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By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. BackstromLisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala

On July 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Decision Memorandum that it has registered new uses and restored previously registered uses for sulfoxaflor.  EPA has approved the use of sulfoxaflor on alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte, tree plantations, and restored the uses on citrus cotton, cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, some gourds), soybeans, and strawberries.  EPA states that substantial data show that when sulfoxaflor is used according to the label, it poses no significant risk to human health and poses a lower risk to non-target wildlife, including pollinators, than other registered alternative products.  EPA’s registration decision is available at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889-0570.

EPA’s decision follows an opinion issued on September 10, 2015, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacating EPA’s 2013 unconditional registration for the pesticide sulfoxaflor, and remanding the matter to EPA to obtain further studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor on bees and bee colonies.  That decision is discussed in our blog item available here. In response to that decision, EPA also issued a cancellation order that included provisions for the disposition of existing stocks of sulfoxaflor products.

After the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA reevaluated the data and on October 14, 2016, approved sulfoxaflor end-use registrations for limited uses that did not include crops that attract bees.  EPA also has been granting emergency exemptions for sulfoxaflor since 2012, with the most recent emergency exemptions granted on June 17, 2019, for the use of sulfoxaflor to control tarnished plant bugs on cotton in 12 states, and to control sugarcane aphids on sorghum in 14 states.

In the July 12, 2019, decision adding new uses, restoring previous uses, and removing certain application restrictions, EPA states an unconditional registration under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(c)(5) for new uses of sulfoxaflor is backed by substantial data, including numerous pollinator studies submitted by the registrant, Dow AgroSciences (DAS).  With specific regard to sulfoxaflor’s impact on bees, EPA states the following:

Since the vacatur in 2015, DAS has submitted numerous additional pollinator studies. The pollinator data requirements listed in 40 CFR 158.630 have all been submitted or waived. EPA’s risk assessment process for pollinators has evolved since those data requirements were promulgated and now EPA generally assesses risks to bees using a three-tier process based on a more robust data set as described in two guidance documents: “Guidance for Assessing the Risks of Pesticides to Bees” (USEPA 2014) and “Guidance on Exposure and Effects Testing for Assessing Risks to Bees” (USEPA 2016). For sulfoxaflor, all Tier I data have been submitted. Three additional Tier II semi-field (tunnel) studies and two colony feeding studies have been submitted. Pollen and nectar residue data have been submitted for multiple crops. The submitted data covers all of the requested use patterns. For those crops that did not have data specific to pollen and nectar residues, data was extrapolated as appropriate from other crops. All regulatory data requirements for assessing pollinators have now been addressed and the EPA has adequate data to demonstrate that there will be no unreasonable adverse effects to honey bees resulting from the expanded registration of sulfoxaflor.

EPA’s decision also removes previously imposed application restrictions:

  • Removed the prohibition of use on crops grown for seed because EPA believes pollinator protection restrictions, including low use rates, will be in place regardless of whether the crop is grown for seed or for commodity harvest;
  • Removed the restriction to post-bloom application for bee-attractive crops only when there is low risk or limited potential for exposure to bees;
  • Removed the 12-foot buffer requirement because EPA believes the spray drift mitigation requirements on labels are adequate to limit drift; and
  • Removed the 2016 restriction against tank mixing because EPA states data show that there is no additional risk when sulfoxaflor is tank mixed with other compounds.

EPA’s decision includes the following crop specific restrictions:

  • Citrus: Only one application is allowed per year between 3 days before bloom and until after petal fall.
  • Ornamentals: Only one application is allowed during bloom, and that bloom must not exceed a rate of 0.071 lb ai/acre.
  • Pome Fruit, Stone Fruit, Tree Nuts and Pistachio: No application is allowed any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.
  • Small Fruit Vine Climbing and Low Growing Berry, Tree Plantations: No application is allowed any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.

