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 April 8, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit information on the current pesticide exemption provision process. 86 Fed. Reg. 18232. EPA announced its intent to issue this ANPR on January 19, 2021, as discussed here. The issuance of the ANPR was paused following the Biden Administration’s Executive Orders requiring agencies to review their rules and policies to ensure consistency with the current Administration’s environmental policies.
EPA states that it is soliciting comments and suggestions to determine whether regulatory and policy changes are needed to improve the exemption provisions for pesticides that may be considered minimum risk under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA states that changes to the current process could make the implementation and evaluation of the exemption provisions more efficient.
Comments on the ANPR are due before July 7, 2021. Discussed below are the issues raised in the ANPR for stakeholder consideration and changes made since the ANPR was first announced in January 2021.
The ANPR is generally the same as what was first announced in January 2021, in which EPA states it is seeking public input for two main categories:
One important difference is that the April 2021 ANPR now includes a discussion of environmental justice. EPA states that Executive Order 12989 directed agencies, “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its actions on minority and low-income populations.” EPA states in the ANPR that it has not identified any such disproportionate effects, since this ANPR is soliciting comments and is not proposing any specific actions or regulatory changes.
Specific questions posed that relate to environmental justice include the following:
Other questions posed that have not changed substantively since the 2021 ANPR include the following:
Given the change in Administrations and the “pause” that was imposed and further review that was required before this proposed rulemaking could be issued, it was unclear whether EPA would issue this proposal.
Now that EPA has issued the ANPR, it is important for stakeholders to review these issues carefully and consider submitting comments to identify challenges with the current regulatory criteria and procedures, as well as potential modifications that could improve the regulatory process.
EPA states: “Should EPA decide to move forward with changes to the program, the next step would be to identify, develop and evaluate specific options for amending the current regulations in 40 CFR 152.25, and issue a proposed rule for public review and comment.” EPA also notes that with regard to environmental justice, it is seeking public input on the consideration of environmental justice concerns in the context of the issues raised in the ANPR, and that “if and when the Agency proposes regulatory options regarding exemptions under FIFRA or the related procedures, EPA will seek additional input from the public, as appropriate.”
EPA Issues SSURO against ViaClean Technologies for Making Inaccurate Health Claims about Its Pesticide Product
On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) to ViaClean Technologies (ViaClean), operating in Philadelphia, regarding the sales, distribution, and marketing of the pesticide BioProtect RTU with claims that it is effective against surfaces from public health-related pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered with EPA. Public health claims can only be made regarding products that have been properly tested and are registered with EPA.
In this case, BioProtect RTU is a registered pesticide, with label claims approved by EPA, in part, to use the product to inhibit the growth of odor causing bacteria that cause staining and discoloration, and algae. According to EPA, ViaClean provided two BioProtect RTU fact sheets containing public health claims to at least one customer, including the statement that the pesticide can be used to kill “germs.” EPA also alleged that some online distributors, cleaning services, and end-recipients of BioProtect RTU were also making claims that this product is effective against pathogens, germs, disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and/or SARS-CoV-2 for up to 90 days.
EPA’s issuance of the SSURO is thus based on EPA’s belief that ViaClean was selling, distributing, and marketing BioProtect RTU with public health claims that have not been substantiated or approved through the pesticide registration process. EPA states that it is concerned that customers may have used this product as protection from viruses -- SARS-CoV-2 -- in lieu of other EPA-approved disinfection methods.
This case is another example of EPA’s enforcement priorities and vigilance over the past year to identify products making claims to act against the coronavirus and taking action to prevent further sales when such products are not approved by EPA to make such claims.
On March 17, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the issuance of the final guidance document entitled "Guidance for Waiving Acute Dermal Toxicity Tests for Pesticide Technical Chemicals & Supporting Retrospective Analysis" (EPA 705-G-2020-3722; Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0093) that expands the potential for data waivers for acute dermal studies to single technical active ingredients (AI) used to formulate end-use products. This new guidance builds upon the final guidance for waiving acute dermal toxicity tests for pesticide formulations published by EPA on November 9, 2016, and is an example of EPA’s continued efforts to reduce animal testing and achieve its goal of eliminating all EPA requests for studies and EPA funding of studies on mammals by 2035. EPA states that this guidance is expected to reduce the number of test animals used annually by approximately 750, as well as save EPA, industry, and laboratory resources.
