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The Appropriations Bill that is expected to be signed into law on February 15, 2019, provides funding for the rest of Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and averts another federal government shutdown. It does not, however, include either an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) or Reauthorization, widely referred to as PRIA 4. This omission was a surprise to industry and to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On February 13, 2019, the Senate introduced a stand-alone PRIA 4 bill (S. 483). Acting swiftly, the Senate passed the bill on February 14, 2019, by unanimous consent. S. 483 directly references H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017, from the last Congress, with amendments passed by the Senate on June 28, 2018.
S. 483 has moved to the House, where the timing of a vote currently is unclear. The House will go into a week-long recess after today. It is possible that the bill will not further progress until the House reconvenes on February 25, 2019.
The effect on EPA and the regulated community during this transition is also unclear. Currently, EPA is sorting out applications and PRIA deadlines along with workload planning in the aftermath of the recently concluded federal government shutdown. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides for a reduction in applicable fees if PRIA is not reauthorized, but it is unclear if applications submitted during the transition will be assigned a PRIA review date. If PRIA 4 is passed, we expect that the fee provisions will be retroactive and that EPA will send invoices to applicants for submissions made during the transition period for the difference between what was paid and the new PRIA 4 fee.
More information on these topics is available in our blog items "Federal Budget Deal Negotiations Fail to Advance PRIA Reauthorization" and "Continuing Resolution to Re-open the Government Includes PRIA Extension."
As reported in the trade press on February 14, 2019, following budget negotiations late on Wednesday, February 13, several legislative riders did not make it into the conference report for the final fiscal year (FY) 2019 omnibus spending package. This purportedly includes an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) or the long-awaited Reauthorization known as “PRIA 4.” This may be the result of political pressure to avoid another government shutdown with a “clean bill” package capable of garnering the necessary votes. The Senate and House are expected to vote on the omnibus package today, February 14, 2019, ahead of the expiration of the current budget resolution on February 15. While much is still in flux, the final omnibus package, once passed, will provide a clearer picture on any PRIA implications. At this time it appears that, contrary to past budget resolutions, PRIA 3 will not be extended. More information on the recent PRIA extensions is available in our blog items Continuing Resolution to Re-open the Government Includes PRIA Extension and Registrants Face PRIA and Shutdown Issues.
In the event of a lapse, the “phase-down” provisions in the statute will mean that new submissions require a reduced fee schedule, but submissions will no longer have an associated PRIA deadline for a decision on the application. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will likely “clarify” in the coming days and weeks what this means for any expectation for an application submitted during this time. During the recent shutdown, EPA stated that applications submitted during that temporary lapse only required the reduced fee. At that time, however, since no deadline was required for such an application, EPA advised that applicants should expect guidance as to when to expect a decision (that is, in effect, do not bother to submit things during the shutdown period since PRIA actions with an associated deadline will have priority for the foreseeable future). When the federal government reopened on January 28, however, EPA processed all applications received during the shutdown as PRIA actions submitted on January 28.
Now with PRIA likely not in effect after February 15, 2019, even with an approved EPA budget for FY2019, EPA will have to evaluate what to communicate to applicants about what to expect during the time of the PRIA 3 phase-down. Any plans for this period may be affected by provisions in PRIA 4. On February 13, 2019, the Senate introduced standalone PRIA 4 legislation (S. 483) with bipartisan support which could facilitate relatively quick Senate action on a PRIA 4 proposal. The House would also need to take action to renew the program.
Because no PRIA action was taken in the budget agreement, important questions now swirl about the program, including:
EPA will be addressing these and many other important questions over the next few days.
The March 1, 2019, deadline for all establishments, foreign and domestic, that produce pesticides, devices, or active ingredients to file their annual production for the 2018 reporting year is fast approaching. Pursuant to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 7 (7 U.S.C. § 136e), “any producer operating an establishment registered [under Section 7] shall inform the Administrator within 30 days after it is registered of the types and amounts of pesticides and, if applicable, active ingredients used in producing pesticides” and this information “shall be kept current and submitted to the Administrator annually as required.”
