validation, and less reliance on paper-based processes.
The SmartLabel and eCSF teams are continuing to work with Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) Divisions to harmonize OPP-wide vocabularies and data validation rules. The SmartLabel team and eCSF team are also working to harmonize overlapping vocabulary. Nine registrants are conducting testing on software development and most likely will participate in additional testing of the software.
EPA anticipates that the SmartLabel and eCSF programs will move EPA from a paper-based workplace to a paperless workplace. The SmartLabel and eCSF builders are anticipated to be released for voluntary submissions in Summer 2018, and EPA encourages registrants to submit labels and CSFs using the new builders.
OEHHA Proposes Regulations on Safe Harbor Warning Content as Part of Clear and Reasonable Warnings Regulations
On April 23, 2018, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced it is proposing to amend Article 6 of Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations (C.C.R.), Section 25603, specifically the safe harbor warning content for on product warnings for exposures to listed chemicals in pesticides. OEHHA states that this regulation is “intended to provide compliance assistance for businesses that cause pesticide exposures in order to reduce the potential for litigation concerning the sufficiency of warnings, while still allowing them to comply with other federal and state requirements for warnings provided on a label.” It is a part of the new Article 6 Clear and Reasonable Warnings regulations, which OEHHA adopted in August 2016 and which become effective on August 30, 2018. These new regulations include safe harbor warning methods and content for consumer product exposures (Sections 25602 and 25603) and occupational exposures (Section 25606) to listed chemicals. The Initial Statement of Reasons (ISOR) is available here and the proposed regulatory text is available here. The ISOR summarizes the proposed rulemaking:
The issue that OEHHA intends this proposal to address stems from the fact that OEHHA’s revised warning requirements require the signal word “WARNING” but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “historically has not approved labels containing the terms ‘caution,’ ‘warning,’ or ‘danger,’ unless the word is the same as the [EPA]-required signal word for that label.” Thus, OEHHA is proposing the following regulatory exception from the “WARNING” requirement:
OEHHA states this is intended to be a “narrow exception” and that it is only intended to apply where EPA and California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) signal words and the Proposition 65 (Prop 65) signal word conflict. This proposal is intended to address the concerns of pesticide registrants encountering problems when they attempted to amend their EPA-approved labels to include the Prop 65 “WARNING” signal word. It remains unclear, however, whether the OEHHA proposal will fully address EPA’s concerns, and what effect it will have on EPA’s ability to approve labels that contain the language at issue. Registrants should review the proposal carefully and monitor closely EPA’s actions concerning it and this issue more generally.
Comments are due by June 11, 2018, and can be submitted to OEHHA via its website. OEHHA states that any requests for a public hearing on this proposed regulatory amendment should be submitted by May 25, 2018.
On April 30, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will publish in the Federal Register a proposed rule entitled "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science" (Science Rule) that EPA states is intended to “strengthen the transparency of EPA regulatory science.” EPA states in the preamble that “[t]he proposed regulation provides that when EPA develops regulations, including regulations for which the public is likely to bear the cost of compliance, with regard to those scientific studies that are pivotal to the action being taken, EPA should ensure that the data underlying those are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.” EPA further states that “EPA is proposing to establish a clear policy for the transparency of the scientific information used for significant regulations: specifically, the dose response data and models that underlie what we are calling ‘pivotal regulatory science.’ ‘Pivotal regulatory science’ is the studies, models, and analyses that drive the magnitude of the benefit-cost calculation, the level of a standard, or point-of-departure from which a reference value is calculated.”
EPA intends the rule to provide this transparency “in a manner consistent with statutory requirements for protection of privacy and confidentiality of research participants, protection of proprietary data and confidential business information, and other compelling interests.” EPA “will use peer-reviewed information, standardized test methods, consistent data evaluation procedures, and good laboratory practices to ensure transparent, understandable, and reproducible scientific assessments.” EPA states that its “regulatory science” should be “consistent with the Office Management and Budget’s Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review,” and that “[r]obust peer review plays a critical role in independently validating key findings and ensuring that the quality of published information meets the standards of the scientific and technical community.” In addition, EPA states, the proposed rule “is designed to increase transparency of the assumptions underlying dose response models,” noting that “[t]he use of default models, without consideration of alternatives or model uncertainty, can obscure the scientific justification for EPA actions.”
EPA states: “Across EPA programs much of the science that informs regulatory actions is developed outside the Agency. It is the charge of regulators to ensure that key findings are valid and credible, as required by OMB’s Guidelines.” EPA “believes that concerns about access to confidential or private information can, in many cases, be addressed through the application of solutions commonly in use across some parts of the Federal government,” and “[n]othing in the proposed rule compels the disclosure of any confidential or private information in a manner that violates applicable legal and ethical protections.”
The rule as proposed has ten subparts:
EPA is soliciting comments on the proposed rule and “how it can best be promulgated and implemented in light of existing law and prior Federal policies that already require increasing public access to data and influential scientific information used to inform federal regulation.” Among the issues EPA asks for comment are the following:
On April 26, 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was a witness in a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment entitled The Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Budget. Administrator Pruitt discussed the forthcoming proposed rule at this hearing, stating that the rule is an effort to make the data and methodology that underlie scientific studies, oftentimes done by third parties, more accessible and more transparent -- especially to those interested stakeholders commenting on the determinations that the studies support. Many of the Committee members were supportive of the Science Rule, stating that the transparency is long overdue. Others expressed concerns with the proposed rule, including concerns about a potential for EPA to handpick certain “public” studies and to discount other valid studies only because they did not divulge all of their confidential data; and concerns regarding the inability to protect important confidential information, such as identities of patients.
The proposed rule is controversial and will likely be the subject of significant comment. Similar to when legislative proposals offer new terminology, the establishment and use of terms such as “pivotal regulatory science” suggest some distinction between it and “not so pivotal science” not subject to the new procedures and requirements. How such distinctions will be made and what the impact may be could be significant for companies that submit “routine” data under existing Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) regulations concerning registration data requirements. Interest in the subject has been reported to focus especially on questions some have raised about the way EPA has utilized studies and scientific data to support initiatives and rules issued by the air program. What that raises is a fear that addressing some concerns about how air regulations are justified might have unintended consequences in other EPA media programs.
In brief, for pesticide registrants, the rule poses significant potential issues. For example, registrants spending millions of dollars on studies necessary to register products that are proprietary and protected from release to those who might use them to register their own products without compensating the owners; issues with regard to EPA’s reliance under the proposed rule on these registrant generated and FIFRA required studies will need to be carefully considered carefully. As another example, EPA’s review of epidemiology data underlying its conclusions regarding chlorpyrifos and other organophosphate pesticide requirements potentially may be subject to more stringent requirements than they previously were. Registrants should review the proposed rule carefully and monitor closely developments relating to it.