The new final guidance document also allows EPA to harmonize with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Canada, which published guidance on acute dermal toxicity waivers for both end-use product formulations and technical chemicals in 2017.
In developing the new guidance, EPA states that the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) conducted a retrospective analysis of rat acute oral and acute dermal LD50 studies for 249 AIs across numerous chemical classes and toxicity categories in the EPA pesticide categorization scheme. The overall purpose of this analysis was to address the utility of the acute dermal toxicity study for single AIs in pesticide labeling, such as the signal word and precautionary statements. Fumigants and rodenticides were excluded from this retrospective analysis based on their physical state and/or anticipated exposures to them. EPA concluded that:
EPA states that it believes the retrospective analysis fully supports the conclusion that waivers may be granted for acute dermal toxicity studies for pesticide technical chemicals, except for fumigants and rodenticides. Waivers may be accepted for fumigants and rodenticides on a case-by-case basis with appropriate scientific rationale. EPA maintains the ability to request acute dermal toxicity data on a case-by-case basis, but states that it anticipates granting the waiver in most cases.
Additional information on EPA’s efforts to reduce animal testing is available here.
Petition Filed in D.C. Appellate Court Seeking Review of EPA’s Conditional Registration of Aldicarb for Use on Oranges and Grapefruit in Florida
On March 3, 2021, the Farmworker Association of Florida, Environmental Working Group, and Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) order registering the use of the pesticide aldicarb on oranges and grapefruit in Florida as set forth in:
EPA published a Federal Register notice on December 7, 2020, announcing that it had received applications to register new uses for pesticide products containing aldicarb, a currently registered active ingredient. 85 Fed. Reg. 78851. The proposed use was on oranges and grapefruit in Florida and Texas. EPA’s January 12, 2021, Registration Decision states that during the application review, the registrant amended its request and the use was limited by amount of product that can be sold and distributed (i.e., 2,500,000 pounds product) for use during an application season (November 15 to April 30), limited to oranges and grapefruit in Florida, only, and will expire after the third application season (April 30, 2023). The Registration Decision states that EPA “is conditionally approving the uses on oranges and grapefruit to the products MEYMIK TECHNICAL (EPA Reg. No. 87895-2), AGLOGIC 15GG (EPA Reg. No. 87895-4) and AGLOGIC 15GG OG (EPA Reg. No. 87895-7).” According to the Registration Decision, “[t]hese conditional, time-limited registrations will allow for a narrow use of aldicarb on oranges and grapefruit in Florida to help in the control of certain insects, mites, and nematodes, including [Asian citrus psyllid (ACP)].” EPA notes that in conditionally approving these new uses for the existing products under Section 3(c)(7)(B) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), it determined that there are insufficient data to register these uses unconditionally.
EPA’s justification for allowing these uses centers on the need for products to control, or at least slow down the spread of, citrus-greening disease (spread by the ACP-vectored bacterial disease Huanglongbing (HLB)). The registration rationale notes that growers have seen up to an 80 percent reduction in production value due to the disease. This registration appears to be a time-limited registration in order to have another pest control tool while further research continues to attempt to find a more permanent solution to controlling the disease. EPA’s rationale describes past registrations of aldicarb that have provided extensive data and reviews of the required health and ecological assessments to meet the FIFRA standards. A time-limited registration also makes EPA’s assessment “easier” insofar as there is no presumption of long-term chronic exposure to the pesticide beyond the time-limited period. The tolerances for aldicarb had continued to remain in place to allow for use on imported food after earlier reviews determined the tolerance levels met the relevant standards (including risks to children). These additional uses on domestic crops was determined not to change the analytical basis of the tolerance assessment (example: the amount of orange juice consumed does not change if a domestic or foreign supplier is the source).
At the same time, aldicarb has been a controversial pesticide for much of its history. As a carbamate insecticide, its mode of action is cholinesterase inhibition, which has raised issues about possible long-term neurological or other developmental effects from carbamate or organophosphate pesticides. And, as a potent insecticide, some would say there will likely be impacts on pollinators even if label directions are followed. Lastly, arguments over possible risks to farmworkers, assessed to be acceptable in the registration decision, may prove to be an early test of the stated commitment to review more closely decisions with possible environmental justice implications under the new Biden Administration.