Reports must be submitted on or before March 1 annually for the prior year’s production. The report, filed through the submittal of EPA Form 3540-16: Pesticide Report for Pesticide-Producing and Device-Producing Establishments, must include the name and address of the producing establishment; and pesticide production information such as product registration number, product name, and amounts produced and distributed. The annual report is always required, even when no products are produced or distributed.
EPA has created the electronic reporting system to submit pesticide producing establishment reports using the Section Seven Tracking System (SSTS). Users will be able to use SSTS within EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to submit annual pesticide production reports. Electronic reporting is efficient, it saves time by making the process faster, and saves money in mailing costs and/or courier delivery and related logistics.
Link to EPA Form 3540-16, as well as instructions on how to report, and how to add and use EPA’s SSTS electronic filing system are available below.
Further information is available on EPA’s website.
The short-term continuing resolution (CR) includes an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) through the duration of the funding measure, February 15, 2019. This was expected, and is welcome news to registrants who have delayed submittal of registration applications due to the shutdown.
The status of applications submitted during the shutdown period is uncertain at best. As described in our earlier blog item Registrants Face PRIA and Shutdown Issues, registrants were advised to not submit applications during the shutdown as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has previously indicated that applications submitted during the shutdown would not be subject to any PRIA deadline. During this period of budget battles and shutdown uncertainty, it would appear to be prudent to ensure that any applications for registration are submitted while EPA (and PRIA) are operational under appropriated funding.
While this is good news, the uncertainty surrounding the possibility of another shutdown at the end of this period not only makes planning difficult for registrants, it also creates workload management problems at EPA to deal with backlogs and unpredictable resources for processing pending and new applications. EPA will have to clarify what the extended shutdown period means for processing times and priorities. As of today, EPA is still literally sorting out applications and PRIA deadlines along with workload planning to determine how best to proceed.
Stay tuned …
On December 28, 2018, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued Notice 2018-26 changing its Notice of Decision (NOD) and public report documentation for proposed registration decisions to ensure continued compliance with its certified regulatory program obligations under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The new changes to the NODs and public report documentation will be effective May 1, 2019.
These changes are as a result of a 2014 lawsuit brought by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), et al. challenging DPR’s acceptance of label amendments for two previously registered dinotefuran pesticide products. The First District Court of Appeal held that DPR’s NODs and public reports supporting the dinoteferan registration actions were deficient because DPR could not demonstrate that it properly considered certain factors specified in CEQA. In essence, the court concluded that certain CEQA requirements that DPR construed as procedural in nature were actually substantive standards that DPR must meet and adequately document in its administrative record. Specifically, the court found that DPR failed to include a checklist or other documentation with meaningful analysis explaining how DPR reached its conclusion that the approval of the proposed label changes would not cause a significant adverse impact to human health, flora, fauna, water, and air.” The court also found DPR’s discussion of alternatives and cumulative impacts inadequate. Information about that case is available in our blog item California Court of Appeal Reverses Trial Court Decision Denying PANNA’s Petition Challenging Approval by DPR of Pesticides Containing Dinotefuran.
CEQA is intended to ensure projects permitted by public agencies consider the long-term protection of the environment. DPR states that CEQA “requires state and local agencies to develop an environmental impact report (EIR) for any proposed or approved project that may have a significant effect on the environment (including human health) or a negative declaration if there is substantial evidence of no significant impacts.” EIRs provide public agencies and the public “with detailed information about a proposed project’s significant effects on the environment, describe ways these effects can be minimized, and indicate alternatives to the proposed project.” CEQA and its implementing regulations set forth in Title 3, California Code of Regulations (3 Cal. Code Regs.) Sections 6254 and 6255, also require DPR to issue a weekly Notice of Proposed Decisions to Register Pesticide Products and Public Report, listing each proposed decision to register and amend pesticide products for a 30-day public comment period.