EPA found that the FIFRA standard for registration is met for the registration of sulfoxaflor on the uses approved, and that the benefits of these uses outweigh the risks, but also set specific label requirements including restrictions to minimize potential exposure to bees:

  • Worker Protection:  “Applicators and other handlers must wear: Long-sleeved shirt and long pants, shoes plus socks, protective eyewear” and “Do not enter or allow worker entry into treated areas during the restricted entry interval (REI) of” 24 hours (for Transform WG label) and 12 hours (for Closer SC label).
  • Environmental Hazards Statement:  “This product is highly toxic to bees and other pollinating insects exposed to direct treatment or to residues in/on blooming crops or weeds. Protect pollinating insects by following label directions intended to minimize drift and reduce pesticide risk to these organisms.”
  • The RT25 (how long foliar residues of sulfoxaflor exhibit toxicity to honey bees):  “The RT25 for this product is less than or equal to 3 hours.”
  • Directions for Use:  “Notifying known beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Also, limiting application to times when managed bees and native pollinators are least active, e.g. 2 hours prior to sunset or when the temperature is below 50°F at the site of application will minimize risk to bees.”

Commentary

This new decision by EPA may finally be the culmination of a long and convoluted process to register sulfoxaflor.  The litigation that resulted in vacatur of the initial registrations began in 2013.  At the time the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in 2015, vacatur was viewed by many observers as a novel and radical response to an EPA decision to register a new pesticide.  Since that time, registrants and users of newly approved active ingredients have encountered more aggressive litigation in which vacatur is often cited as a possible remedy.  This has created more uncertainty and concern about product availability, even after EPA approves an eagerly anticipated new product to meet a pressing pest control need.  In the case of sulfoxaflor, EPA has clearly determined that the data submitted by DAS demonstrate that any risks to pollinators presented by sulfoxaflor will be less than the risks presented by currently registered insecticides sulfoxaflor is likely to replace. This determination concerning relative risk based on review of additional data should address the deficiencies in the EPA rationale found by the Court when it vacated the 2013 sulfoxaflor registrations.

Interestingly, the current EPA decision may raise a similar issue concerning the sufficiency of EPA’s rationale concerning the effects of sulfoxaflor on endangered species.  EPA states the following in its Decision Memorandum:

Endangered Species

EPA has not made an effects determination for sulfoxaflor. EPA is currently focusing most of its resources for assessing impacts to listed species on its registration review program for currently registered pesticides. EPA believes that, as a general matter, older pesticides present a greater degree of risk to listed species than most new chemistries, including sulfoxaflor, and that it is therefore environmentally preferable in most circumstances for EPA to assess the impacts of existing pesticides sooner in the process than newer pesticides that are designed to compete with more risky alternatives. EPA believes that is especially true for sulfoxaflor, where the alternatives include organophosphates, neonicotinoids and pyrethroids. As a result, EPA does not believe the environment or the public would be best served by delaying the registration of new uses for sulfoxaflor to complete consultation. Focusing the limited resources of EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on completing a consultation on the effects of sulfoxaflor would by necessity come at the expense of putting more resources into evaluating – and consequently regulating, where appropriate – what EPA believes to be more toxic compounds, that, among other things, pose greater risk, to endangered species than does sulfoxaflor.

While it is clearly sensible for EPA and the Services to prioritize the limited resources available to make and to consult concerning effects determinations for endangered species by addressing existing pesticide classes that are likely to present the greatest risk before products with new chemistries that are intended to be more selective, it remains to be seen whether reviewing courts will be inclined to accept this type of rationale.  In particular, it will be interesting to see whether the sufficiency of this approach to endangered species determinations becomes an issue in any future litigation regarding sulfoxaflor or other newly registered active ingredients.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi

On July 18, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pre-publication version of a Federal Register notice announcing a final order denying the Pesticide Action Network North America’s (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) 2007 Petition requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos (Order).  This Order constitutes final Agency action denying all of the Petitioners’ objections to EPA’s previous refusal to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  This Order also constitutes final administrative action concerning all parts of the 2007 Petition that were not previously addressed by EPA.  Given the previous extensive chlorpyrifos litigation, this latest action by EPA will likely lead to further litigation challenging EPA’s decision to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).

Background

The FIFRA registrations and related tolerances for chlorpyrifos have a complicated regulatory and legal history, as discussed in previous blogs available here.

