by James V. Aidala
Time is running out on the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA), and it could die a natural death on January 19, 2018, absent Congressional action. Congress enacted PRIA in 2003 and in so doing established a fee schedule for pesticide registration and amendment applications and critically important specified decision time periods within which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must make a regulatory decision. PRIA has been reauthorized twice, and was scheduled to expire at the end of the 2017 federal fiscal year, on September 30, 2017. A short term funding measure saved the day, but it expires on January 19.
As was the case for PRIA and its prior reauthorizations, a coalition of registrants, labor, and environmental advocates were working with Congress relatively smoothly to pass what will be “PRIA 4” before the expiration date. In May 2017, however, EPA announced that as part of its regulatory review efforts, there would be delays in implementing recent regulations making changes to worker protection standard (WPS) regulations and requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) certification and training (C&T) programs run by the states -- all Obama initiatives. Some farm advocacy groups, the American Farm Bureau in particular, raised concerns about a few elements of the WPS regulations, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) also raised concerns about some elements of the WPS and C&T programs. More information regarding the status of the WPS and C&T rulemakings is available in our blog item “EPA Signals New Rulemakings On Worker Protection Standard and Certification of Pesticide Applicators.”
When EPA announced plans to review and possibly change these regulations, farmworker advocacy groups withdrew their support for the draft PRIA legislation. Along with concerns about possible regulatory changes and delays, environmental groups also expressed concerns with the Administration’s decisions allowing the continued use of chlorpyrifos as part of a petition response announced in March 2017. The tumult fractured the PRIA coalition and a group of Democratic Senators supporting the environmental and labor advocates’ position blocked the PRIA legislation preventing changes to the current WPS regulations, and separately introduced legislation that would effectively end the use of chlorpyrifos (S. 1624).
The PRIA reauthorization has already been approved by the House of Representatives, but now there is a sufficient number of Senate Democrats to block movement of the legislation. As a result, there is currently an impasse, with discussions reportedly ongoing but with no clear path towards resolution.
As the deadline nears, it is expected that a temporary PRIA renewal will be part of any additional short extension, with a less certain outlook about the chances of being included in any comprehensive, year-long legislation to fund government operations. The expectation is that some kind of resolution will be found, but the specific parameters of any solution have not yet been identified.
PRIA has also included the authorization for the “maintenance fee” provisions first included in the 1988 amendments to FIFRA, designed as general support for the EPA pesticide program budget. Taken together, PRIA reauthorization has become a major contributor to the program budget.
Should PRIA not be reauthorized, then the current law allows for a phase-down of the current submissions which include PRIA fees and are subject to decision deadlines. The larger issue would be the potential for the elimination of approximately 200 positions from the pesticide program workforce, which is about one-third of the current staff (and is in line with the share of program costs supported by fees).
Stay tuned -- we will monitor this important topic. More information on PRIA issues is available on our blog under key word PRIA.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) much anticipated and highly acclaimed annual Forecast, “Predictions and Outlook for U.S. Federal and International Chemical Regulatory Policy 2018,” is now available. In the Forecast, the lawyers, scientists, and chemical regulatory specialists at B&C and its affiliated consulting firm, The Acta Group (Acta®), offer comprehensive and highly useful observations on the fast-changing and nuanced area of domestic and global chemical legal, scientific, and regulatory issues expected to be hot topics in 2018. This 38-page document is chock-full of insights, predictions, and useful information.
Happy New Year and enjoy reading our predictions!
By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On December 20, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an order in LULAC v. Pruitt, Case No. 17-71636, a case challenging an order denying administrative petitions to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos. The court’s order includes actions concerning two pending motions. The court has denied a motion by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Administrator Pruitt (Respondents) to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction while granting a motion by League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), et al. (Petitioners) to expedite briefing and hearing in the case. More information on these two motions is available in our blog item “NGOs and Farmworkers File Motion for Expedited Briefing and Hearing in Chlorpyrifos Litigation.”