EFSA Begins Public Consultation on Draft Updated Guidance on Assessing the Exposure of Operators, Workers, Residents, and Bystanders in Risk Assessment for Plant Protection Products
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced on March 15, 2021, that it has begun a public consultation on a draft updated Guidance on the assessment of exposure of operators, workers, residents, and bystanders in risk assessment for plant protection products (PPP). According to EFSA, the Guidance is designed to assist risk assessors and applicants when quantifying potential non-dietary, systemic exposures as part of the regulatory risk assessment for PPPs. The Guidance is based on the Scientific Opinion on “Preparation of a Guidance Document on Pesticide Exposure Assessment for Workers, Operators, Residents and Bystanders” developed by the EFSA Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR) in 2010. EFSA states that highlighting some inconsistencies between the approaches adopted by regulatory authorities, the PPR Panel proposed a number of changes to the practices in use (i.e., use of deterministic methods for individual PPPs; need to perform an acute risk assessment for PPPs that are acutely toxic; use of appropriate percentile for acute or longer term risk assessments). In the first version of the Guidance, issued in 2014, EFSA included several scenarios for outdoor uses, with an annexed calculator, as well as recommendations for further research. EFSA has updated the Guidance in 2021 to include additional scenarios and revise default values on the basis of the evaluation of additional evidence. To support users in performing the assessment of exposure and risk, EFSA further developed an online calculator that reflects the Guidance content. Comments on the draft updated Guidance are due May 9, 2021. EFSA will assess all comments submitted in line with the specified criteria. The relevant EFSA Panel will further consider the comments and take them into consideration if found to be relevant.
On March 5, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that “in support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making evidence-based decisions to protect human health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking an important step by proposing the cancellation of the registration of pentachlorophenol.” Pentachlorophenol, a well-recognized wood preservative in use for decades, is registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). According to EPA, it is used primarily on utility poles.
EPA states that after completing a risk assessment, it determined that pentachlorophenol poses significant human health risks to workers. To address this issue, EPA proposes to cancel all uses of pentachlorophenol through the FIFRA registration review process. EPA will accept public comments on the proposed interim decision (PID) for 60 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0653. Comments are due May 4, 2021. 86 Fed. Reg. 12940. At this time, the PID has not yet been posted in the docket. After considering any comments concerning the PID, EPA will issue an interim decision, which would make final the cancellation of pentachlorophenol.
EPA notes that this proposed action would align the United States with the United Nation’s (UN) Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which has banned the use of pentachlorophenol. According to EPA, it worked with industry stakeholders “to identify a number of viable, safer alternatives such as copper naphthenate and DCOIT, along with well-established wood preservatives such as chromated arsenicals and creosote.” EPA’s March 5, 2021, Federal Register notice also announces the availability of PIDs for creosote and chromated arsenicals and dichromic acid, disodium salt, dehydrate.
That EPA is seeking to eliminate pentachlorophenol is by no means surprising and its demise has been in the works for a while. Its commercial use is already banned in many countries. The Biden Administration was expected to propose cancellation, and wasted little time in doing so. The real debate will be in the terms that EPA eventually settles upon with regard to phase-out and continued use of stockpiled material. The elimination of this product paves the way for a more robust commercial future for the existing pentachlorophenol replacements, and likely soon to be emerging replacements that are efficacious and more sustainable.
Court Grants EPA’s Motion to Vacate and Remand Final Rule on “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information”
On February 1, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana granted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) January 31, 2021, unopposed motion to vacate and remand its January 6, 2021, final rule on “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information” (86 Fed. Reg. 469). EDF v. EPA, No. 4:21-cv-03-BMM. On January 11, 2021, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC), and Citizens for Clean Energy (CCE) filed suit against EPA, claiming that the January 6, 2021, final rule was unlawful and that EPA’s decision to make the final rule effective on publication was unlawful. On January 27, 2021, the court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs, finding that EPA did not provide good cause to exempt the final rule from the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) 30-day notice requirement. The court stated that “EPA’s decision to make the Final Rule immediately effective on publication was ‘arbitrary, capricious’ and ‘otherwise not in accordance with law.’” In its January 31, 2021, motion, EPA states based on the court’s conclusion that the final rule constitutes a substantive rule and that EPA “lacked authorization to promulgate the rule pursuant to its housekeeping authority.” According to EPA, where EPA lacked the authority to promulgate the final rule, “remand without vacatur would serve no useful purpose because EPA would not be able to cure that defect on remand.” EPA notes that because the final rule was in effect for less than a month, and it had not applied the rule in any circumstance while the rule was in effect, “there would be no disruptive consequences in remanding and vacating the rule.”