Changes to the NOD and Public Report Documentation
To address concerns raised by the court and to protect its certified program status, on January 3, 2018, DPR issued California Notice 2018-01 (“Expanding Use of Pesticide Products Under Reevaluation”), providing that, effectively immediately, DPR “will not act upon an Application for Pesticide Registration or Application to Amend Pesticide Product if DPR determines the registration or acceptance would potentially ‘expand use’ … of an active ingredient or pesticide product currently under reevaluation until the conclusion of the reevaluation.”
With Notice 2018-26, DPR will change the documentation associated with its environmental analysis in the NODs and public reports. According to Notice 2018-26, the revised NODs and public reports will address the following areas for each pesticide product noticed for registration:
In addition, each public report will include the proposed label. For label amendments, DPR will include both the proposed label and currently accepted label.
In summary, effective May 1, 2019, DPR “will no longer post new products and label amendments exiting the formal evaluation process as proposed to register for the 30-day public comment period until DPR completes a public report explaining why the new product or label amendment is not reasonably expected to cause a significant adverse impact to human health, flora, fauna, water, and air.” New products and label amendments that exit the formal evaluation process prior to May 1, 2019, will be posted for the 30-day public comment period using the current NOD documentation.
The impact of these changes could be substantial from a timing and DPR workload perspective and, thus, of significant concern to registrants. DPR has stated it is reviewing its internal processes and procedures and hiring additional staff to accommodate changes in workload as a result of the NOD and public report documentation changes. This is based, in part, on the fact that if current evaluation reports are not available for each CEQA checklist area (i.e., human health, flora, fauna, water, and air), DPR staff may need to review prior evaluation reports, documentation in product files, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk assessments, and other available information to develop the public report. Moreover, DPR states that if it does not have adequate information to address each CEQA checklist area, the product may need to reenter DPR’s formal evaluation process. All of these factors could significantly extend the amount of time DPR takes to review a new product or amendment, as it must now develop these public reports prior to proposing registration decisions with a 30-day public comment period, and that time could be even longer in cases where DPR determines it requires additional evaluation of the product and/or data necessary to complete such public reports.
Due to the government shutdown and to the late notification to applicants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended the annual maintenance fee submission date for pesticide registrants from January 15, 2019, to February 15, 2019. Under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 4(i)(1)(A), each registrant of a pesticide must pay an annual fee by January 15 of each year for each registration; the fee for 2019 is $ 3,392. The notification of the extension is only available if you call the Pesticide Maintenance Fee information line, however; EPA has provided the information in a voice message. More information on the annual maintenance fees is available on EPA’s website.
On another note, on January 2, 2018, we understood that EPA had confirmed that Imports and Notice of Arrivals (NOA) were continuing to be processed by EPA Regional offices notwithstanding the shutdown. We were mistaken. We now understand that EPA is not completely clear if NOAs are being processed during the shutdown. The EPA Regional offices are working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but no additional information is available at this time on the processing of Imports and NOAs.
Although the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) was able to operate through December 28, 2018, despite the current partial federal government shutdown, EPA will now join other parts of the federal service and shut down.
Meanwhile, the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) sunset on December 21, 2018, in the absence of a Continuing Resolution (CR) and the onset of the shutdown. According to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 33(m)(2)(B) [7 USC § 136w-8(m)(2)(B)], the fee for any pesticide application that is subject to a service fee and submitted after December 21, 2018, will be reduced by 70 percent below the fee in effect on September 30, 2017, but no corresponding review period will be assigned. Any applications submitted now thus will not have a required EPA review period and thus will likely be the lowest priority for EPA review when the shutdown ends. For this reason, despite the lower fees, registrants should not submit applications until PRIA is enacted and defined review periods once again are established.
The enactment of some version of PRIA is expected soon, especially given the consequences of the current situation for EPA and government functions generally. Most likely any kind of authorization for funding government operations, such as a CR for a limited time period or for Fiscal Year 2019, is expected to include at least a simple reauthorization of the PRIA 3 for the duration of the CR. This would also mean the new Congress will have to act sometime in the next session to reauthorize PRIA either to continue PRIA 3 beyond a new CR time period or approve amendments such as those considered as PRIA 4 during the 115th Congress. Given the difficulty of Congress in reaching agreement on appropriations legislation, it is possible that PRIA reauthorizations continue to be included as part of CRs for an indefinite time period.