In support of their August 21, 2017, motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, Respondents argued that the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires the Petitioners to exhaust their administrative remedies by submitting formal objections to the order denying their request to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos and then waiting for EPA to issue a final order before they may seek judicial review. The Petitioners argued in response that requiring exhaustion in this instance would be “futile,” and that the court should also consider reviewing the EPA order under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), because EPA has declined to cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos. In response, Respondents argued that Petitioners have not shown that requiring exhaustion of administrative remedies would be futile, and that 21 U.S.C. § 346a(h)(5) explicitly prohibits judicial review of any order concerning pesticide tolerances under any other statute, including FIFRA.
After the motion to dismiss was fully briefed, the court summarily denied it, but also characterized that denial as “without prejudice to renewing the arguments in the answering brief.” The court also denied a motion by the Petitioners for oral argument concerning the pending motion to dismiss. These two actions indicate that the court has decided to defer argument and resolution of the jurisdictional issues presented by the motion to dismiss until briefing and argument on the merits.
The court also granted an October 13, 2017, motion by the Petitioners to expedite briefing and hearing in the case. Petitioners submitted this motion to expedite because they contend that the refusal of EPA to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos is causing ongoing harm even though EPA “did not and cannot determine that chlorpyrifos is safe under the Food Quality Protection Act.” The court set the following expedited briefing schedule: Petitioners’ opening brief is due January 23, 2018; Intervenors’ brief(s) are due February 6, 2018; Respondents’ answering brief is due March 8, 2018; Petitioners’ optional reply brief is due 28 days after service of Respondents’ brief; and Intervenors’ optional reply brief(s) are due 42 days after service of Respondents’ brief. The court also directed the Clerk to “calendar this case [for argument] as soon as possible upon completion of briefing.”
The current actions of the court should be viewed in the context of the prior decision by this same court to issue a writ of mandamus that required EPA to take action on pending petitions to cancel the registrations and revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos after what Petitioners claimed was a quite protracted administrative delay, and the subsequent decision by EPA under Administrator Pruitt to defer final action on chlorpyrifos, after the prior Administration had proposed to take the actions sought by the Petitioners. By granting the motion to expedite, and also by deferring the ultimate disposition of the jurisdictional issues raised by EPA, the court appears to have given the Petitioners a prompt and full opportunity to explain why judicial intervention at this stage of the administrative process is warranted. Nevertheless, because the jurisdictional arguments made by EPA are supported by substantial precedent, it could prove difficult for the Petitioners ultimately to overcome these arguments.
More information on the chlorpyrifos litigation and related matters is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.
By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala
On January 3, 2018, officials with the Arkansas State Plant Board (Plant Board) voted 11 to 3 to uphold its statewide ban of dicamba. The vote came after a subcommittee of the state's legislative council asked the board to reevaluate its earlier decision. The subcommittee will revisit the Plant Board's decision again on January 16, 2018. That the subcommittee plans to revisit its decision in just two weeks is noteworthy and illustrates the controversy surrounding this and other similar state bans.
Given the panel will meet again in the next few weeks, this may indicate that the legislature is urging some greater flexibility -- that is, a longer application window that would allow some growers to use the herbicide, along with consideration of any data about the newer formulations designed to reduce the likelihood of drift.
Whether any “flexibility” or additional data will be sufficient to convince the Plant Board that the product can be used without expecting drift incidents in the future is not clear, especially since the issue has become a point of intense political debate.
More information on dicamba issues is available on our blog under key word dicamba.
By James V. Aidala, Lisa M. Campbell, and Timothy D. Backstrom
On December 14, 2017, the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that it issued and collected the first round of fines resulting from investigations regarding the pesticide dicamba. The news release states that the first wave of civil penalties issued to applicators, all from Dunklin County, were issued as “a result of investigations of complaints during the 2016 growing season,” and the “civil penalties, ranging from $1,500 to $62,250, were issued for pesticide misuse (off label use and drift).” Further, in 2016, “Department staff conducted and completed 121 complainant investigations. Those complainants named approximately 60 applicators, who were investigated as a result of complaints. In addition, the Department investigated nearly 100 non-Dicamba related incidents.”