EPA’s new Order denies objections made by PANNA and NRDC under the FFDCA to EPA’s March 29, 2017, order denying the request by PANNA and NRDC that EPA revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos and cancel all chlorpyrifos product registrations.  In the Order, EPA begins by summarizing its prior responses to the 2007 Petition, in which EPA denied each of ten claims raised in support of the Petitioners’ request that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations.  The ten claims are:

  1. EPA has ignored genetic evidence of vulnerable populations.
  2. EPA has delayed a decision regarding endocrine disrupting effects.
  3. EPA has ignored data regarding cancer risks.
  4. EPA’s 2006 cumulative risk assessment (CRA) for the organophosphates misrepresented risks and failed to apply the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X safety factor.
  5. EPA over-relied on registrant data.
  6. EPA has failed to address properly the exporting hazard in foreign countries from chlorpyrifos.
  7. EPA has failed to incorporate quantitatively data demonstrating long-lasting effects from early life exposure to chlorpyrifos in children.
  8. EPA has disregarded data demonstrating that there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure during pre-birth and early life stages.
  9. EPA has failed to cite or incorporate quantitatively studies and clinical reports suggesting potential adverse effects below 10 percent cholinesterase inhibition.
  10. EPA has failed to incorporate inhalation routes of exposure.

EPA’s Order next focuses on the June 2017 objections to the March 29, 2017, Denial Order that were filed by several public interest groups and states.  The three main objections, and EPA’s response, are as follows:

  • Claims Regarding the Legal Standard for Reviewing Petitions to Revoke:  Objectors assert that EPA’s Denial Order applied the wrong legal standard.  Objectors assert that neither “scientific uncertainty” nor the October 2022 deadline for registration review under FIFRA Section 3(g), nor the widespread agricultural use of chlorpyrifos, provide a basis for denying petitions to revoke. Objectors claim that EPA has unlawfully left chlorpyrifos tolerances in place without making the safety finding required by the FFDCA.
  • EPA Response:  In its Order, EPA denies the objections related to Petitioners’ claims regarding neurodevelopmental toxicity, stating that the objections and the underlying Petition are not supported by valid, complete, and reliable evidence sufficient to meet the Petitioners’ burden under the FFDCA, as set forth in EPA’s implementing regulations.  Specifically, EPA states that Objectors have not met their regulatory burden to provide “reasonable grounds” for revocation, including an assertion of facts to justify the modification or revocation of the tolerance (40 C.F.R. § 180.32(b)) or the initial evidentiary burden for persons seeking revocation to come forward with sufficient evidence to show that pesticide tolerances to be modified or revoked are not safe.  After summarizing its review of available epidemiologic data, including feedback from the 2012 and 2016 FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meetings, EPA states that “the epidemiologic studies are central to the Petitioner’s claims regarding neurodevelopmental effects, yet the Petitioners and Objectors rely only on summaries in publications to present their case. Petitioners have not presented the raw data from the epidemiology studies for consideration of their claims.” EPA “concludes that the information yet presented by Petitioners is not sufficiently valid, complete, and reliable to support abandoning the use of AChE inhibition as the critical effect for regulatory purposes under the FFDCA section 408” and also that Petitioners have “failed to meet their initial burden of providing sufficiently valid, complete, and reliable evidence that neurodevelopmental effects may be occurring at levels below EPA’s current regulatory standard and no information submitted with the objections addresses this shortcoming of the Petition.”
  • Objections Asserting that EPA Has Found Chlorpyrifos to Be Unsafe: Objectors assert that EPA has previously found that chlorpyrifos tolerances are unsafe and has not disavowed those findings. Specifically, they claim that EPA has found that chlorpyrifos results in unsafe drinking water exposures and results in adverse neurodevelopmental effects to children and that EPA must therefore revoke the tolerances.
  • EPA Response:  EPA denies making any regulatory findings that chlorpyrifos tolerances are not safe, stating that its statements in its 2015 proposed tolerance revocation was not a final action.  EPA states: “Proposed rules are just that -- proposals; they do not bind federal agencies. Indeed, EPA made clear it was issuing the proposal because of the court order, without having resolved many of the issues critical to EPA’s FFDCA determination and without having fully considered comments previously submitted to the Agency.”  Regarding those objections related to drinking water, EPA states that since the Petition did not identify drinking water exposure as a basis for seeking tolerance revocation, the Objectors cannot now raise that concern as a basis for challenging EPA’s denial of the Petition. EPA also states: “The mere fact that EPA is considering the potential impact of chlorpyrifos exposures in drinking water in the Agency’s FIFRA section 3(g) registration review does not somehow provide Petitioners and Objectors with a vehicle for introducing that topic in the objections process on the Petition denial.”  EPA instead will continue its FIFRA Section 3(g) registration review and complete its evaluation of drinking water exposures to chlorpyrifos, and address these issues in its upcoming registration review decision.
  • Objections Asserting that the Denial Order Failed to Respond to Significant Concerns Raised in Comments:  Objectors argue that EPA’s Denial Order committed a procedural error by failing to address significant concerns raised in the comments on EPA’s 2014 risk assessment and 2015 proposed revocation that EPA’s assessment fails to protect children. In particular, the Objectors focus on concerns raised in comments asserting that (1) EPA’s use of 10 percemt cholinesterase as a regulatory standard is not protective for effects to children’s developing brains; (2) EPA has not properly accounted for effects from inhalation of chlorpyrifos from spray drift and volatilization; and (3) EPA inappropriately used the Corteva physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model to reduce inter- and intra-species safety factors because the model is ethically and scientifically deficient.
  • EPA Response:  EPA denies the objections claiming procedural error, stating it “has no obligation to respond to rulemaking comments in denying the Petition or responding to objections, both of which are adjudicatory actions that are not part of the rulemaking process.  EPA also restated its prior response to the Petition that the “objections fail to meet burden of presenting evidence sufficiently valid, complete and reliable to demonstrate that chlorpyrifos results in neurodevelopmental effects that render its tolerances not safe.”  EPA further “believes it is lawful and appropriate for it to consider federally enforceable chlorpyrifos product labeling restrictions in assessing the extent of bystander risk from spray drift under both the FFDCA and FIFRA.”