This uncertainty about the status of PRIA may also impact generally the program’s ability to plan and schedule review of registration applications.
Regardless of when PRIA is enacted, however, the shutdown will prevent EPA action on newly submitted applications. OPP states on its web site:
Registrants should monitor developments closely.
Appropriations Continuing Resolution Passed by the Senate on December 19, 2018, Extends PRIA through February 8, 2019
On December 19, 2018, the Senate passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown and continue funding for the government through February 8, 2019. Currently, however, given the uncertainty over border wall funding, it appears likely that there may well be a government shutdown for some period of time. Until the immigration issue is ultimately resolved in an eventual agreement, however, the majority and Democratic staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee expect that the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) extension will be included in the CR. Both the majority and minority in both the House and Senate have reportedly agreed to support PRIA in the new year.
The recent House Conference Report for H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or the Farm Bill, deleted previously inserted provisions regarding the Pesticide Registration Improvement Enhancement Act of 2017. The House version of the Farm Bill included the enactment of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Enhancement Act of 2017 (H.R. 1029, Section 9119), but the Senate version contained no comparable provisions. More information on the Farm Bill Conference Report is available in our memorandum “Congress Passes Farm Bill Conference Report.”
The positive news is that many members of both the House and Senate appear to remain committed to legislative reauthorization of PRIA. At the same time, with the change in party control in the House of Representatives, reauthorization may continue to be delayed as the new Congress with new Committee leadership devotes time and energy to competing priorities.
In addition, as PRIA amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), it could provide an opportunity for amendments to FIFRA outside of the funding context to be offered by members interested in other pesticide-relevant issues. Debate on additional pesticide issues would only likely lead to further delay and uncertainty about long-term reauthorization of PRIA.
EPA Proposes Joint Stipulation in Ellis Case Requiring EPA to Issue ESA Effects Determinations for Two Neonicotinoid Pesticides
On December 12, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed joint stipulation and proposed stipulated notice of dismissal for Ellis v. Keigwin, No. 3:13-CV-1266 (N.D. Cal). 83 Fed. Reg. 63865. The Federal Register notice states that the parties are “proposing to reach a settlement in the form of a joint stipulation" that would, among other provisions “set a June 30, 2022, deadline for EPA to complete ESA [Endangered Species Act] effects determination for EPA’s registration reviews of clothianidin and thiamethoxam and, as appropriate, request initiation of any ESA consultations with the FWS [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] that EPA may determine to be necessary as a result of those effects determinations.” EPA would “also agree to initiate informal consultation" with the FWS prior to completing its effects determinations. In addition, defendant-intervenors Syngenta, Bayer, and Valent (the registrants of products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam) have agreed to request that EPA voluntarily cancel the registrations under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(b)(1) for 12 specific products that contain either clothianidin or thiamethoxam. EPA is requesting comments on both the proposed joint stipulation and the stipulated notice of dismissal. Comments are due by January 11, 2019.
The proposed joint stipulation and dismissal have been agreed to by all parties, including the plaintiffs, EPA, and defendant-intervenors Bayer, Syngenta, Valent, and CropLife America. This stipulation was negotiated by the parties after the District Court in the Ellis case issued an order ruling on cross motions for summary judgment on May 8, 2017. In that order, the court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims that EPA improperly denied a petition requesting that EPA immediately suspend products containing clothianidin, and also dismissed other claims that EPA violated FIFRA requirements for products containing clothianidin and thiamethoxam. At the same time, the court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs on claims arising under ESA Section 7(a)(2), because EPA had failed to consult with FWS before taking particular actions concerning 59 pesticide products containing clothianidin or thiamethoxam. As part of the order, the court directed the parties to schedule a settlement conference to discuss an appropriate remedy, and the proposed stipulation is the result of those settlement discussions.