This is the first group of what is anticipated to be a large number of dicamba-related enforcement cases, given the extensive number of, and publicity concerning, the reported incidents involving dicamba. Reported incidents in Arkansas were even more numerous than those in Missouri. About one-third of the reported incidents in Missouri have now been attributed to only six applicators. One applicator alone was cited for 149 discrete violations, which indicates that problems with the new dicamba formulations may be less widespread than some originally feared based on the large number of reported incidents. Moreover, some of the states where the new dicamba products were widely used have reported very few incidents. In the aggregate, this data suggests that better stewardship training accompanied by rigorous enforcement may be sufficient to greatly reduce the future incidence of unexpected off-site movement of the new dicamba formulations.
More information on dicamba issues is available in our blog.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced, in two separate notices, that it is initiating a process to revise (1) certain requirements in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) (82 Fed. Reg. 60576 (Dec. 21. 2017)); and (2) to revise the minimum age requirements in the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (C&T) rule. 82 Fed. Reg. 60195 (Dec. 19. 2017).
For the WPS rulemaking, the provisions at issue were identified as part of the public comments received in response to Executive Order (EO) 13777, Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda. Three provisions in particular were the subject of public comment, and later consideration by the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) at its November 2, 2017, meeting. The three provisions are: minimum age (the 2015 WPS specifies a minimum age of 18 years, with an exemption for owners of agricultural establishments and their immediate family members); designated representative (the 2015 WPS requires employers to provide pesticide application information and safety data sheets to a designated representative of a worker or handler under specified circumstances); and application exclusion zones (AEZ) (the 2015 WPS requires the establishment of AEZs with respect to outdoor production on farms, nurseries, and forests to reduce the number of incidents where workers or others are exposed to pesticides during agricultural pesticide applications).
EPA also announced that the compliance dates in the revised WPS remain in effect and that EPA has no intent to extend them. This means that most provisions in the revised WPS went into effect on January 2, 2017, and compliance with two additional requirements will begin on January 2, 2018. The two requirements include compliance with the display of pesticide safety information, and pesticide handlers must temporarily suspend applications if workers or others enter in the application zone during pesticide applications. The only requirements in the revised WPS that will not be in effect as of January 2, 2018, are the requirements that the worker and handler pesticide safety training material cover the expanded content at 40 C.F.R. §§ 170.401(c)(3) and 170.501(c)(3). The 2015 revised WPS provided that compliance with the expanded pesticide safety content in these sections was not required until 180 days after EPA publishes in the Federal Register a notice of availability of certain training materials. While there are training materials available that meet the expanded content requirement, EPA has not yet published such a Federal Register and apparently does not intend to do so until after the rulemaking announced on December 21 has concluded.
For the C&T rule, EPA expects to “publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit public input on proposed revisions to the rule by the end of FY2018,” and it has no plans to change the implementation dates in the January 4, 2017, final rule. The C&T notice states that “EPA has determined that further consideration of the rule’s minimum age requirements is warranted through the rulemaking process” after it considered comments received pursuant to EO 13777, revisiting the record, and reviewing the applicable statutory.
More information on WPS issues is available on our blog under key phrase Worker Protection Standard.
By Timothy D. Backstrom, James V. Aidala, and Lisa M. Campbell
On December 18, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is releasing for public comment the draft human health and ecological risk assessments for glyphosate. EPA’s Draft Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments for Glyphosate website states that the “draft risk assessments and supporting documents will be available in glyphosate’s registration review docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361 on www.regulations.gov in early 2018,” and that EPA will “open a 60-day public comment period for the draft risk assessments, evaluate the comments received, and consider any potential risk management options for this herbicide.” Many of the assessment documents, including the draft human health risk assessment, are already available on EPA’s website, but not yet posted in the docket.
The EPA announcement includes the following summary of EPA’s determinations:
- The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The Agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label. The Agency’s scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey.
- EPA’s human health review evaluated dietary, residential/non-occupational, aggregate, and occupational exposures. Additionally, the Agency performed an in-depth review of the glyphosate cancer database, including data from epidemiological, animal carcinogenicity, and genotoxicity studies.