Commentary

This latest EPA assessment appears to be more finely crafted than the earlier March 2017 response to the tolerance revocation Petition.  EPA explains that it does not consider the epidemiology studies cited by the Petitioners to be persuasive sufficiently to change EPA’s fundamental approach to assessing chlorpyrifos risks.  EPA notes that its current risk assessment utilizes the default 10X safety factor for infants and children specified by the FQPA, so any argument that it has not utilized this safety factor is moot.  At the same time, EPA maintains that the epidemiology studies do not justify changing EPA’s point of departure for risk assessment, which remains the threshold for 10 percent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition.  EPA states that there are significant problems with using the epidemiology studies for risk assessment, including lack of access to the underlying data, the absence of any known mechanism for neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for AChE inhibition, and a lack of scientific consensus on a method for choosing an alternate point of departure based on the epidemiology studies.  This interpretation of the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos will remain controversial and these studies will continue to be cited by those who seek to eliminate chlorpyrifos use.

EPA has also taken a position that the burden is on the Petitioners to support a petition to revoke tolerances with reliable data.  What is less clear is “how much” evidence EPA considers sufficient to meet the threshold for tolerance revocation.  Meanwhile, EPA will defer its assessment of possible neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos below the threshold for AChE inhibition pending completion of the registration review for chlorpyrifos.  The deadline for EPA to complete registration review is October 1, 2022, although EPA states that it intends to expedite this process and to issue a proposed registration review decision by October 2020.