Prior to EPA’s motion to vacate and remand the final rule, on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. According to the EO, it is the policy of the Biden Administration “to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides; to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to bolster resilience to the impacts of climate change; to restore and expand our national treasures and monuments; and to prioritize both environmental justice and the creation of the well-paying union jobs necessary to deliver on these goals.” The EO directs all executive departments and agencies to review immediately and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, take action to address the promulgation of federal regulations and other actions during the Trump Administration that conflict with the Biden Administration’s national objectives, and to commence work immediately to confront the climate crisis. The EO calls for the heads of all agencies to review immediately “all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (agency actions) promulgated, issued, or adopted between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021, that are or may be inconsistent with, or present obstacles to,” the Biden Administration’s policy. For any identified actions, the EO directs the heads of agencies to “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency actions.” In addition, for certain specified agency actions, the EO states that the head of the relevant agency “shall consider publishing for notice and comment a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding the agency action within the time frame specified.” The specified agency actions include EPA’s January 6, 2021, final rule on “Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information.”
As reported in our January 11, 2021, memorandum, the origin of EPA’s January 6, 2021, final rule is rooted in legislative proposals more clearly intended to challenge important regulatory requirements, particularly related to EPA’s air program. We predicted that the final rule would likely be among the first items subject to reversal or “clarifying” guidance making it consistent with previously established science policies (see Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) Forecast 2021 memo). With Democratic control of both houses of Congress, there might also be attempts to repeal the rule via action under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of recently promulgated regulations.
EPA Announces Approval of Extensions to August 24, 2020, First-Ever Long-Lasting Antiviral Product for Use against COVID-19
EPA’s initial emergency exemption for the state of Texas issued on August 24, 2020, specified that the product remained effective for seven days. According to its updated labels for all three states, EPA has now approved claims that SurfaceWise2 provides residual surface control of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces that are undisturbed for up to 30 days. The updated labels state “When used in accordance with the directions for use, SurfaceWise®2 provides residual surface control of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, for up to 30-days on undisturbed (e.g., are not routinely disinfected with List N products) non-porous treated surfaces.”
Of note, EPA also states in its announcement that SurfaceWise2 should be reapplied every time surfaces are disinfected to ensure continuous product performance as exposure to prolonged wetness may adversely impact the efficacy of the product. The updated labels state in the Directions for Use that the user must “Reapply SurfaceWise®2 after surfaces are disinfected to ensure continuous product performance” and “Do not expose SurfaceWise®2 to prolonged wetness as this may adversely impact the efficacy of the product.”
FIFRA Section 18 authorizes EPA to exempt federal or state agencies from any provision of FIFRA in the event that emergency conditions require such an exemption. EPA regulations (40 C.F.R. Part 166) specify when state or federal government agencies will be permitted to use unregistered pesticides in response to an emergency. EPA’s regulations provide that an emergency exists when:
40 C.F.R. § 166.3.
The exemptions granted can be very specific and time-limited; EPA has developed a database so companies can search (by chemical, site, pest, applicant, or date range) to determine if an emergency exemption has been issued and its expiration date.
In this case, EPA approved the Section 18 emergency exemption request for SurfaceWise2 -- a product manufactured by Allied BioScience. SurfaceWise2 is a surface coating that Allied BioScience states inactivates viruses and bacteria within two hours of application and continues to work against them for up to 30 days, on undisturbed non-porous treated surfaces. EPA’s approvals will allow Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas to permit American Airlines airport facilities and planes at specific locations identified on the label and two Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine Clinics in Texas to use SurfaceWise2 under certain conditions. The approved Section 18 emergency requests are effective for one year. This public health exemption will expire August 24, 2021. As new data emerge, EPA may alter the terms of the product’s emergency uses, as it did with the modifications discussed here.