- The ecological risk assessment indicates that there is potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants. EPA used the most current risk assessment methods, including an evaluation of the potential effects of glyphosate exposure on animals and plants.
EPA states the proposed interim registration review decision for glyphosate is scheduled to be published in 2019.
This latest EPA announcement is consistent with other determinations concerning glyphosate made by EPA in recent years, including statements made during the Obama Administration. EPA presented its analysis of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) in December 2016. EPA has consistently taken the position that the human health risks from glyphosate are low, and that food and water residues of glyphosate easily satisfy the requirement that they be “safe” for human consumption.
Critics of glyphosate use often focus on the widespread adoption of glyphosate-resistant bioengineered crops. If these genetically modified organism (GMO) crops were not specifically designed for use in conjunction with glyphosate, there would likely be much less discussion about the safety of the herbicide.
Because EPA’s announcement includes a statement that “there is potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants,” critics of glyphosate and the associated GMO crops will likely continue to press for restrictions based on the ecological effects of glyphosate. Moreover, there is also likely to be continued controversy concerning the human health effects of glyphosate. Notwithstanding the human health safety findings in this EPA assessment and the other assessments cited in EPA’s statement, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as “probably” carcinogenic to humans. It is thus probable that the controversy concerning glyphosate and the associated GMO crops will continue unabated.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog under key word glyphosate.
By James V. Aidala
On December 15, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its release of preliminary ecological and human health risk assessments for three neonicotinoid insecticides: clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, as well as a preliminary ecological risk assessment for imidacloprid, assessing risks to birds, mammals, non-target insects, and plants. The assessments are available in the dockets linked below:
EPA also released new cotton and citrus benefits assessments for foliar applications of the neonicotinoids as well as its response to public comments on the 2014 Benefits of Neonicotinoid Seed Treatment to Soybean Production. These are available in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0737.
For all of the dockets listed above, EPA states that it is particularly interested in public comment on the benefits for cotton and citrus, since previous assessments identified potential risks to pollinators. Further, EPA states that “early input from the public will be helpful in developing possible mitigation options that may be needed to address risks to bees. Among the benefits identified, the neonicotinoids were found to be critical for management of Asian citrus psyllid -- which causes citrus greening, a devastating pest for citrus growers, and for control of plant bugs and stink bugs in cotton.” The comment period will begin when the Federal Register notice is published and will be open for 60 days. EPA states that it plans to release the final pollinator risk assessments and proposed interim decisions for these chemicals in mid-2018.
These documents EPA has added to the dockets linked above add to a trove of continued EPA assessments of the neonicotinoid compounds. In January 2016, EPA assessed the risks to pollinators and concluded that the seed treatment uses are generally not of concern, but that there are possible risks of importance in citrus and cotton production. This is why this recent batch of documents, including the benefits assessments of the neonicotinoid products in citrus and cotton production, along with the long-awaited response to comments to EPA’s earlier benefit assessment of the soybean use, has been anticipated for some time. In summary, the benefits assessment for both cotton and citrus indicate significant benefits for these uses. And regarding the earlier benefits assessment of soybeans, EPA now concludes that it underestimated the benefits of the soybean uses generally and in particular has concluded significant benefits in some regions from soybean seed treatments.
With EPA now concluding these uses have significant benefits, there may be some need for risk mitigation of certain use patterns, but generally the estimated benefits will offset and preclude the imposition of more general label restrictions for these crops. For example, the benefits assessment for the citrus uses states flatly that the continued sustainability of the citrus crop requires continued use of the neonicotinoid products (to control the insect that is the vector for citrus greening disease).
Regarding other formulations and risk to organisms other than honeybees, the documents do identify some possible adverse impacts on non-target aquatic insects, birds, and possibly some aquatic invertebrates. These initial findings will likely continue to fuel the debate about the impacts of neonicotinoid use. Registrants will likely submit significant amounts of rebuttal data to further refine these risk estimates and currently do not anticipate significant additional label restrictions as a result, especially since EPA has concluded these products have more significant economic benefits which will be part of any risk-benefit considerations as EPA moves forward.