EPA also has included in its decision an intriguing discussion of some new animal studies for chlorpyrifos that purport to show low-level neurodevelopmental effects from chlorpyrifos.  The California Department of Pesticide Regulation relied substantially on these new studies when it designated chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant.  If these new chlorpyrifos studies are deemed credible, they could supplant efforts to use the chlorpyrifos epidemiology data in risk assessments and allow EPA to establish a new point of departure for chlorpyrifos that is not based on AChE inhibition.  Rather than disregarding these new data, which were not submitted in support of the tolerance revocation Petition, EPA says affirmatively that it intends to review them in the pending registration review.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On August 9, 2018, the majority of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an opinion in the latest chlorpyrifos case (League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) v. Wheeler, No. 17-71636) granting the petition for review of a 2017 order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that denied an administrative petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos; vacating the 2017 order; and remanding the matter back to EPA with explicit directions to EPA to “revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.”  A separate dissent stated that the court should have dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.  Please see our blog item “EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos” for more information on EPA’s denial of the petition in 2017.

EPA argued in its brief that the court lacks jurisdiction to review the 2017 order denying the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos because Section 408(g)(2)(C) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires EPA to rule on administrative objections to its denial of the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos before judicial review is available under FFDCA Section 408(h)(1).The majority opinion rejected this argument, stating that FFDCA Section 408(h)(1) “does not ‘clearly state’ that obtaining a section (g)(2)(C) order in response to administrative objections is a jurisdictional requirement.” Rather than a jurisdictional limitation, the majority construed the objections process in FFDCA as a non-jurisdictional “claims-processing rule.”In contrast, the dissenting judge agreed with EPA’s argument that the court lacks jurisdiction to review this matter until after EPA responds to the objections to the 2017 order.

After concluding that the objections process is not jurisdictional in character, the majority next considered whether the petitioners should nonetheless be required to exhaust their administrative remedies by waiting until EPA responds to their objections before obtaining judicial review.Although FFDCA Section 408(g)(2)(C) requires EPA to rule on the objections “as soon as practicable,” EPA had taken no action for 13 months after the objections were filed.The majority concluded that the exhaustion requirement should be waived “in light of the strong individual interests against requiring exhaustion and weak institutional interests in favor of it.”

EPA did not specifically address the substantive merits of the 2017 order in its brief, and the majority found that EPA has consequently “forfeited any merits-based argument.”The 2017 order was issued in the context of an administrative record in which EPA has repeatedly determined that the FFDCA standard for maintenance of chlorpyrifos tolerances (“a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide”) could not be met because of the risk of neurodevelopmental effects. The standard for registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) incorporates this same FFDCA standard. Although the 2017 order stated that “the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects is unresolved,” it did nothing to alter these prior EPA determinations. The majority noted that EPA’s assertion that “significant uncertainty” remains regarding the health effects of chlorpyrifos being directly at odds with the “reasonably certainty” standard and “therefore mandates revoking the tolerance under [FFDCA Section 408(b)(2)(A)(i)].” The majority concluded that the possibility that future evidence may contradict EPA’s current determinations cannot justify continued inaction, and that the failure of EPA to proceed with the revocation of the tolerances and the cancellation of the registrations for chlorpyrifos “has now placed the agency in direct contravention of the FFDCA and FIFRA.”

Commentary

The court’s direct instruction requiring EPA to proceed promptly with revocation of all tolerances and cancellations of all registrations for chlorpyrifos represents an unusually aggressive judicial intervention in the administrative process.Nevertheless, this outcome must be viewed in the context of an eleven year history beginning with an administrative petition that requested the same relief, followed by a writ of mandamus in 2015 from the same court requiring EPA to make a prompt decision on the petition.Although substantial controversy remains concerning the correct interpretation of epidemiology studies with chlorpyrifos, it appears that the court believes that EPA has not taken any action that would support a change in EPA’s prior conclusion that these studies constitute evidence of potential neurodevelopmental effects in children at chlorpyrifos exposure levels below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. Had EPA’s 2017 denial of the administrative petition been accompanied by an amended risk assessment for chlorpyrifos which articulated a changed conclusion, the court may have been less likely to substitute its judgment for that of EPA.The court seemed to find that because the scientific assessments in the current administrative record could not support the “reasonable certainty” standard in the FFDCA, the conclusion it reached on the merits was unavoidable.

