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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.
On April 24, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has updated Chapters 3, 7, and 17 of the Pesticide Label Review Manual. The three updated Label Review Manual chapters are:
General Labeling Requirements (Chapter 3) changes include:
Precautionary Statements (Chapter 7) changes include:
Net Contents/Net Weight (Chapter 17) changes include:
Each updated chapter includes a new section identifying the changes in the updated version. EPA states that it “also made editorial changes to all chapters, including updated cover pages; adding a table of contents; adding chapter editorial notes; updating hyperlinks; and reformatting text, style and layout for conciseness and readability.”
EPA directs registrants to submit questions or comments on the Label Review Manual by using its Pesticide Labeling Questions & Answers – Form.
On April 23, 2018, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) circulated a presentation entitled “Top 10 Agricultural Pesticide Use Violations of 2017” that identifies the top ten agricultural most common pesticide use violations of 2017 in California. The violations are listed from the least common (#10) to the most common (#1):
10. Handler Training, regulated under Title 3 of the California Code of Regulations (C.C.R.) § 6724(b-e). Examples of handler training violations listed in the presentation are: not updating employee training on a new pesticide handled; and not training employees prior to them mixing, loading, or applying pesticides.
9. Availability of Labeling, regulated under 3 C.C.R. § 6602. Examples of labeling availability violations listed in the presentation are: not having relevant Special Local Needs (SLN) labeling at the site when mixing, loading, or applying; and not having the labeling booklet on-site when mixing, loading, or applying.
8. Handler Decontamination Facilities, regulated under 3 C.C.R. § 6734. Examples of these types of violations listed in the presentation are: a handler using a backpack sprayer and not carrying a pint of eyewash when the label requires eye protection; and handlers using hand sanitizer instead of soap and water.
7. Service Container Labeling, regulated under 3 C.C.R. § 6678. Examples of service container labeling violations listed in the presentation are: not including the signal word on a service container label; and only putting the name of the pesticide on the service container.
6. Hazard Communication for Fieldworkers, regulated under 3 C.C.R. § 6761. Examples of these types of violations listed in the presentation are: not completing the required fields on the displayed Pesticide Safety Information Series (PSIS) A-9 leaflet; and not providing Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for the pesticides listed on the pesticide use records.
5. Annual Registration with County Agricultural Commissioner by Anyone Who Intends to Advertise, Solicit, or Operate as a Pest Control Business in California, regulated under California Food and Agriculture Code (FAC) § 11732. An example of a violation is not registering with the county in which such a business intends to work prior to performing pest control activities.
4. Application-Specific Information (ASI) for Fieldworkers, regulated under 3 C.C.R. § 6761.1. Examples of violations listed in the presentation are: not including the start and stop times, Restricted Entry Interval (REI), or active ingredient in the displayed information; and not displaying the ASI before fieldworkers work in a treated field.
3. Emergency Medical Care Requirements, regulated under 3 C.C.R. § 6726. Examples of violations listed in the presentation are: not taking employees suspected of a pesticide illness to the doctor immediately; and not posting the name, address, and phone number of the medical facility at the worksite or in the work vehicle before employees begin handling pesticides.
2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Requirements, regulated under 3 C.C.R. § 6738. Examples of violations listed in the presentation are: storing PPE in the same place pesticides are stored; and not cleaning PPE and checking for wear after each use.
1. Labeling and Permit Condition Compliance, regulated under FAC § 12973. Examples of violations listed in the presentation are: not following label-required buffer zone, set back distance, or vegetative buffer strip requirements; and applying a pesticide to a site or crop not listed on the labeling.
DPR states that it “recommends and encourages continuing education (CE) course sponsors [to] integrate this information into … future CE courses,” and asks for help “in promoting lawful pesticide use practices by encouraging [CE] attendees to review these agricultural pesticide use violations as they relate to their operations, to assure they are in compliance with federal and California pesticide use requirements.”
On April 12, 2018, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas) released the Committee’s draft Farm Bill reauthorization, the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2). The House Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill package on April 18, 2018, setting it up for a floor vote in the House. The 600-plus page draft legislation includes a number of provisions that will be of interest to pesticide registrants and the pesticide user community, including the following sections:
The full text of H.R. 2 and a section-by-section summary are available on the House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill webpage along with several related fact sheets. The Agriculture Committee expects to mark-up the bill this week.
On April 10, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of a draft Science Policy document intended to reduce the use of animals in testing chemicals to evaluate whether they cause an allergic reaction, inflammation, or sensitization of the skin. According to EPA, the document, Draft Interim Science Policy: Use of Alternative Approaches for Skin Sensitization as a Replacement for Laboratory Animal Testing, “describes the science behind the non-animal alternatives that can now be used (in vitro, in silico, in chemico) to identify skin sensitization.” The draft Science Policy states that the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) will immediately begin to accept submissions of new approach methodologies (NAM) and defined approaches (DA) as described in the draft Science Policy. EPA notes that there are multiple domestic and international activities ongoing that will allow for refinement and expansion of this draft Science Policy to other DAs and additional NAMs and support global harmonization of DAs for skin sensitization. According to the draft Science Policy, OPP and OPPT “will continue to be active participants in these activities to ensure regulatory acceptance and will continue to support cross-sector collaborations that enhance animal welfare, and accelerate the implementation of NAMs.” Comments on the draft Science Policy document must be submitted to Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0093 by June 9, 2018.
The draft Science Policy is the result of national and international collaboration between the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, the National Toxicology Program’s Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods, the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing, and Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.