Additional information on Section 18 emergency exemption requests and SARS-CoV-2 is available here.
EPA Announces the Issuance of a Revised Advisory on Disinfectants Making False and Misleading Claims against COVID-19
In January 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) announced that it issued a revised compliance advisory (Advisory) on products claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. EPA first issued this guidance on June 1, 2020, and it is discussed in our blog here.
The Advisory has been revised significantly, reflecting new developments and experience since the Advisory was first issued.
The first section of the Advisory addresses “Products claiming to be effective against the coronavirus causing COVID-19.” That title has changed, as well as the language throughout the Advisory, to refer now to products that are “effective against” the coronavirus, instead of products that “kill” the coronavirus.
EPA has added a new section entitled “What is the difference between an EPA registration number and an EPA establishment number?” Presumably, this is intended to address confusion among some with regard to this important difference. The Advisory now states:
The section entitled “Devices that claim to kill the coronavirus” has been significantly modified. In particular, EPA has now deleted from the Advisory language that “ozone generators, UV lights and other pesticide devices may not be able to make claims against coronavirus where devices have not been tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses.” Instead, the Advisory states legal requirements applicable to devices, namely that the labels “include adequate warning and caution statements and directions for use” and have an EPA establishment number. EPA further adds the following: “Additionally, making false or misleading labeling claims about the safety or efficacy of a pesticidal device is prohibited and could result in the issuance of a Stop Sale, Use, or Removal Order and penalties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).”
In its “Compliance Concerns” section, EPA states it continues to pursue enforcement against products making false and misleading claims regarding their efficacy against the coronavirus, adding that it is “particularly concerned with pesticide and pesticide device products sold online on e-commerce platforms that are fraudulent, counterfeit, and/or otherwise ineffective.”
EPA has added new language to address a particular issue with regard to “residual” claims:
Of interest among the changes to the Advisory is the removal of the language stating that pesticide devices could not make claims against the coronavirus unless they had been specifically “tested for efficacy or safety for use against the virus causing COVID-19 or harder-to-kill viruses.” While any such testing may be necessary to demonstrate efficacy or appropriate directions for use, EPA had not previously stated what particular testing was required for devices or against what testing standard it would determine whether a device claim is “false or misleading.” It remains important for pesticide device producers to review carefully the data supporting the claims made for their devices to ensure that they comply with the regulatory requirements under FIFRA.
On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit information on the current pesticide exemption provision process.
EPA announced that it is considering whether regulatory and policy changes are needed to improve the exemption provisions for pesticides that may be considered minimum risk under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA states that changes to the current process could make the implementation and evaluation of the exemption provisions more efficient.
Comments on the ANPRM would be due on or before 90 days after publication of the ANPRM in the Federal Register in docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0537. Although the issuance of this proposed rulemaking has been paused following the Biden Administration’s Executive Orders requiring agencies to review their rules and policies to ensure consistency with the current Administration’s environmental policies, should it proceed, it will be important for stakeholders to review carefully. Discussed below are the issues raised in the ANPRM for stakeholder consideration.
EPA states it is seeking public input on:
Specific questions posed include the following:
In the ANPRM, EPA states it is soliciting information that will help determine if any changes in the regulations should be made. The ANPR does not contain specific possible changes to FIFRA exemptions. EPA states: “Should EPA decide to move forward with changes to the program, the next step would be to identify, develop and evaluate specific options for amending the current regulations in 40 CFR 152.25, and issue a proposed rule for public review and comment.” Given the change in Administrations and the current “pause” on issuance of this proposed rulemaking, it is unclear whether EPA will issue this proposal, and if so whether EPA will take further steps regarding the exemption after reviewing the comments received. Should EPA proceed to issue the ANPR, it will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to submit comments on these issues, and companies should consider identifying challenges with the current regulatory criteria and procedures, as well as potential modifications that could improve the regulatory process.
It is noteworthy that EPA received a petition from the Consumer Specialty Products Association in 2006 requesting that EPA address issues related to efficacy claims for Section 25(b) products and that EPA promised to address this petition by rulemaking or other avenues. The potential for changes to the Section 25(b) requirements thus is not a new concern for EPA, and it will be important to monitor this issue.