Please see our blog item “Oral Argument Held in Case Challenging EPA’s Denial of Petition to Revoke Chlorpyrifos Tolerances” for information on the oral argument that took place on July 9, 2018, and the briefing in this case.  Further information on the case proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

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.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell

On January 3, 2018, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued Notice 2018-01:  Expanding Use of Pesticide Products Under Reevaluation.  Under Notice 2018-01, effective immediately, DPR will not act upon an Application for Pesticide Registration or an Application to Amend a Pesticide Product if it 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.  

DPR states that it commences a reevaluation of an existing registered pesticide when it finds, based on an investigation of all reported episodes and information received, that a significant adverse impact to human health or the environment has occurred or is likely to occur.  DPR states that the policy set forth in Notice 2018-1 is needed for pesticides under reevaluation because until DPR reviews existing data for substances under reevaluation, determines whether additional data to satisfy reevaluation data requirements must be submitted, and then receives and assesses additional data applicable to the reevaluation that can mitigate the concern that prompted the initiation of the reevaluation, DPR “is not in a position to determine that an expanded use will not cause a ‘significant adverse environmental impact,’ as required under its certified regulatory program (3 CCR section 6254).”  Once the reevaluation process is completed, DPR states that it will then be in a position, in light of its reevaluation determination, to consider applications for product registration or amendment.

Scope of Notice 2018-1

DPR is currently reevaluating certain pesticide products containing the following active ingredients:

  • Chloropicrin;
  • Copper-based antifouling paints (copper oxide, copper hydroxide, and cuprous thiocyanate);
  • Cyfluthrin;
  • Diazinon; and
  • Nitroguanidine neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and dinotefuran).

This notice applies to new pesticide products that include these active ingredients, including supplemental distributor registrations (subregistrations) and amendments to currently registered pesticide products, when “expanding use” of the active ingredient relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation.  

Specifically, DPR states in Notice 2018-1 that it interprets the following types of actions, related to a new or amended product containing the active ingredient under reevaluation, as examples of “expanding use”:

  • A proposed new pesticide product, including any Special Local Needs registration or Experimental Use Permit, with a label bearing uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation. This includes any product label that is identical or substantially similar to a currently registered product in California.
  • Amendment of a currently registered product to add or modify uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation, even if such use is already on other currently registered pesticide products in California. Examples of such changes include:
    • New or modified uses (e.g., new crops, pests, or use sites);
    • New or modified use patterns (e.g., adding aerial, aquatic, soil applications, or outdoor use);
    • Significant formulation changes (unless prompted by the reevaluation);
    • Increased application rates or total use amount allowed (e.g., acreage or frequency of application); and
    • Other label additions or changes that may increase pesticide exposure in a manner that is relevant to the basis for the reevaluation.

This notice does not preclude expanded use of a product if the expansion is not consistent with uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation.  As an example, DPR states that an application containing an active ingredient that is under reevaluation over concerns regarding exposure to wildlife would not be precluded under this notice as an expanded use is if the product is labeled solely for indoor use, with no potential wildlife exposure.

DPR also acknowledges that a pest management or public health need could arise during a reevaluation that would support the issuance of an Emergency Exemption request under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  In those cases, with regard to the potential applicability of Notice 2018-1, DPR states that it “will assess the request by relying on currently available information and risk mitigation strategies.”

Discussion

DPR’s reevaluation process can take years to complete, so not only are pending affected submissions for products containing the active ingredients at issue effectively frozen, but future submissions for active ingredients newly entering the reevaluation process could be halted potentially for lengthy periods of time, despite the fact that DPR may ultimately determine that any identified “expanded uses” do not cause a significant adverse environmental impact.  It is an initiative that many in industry are monitoring closely.

More information on other California DPR-related issues is available on our blog under key phrase California DPR.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Susan Hunter Youngren, Ph.D.