More information on neonicotinoid issues is available on our blog under key word neonicotinoids.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
The American Bar Association (ABA) Pesticides, Chemical Regulation, and Right-to-Know (PCRRTK) Committee is collaborating with David Rejeski, Director of the Technology, Innovation, and Environmental Project at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), on a project involving the law, regulation, and policy of cannabis. David has written extensively on the topic, one example of which is his article “Cannabis. The ‘Next Big Thing’ for the Environment?”
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide (FIFRA) practitioners likely noticed the cannabis item on the most recent State FIFRA Issues Research and Evaluation Group (SFIREG) meeting agenda. Also, the state of Colorado is preparing a white paper on cannabis. Many other initiatives are in play as well.
The newly formed Task Group will outline legal, regulatory, and policy issues pertinent to cannabis as a crop, the absence of tolerances, its impact on the environment, and a wide range of related issues.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Heather F. Collins, M.S.
On Friday, November 3, 2017, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued guidance (California Notice 2017-13) that DPR indicates is intended to align DPR policy with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance on secondary container labeling for pesticides. DPR’s guidance states that secondary containers are used by the pesticide industry as part of the process of applying pesticides and “cannot be sold or distributed.” The guidance further notes that secondary containers are “most commonly used in institutional settings for concentrated antimicrobials that are diluted prior to use or to hold pesticides filled from a larger container to be used and stored prior to application.”
Registrants may elect to provide users with labels for secondary containers. DPR’s new guidance states: “Secondary container labels are not required to be submitted to U.S. EPA or DPR.” Under the new DPR policy, however, effective immediately, if a registrant submits a secondary container label to DPR, “it must bear the same signal word as the concentrate label or no signal word.” DPR states that it will accept a secondary container label with a lesser signal word, precautionary statements, and alternate directions for use for the diluted product only if acute toxicity data are submitted or are currently on file to support these lesser statements.
DPR’s new guidance also incorporates EPA guidance on what a secondary label should contain. (EPA does not require secondary containers to be labeled, but notes that the applicator remains responsible for following the requirements on the pesticide product’s labeling, and complying with other relevant requirements in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and other statutes.) Although registrants are not required to submit secondary container labels to EPA for review, EPA recommends that the applicator identify the material in the secondary container in the event of a spill to ensure that adequate information regarding the pesticide can be obtained in case of a medical or environmental emergency. EPA recommends that such labels include the following information:
- Product name;
- EPA registration number;
- Name and percentage of active ingredient of the concentrated product or if known, the percentage of active ingredient in the end-use dilution;
- If the product in the secondary container is diluted, it should be followed by the phrase: “The product in this container is diluted as directed on the pesticide product label”;
- The same signal word as the registered concentrate container label;
- The same precautionary statements as the registered concentrate container label unless the registrant has acute toxicity data supporting lesser precautionary statements for the diluted product and alternate directions for the diluted product are indicated on the concentrate container label; and
- The statement: “Follow the directions for use on the pesticide label when applying this product.”
DPR states: “If currently registered products have secondary container labels on file with DPR that do not meet the above criteria, registrants should submit revised labels to DPR as an amendment.”
Each submission must include:
- California Application to Amend Pesticide Product (DPR-REG-035);
- $25 application fee (payable to: Cashier, Department of Pesticide Regulation);
- A copy of the most current EPA stamp-accepted label;
- Six copies of the concentrate container label; and
- Six copies of the secondary container label.
- If the precautionary statement on the secondary container label bears lesser precautionary statements, the submission must be accompanied by acute toxicity data or a reference to data on file with DPR.
As an alternative to submitting revised labels, registrants have the option of requesting that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary container label previously submitted. Registrants may submit their request in writing on company letterhead to their assigned Regulatory Scientist. If a secondary container label is inconsistent with the DPR-approved label, DPR will consider the product misbranded, and DPR notes that misbranded products are subject to enforcement action.
Registrants that have previously submitted secondary labels to DPR should review the label in comparison to the DPR-approved concentrate container label and the requirements in this notice. All inconsistencies must be corrected via amendment submission to DPR or by making a request that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary label so that the product is not considered misbranded and therefore subject to enforcement action.