The Ellis case was brought by beekeepers and honey producers who wanted EPA to take immediate action to ban or restrict clothianidin and thiamethoxam products based on their belief that these neonicotinoid active ingredients pose an unacceptable risk to pollinator species. The court found that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate that these registered pesticidal active ingredients present an "imminent hazard" that would warrant suspension or emergency suspension under FIFRA Section 6(c), and the court also rejected the plaintiffs' other FIFRA claims concerning these products. In contrast, the court granted relief under the ESA because EPA did not make the required effects determinations concerning endangered and threatened species before taking various registration actions for pesticides containing these active ingredients, and the plaintiffs asserted a specific interest in those endangered or threatened species that might be adversely affected by these products. At this juncture, it is unknown whether the ESA review required by the agreed joint stipulation will lead to any further restrictions on these active ingredients that would have a collateral benefit for domesticated pollinators.
The proposed joint stipulation and the proposed stipulated notice of dismissal are available in EPA Docket No. EPA-HQ-OGC-2018-0745.
On November 21, 2018, in Court of Justice of the European Union (EU), the Fourth Chamber of the General Court (General Court/Fourth Chamber) issued a judgment in the appeal case T-545/11 RENV that denied all three pleas on appeal and prevented applicants Stichting Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe (Applicants) from receiving certain documents containing confidential information relating to the first authorization of the placing of glyphosate on the market as an active substance, specifically the complete list of all tests submitted by the operators seeking the inclusion of glyphosate in Annex I to Directive 91/414.
The judgment provides a detailed history of the case, beginning in 2010, when Applicants requested access to the documents in question. In this initial case, the Secretary General of the Commission agreed with the Federal Republic of Germany’s decision to refuse access to the documents (contested decision) on the basis that disclosure in Article 4(2) of Regulation No. 1049/2001 would undermine protection of the commercial interests of a natural or legal person. In upholding Germany’s decision, the Secretary General found that there was “no evidence of an overriding public interest in disclosure” within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Regulation No. 1049/2001, and also that the information “did not relate to emissions into the environment” within the meaning of Article 6(1) of Regulation No. 1367/2006 concerning public disclosure of information on the environmental effects of glyphosate. As such, “protection of the interests of the manufacturers of that substance had to prevail.”
The Applicants brought an action for annulment of the contested decision to the Registry of the General Court. After one of the documents at issue (a draft assessment report issued by Germany prior to the initial inclusion of glyphosate in Annex I to Directive 91/414) was produced to the court (but still not released to the Applicants), the General Court ruled to annul the contested decision. The Commission appealed this annulment, stating that the General Court erred in its interpretation of the term “information [which] relates to emissions into the environment.” The Court of Justice was persuaded by this argument, set aside the initial judgment, and referred the case back to the General Court. The case was then assigned to the Fourth Chamber. The dispute was limited to the part of the document at issue that “contains information on the degree of purity of the active substance, the ‘identity’ and quantities of all the impurities present in the technical material, the analytical profile of the batches, and the exact composition of the product developed.”
The Applicants put forward three pleas in law in support of their action. The pleas, and the basis for the General Court/Fourth Chamber’s rejections of those pleas, are as follows:
After rejecting all three pleas, the General Court/Fourth Chamber held that the action must be dismissed in its entirety, and ordered Applicants to pay the costs relating to the various proceedings.
This case has been monitored closely because of the potential implications for companies that have submitted data or other information claimed as confidential that could be disclosed based on “overriding public interest.” The American Chemistry Council (ACC), CropLife America, CropLife International (CLI), the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the European Crop Care Association (ECCA), the Association européenne pour la protection des cultures (ECPA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) all intervened in support of the form of the order sought by the Commission. The decision, and, in particular, the limitations placed on the scope of what is to be considered “information on emissions into the environment” provides helpful guidance and ensures that the exceptions provided for disclosure do not swallow the general rules under which institutions must refuse access to documents.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.