On October 30, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is requesting comments on a proposal to revoke all tolerances for the insecticide chlorpyrifos.  EPA issued this proposal in response to an August 10, 2015, writ of mandamus by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The court granted this unusual relief in response to a 2007 administrative petition to cancel chlorpyrifos registrations or to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) (together, Petitioners).  The court’s August 10, 2015, order required that EPA do one of the following by October 31, 2015:  (a) cancel the registrations of all pesticides containing chlorpyrifos; (b) issue a proposed or final rule to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances; or (c) issue a full and final response to the administrative petition to cancel chlorpyrifos.  More information on that decision is available in our blog item Circuit Court Grants Writ of Mandamus Requiring EPA to Act on Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos

In its announcement, EPA states that it “is not denying the petition because we are unable to make a safety finding based on the science as it stands currently.  EPA is not issuing a final revocation rule because we have not proposed it and have not completed our refined drinking water assessment, leaving certain science issues unresolved.”  The court also required EPA to provide the timeline for a final rule should EPA issue a proposed revocation by October 31, and EPA notified the court of an anticipated date for a final rule of December 2016.  EPA will release a completed hazard assessment and a completed drinking water analysis for comment prior to issuance of any final rule.

Because EPA has not completed its hazard assessment and drinking water analysis, this means that EPA may resolve the “science issues” without the need for tolerance revocations.  The proposal is based not on the risk posed by chlorpyrifos residues in food, but on the incremental risk posed by chlorpyrifos in drinking water in very specific and limited watersheds where chlorpyrifos is heavily used.  EPA is required to consider such exposures in evaluating the safety of chlorpyrifos residues in food under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).  If the tolerances are revoked, this will result in cancellation of the associated food uses of chlorpyrifos.

The chlorpyrifos registrant Dow AgroSciences and other pesticide industry representatives do not agree with the EPA analysis or the proposal to revoke the tolerances.  In particular, questions have been raised about EPA’s decision to retain the use of a 10X FQPA safety factor for infants and children based on certain epidemiology studies.  EPA has acknowledged that these studies have significant limitations and that they cannot identify a specific level of concern for quantitative risk assessment.  EPA has previously reduced the FQPA safety factor for chlorpyrifos to one based on the completeness of the toxicological database.  If the 10X FQPA safety factor were reduced to one or even to three, the results of the current risk assessment would be very different.

Additional information, including the pre-publication version of the proposed rule, is available here.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Susan Hunter Youngren, Ph.D., and James V. Aidala

On August 24, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal to revise the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule.  EPA is proposing stricter standards for people certified to use “restricted use” pesticides (certified applicators).  Restricted use pesticides are not available for purchase by the general public, require special handling, and may only be applied by a certified applicator or someone working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator.

The proposed stricter standards include:

  • Certified applicators must be at least 18 years old;
  • Those working under the supervision of certified applicators would now need training on using pesticides safely and protecting their families from take-home pesticide exposure;
  • Certifications would have to be renewed every 3 years;
  • Additional specialized licensing for certain methods of application that can pose greater risks if not conducted properly, such as fumigation and aerial application; and
  • Updates to the requirements for States, Tribes, and Federal agencies that administer their own certification programs to incorporate the strengthened standards. 

Currently, the majority of certification programs have no renewal requirements.  Thus, this requirement will put additional burdens on States and Tribes administering certification programs to not only strengthen their standards under this new proposal but to incorporate a time-keeping process to ensure applicators’ renewals are kept up to date, and sufficient certification programs are available for re-certifying purposes.  In addition, for some certification programs, the specialized licensing programs will need to be developed, tested, and instituted.

EPA’s proposal to update certification and training requirements comes along with the parallel effort to revise the worker protection standards (WPS), where a final rule updating those requirements are expected sometime in September.  Like the revised WPS, revising the training requirements has been on EPA’s agenda for many years, and this part of the updated requirements for worker protection is expected to be less controversial than some of the changes to the WPS.  In particular, since EPA has emphasized the protection of children as part of its pesticide regulatory program, making the minimum age 18 for pesticide applicators is part of that agenda.

EPA encourages public comment on the proposed improvements.  Comments on the proposal are due November 23, 2015.

More information about certification for pesticide applicators is available here.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala

On May 8, 2015, in El Comite Para El Bienestar De Earlimart v. EPA, a Panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review filed by several groups that the court describes as “community organizations” who challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2012 approval of California State Implementation Plan (SIP) elements under the Clean Air Act (CAA), including its related approval of certain fumigant regulations.  This challenge was previously discussed in our blog post "Ninth Circuit to Consider Civil Rights Issue in Review of California SIP".

Of particular interest in the case is the contention before the court that “EPA failed to secure necessary assurances from California that its proposed rules would not violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by exposing Latino schoolchildren to a disparate impact from pesticide use.”  The court rejected this and other contentions by the community groups.  

The court’s findings with regard to the alleged Civil Rights violation state a standard that appears to defer greatly to EPA and its review of the record.  More specifically, the court found with regard to the claimed Civil Rights Act violation that “EPA explained that this evidence failed to draw any connection between the proposed rules and a potential disparate impact,” and that EPA “fulfilled its duty to provide a reasoned judgment because its determination was cogently explained and supported by the record.”

By way of background with regard to the Civil Rights Act claim, the petitioners argued that EPA’s determination that California provided assurances that no federal or state law prohibits the SIP approval was arbitrary and capricious because EPA failed to consider evidence claimed to support a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  This claim rested on an EPA finding of a Title VI violation in connection with an earlier administrative complaint, referred to as the Angelita C. complaint, which was filed with the EPA Office of Civil Rights in 1999.  There, Latino parents and schoolchildren alleged that schools with high percentages of Latino children were disparately affected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) renewal of the registration for methyl bromide, a fumigant pesticide.  EPA concluded in that action that there was support for “a preliminary finding of a prima facie Title VI violation,” and EPA and DPR entered a settlement agreement in 2011.

Petitioner argued that EPA’s findings in Angelita C., and evidence that it claimed to demonstrate that pesticide use had not gone down since EPA completed its original review, supported the claimed Title VI violations that are the subject of the Ninth Circuit petition, and further that EPA did not do enough to determine that California had satisfied its burden to provide assurances of compliance with federal law.  The Ninth Circuit decision states in this regard that the petitioner “effectively contends the EPA should have evaluated California’s assurances the same way the EPA would have to deal with a pending Title VI complaint setting forth allegations of a current violation.”

The court states:  “El Comite’s argument fails because it misconstrues the EPA’s burden regarding the ‘necessary assurances’ requirement.  The EPA has a duty to provide a reasoned judgment as to whether the state has provided ‘necessary assurances,’ but what assurances are ‘necessary’ is left to the EPA’s discretion.”  The court further found:  “El Comite provided no proof of a current or ongoing violation.  It merely provided evidence of the earlier violation, and pointed to continued pesticide use since that time.  The EPA explained that this evidence failed to draw any connection between the proposed rules and a potential disparate impact.  The EPA fulfilled its duty to provide a reasoned judgment because its determination was cogently explained and supported by the record.” 

The decision in this case is of significant interest to many who have been observing the emerging trends regarding environmental justice issues arising in connection with pesticide applications.  This concern may grow larger as EPA continues and expands its evaluations of the potential bystander risks from pesticide use, potentially leading to additional restrictions for certain pesticides in the future.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On April 20, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it had reached settlements with three major pesticide registrants, for the actions of a third-party pesticide distributor, Harrell’s LLC (Harrell’s), a Florida-based lawn and turf care business that was distributing the registrants’ respective products.  EPA alleged that Harrell’s sold improperly labeled products that contained the pesticides dithiopyr, chlorantra-niliprole, and imidacloprid.

Without admitting liability, each registrant agreed to pay a penalty with one agreeing, in addition to completing a supplemental environmental project (SEP), to create a $231,000 educational website for the pesticide industry that will feature information on complying with federal pesticide laws.

A 2012 EPA investigation found more than 350 instances of Harrell’s products having been sold without proper pesticide labels -- in some cases, labels were either illegible or were not on the products at all.  The products at issue were registered and were sold and distributed by Harrell’s under supplemental distributor relationships.  In late 2013, Harrell’s agreed to pay a $1,736,560 civil penalty to EPA, one of the largest ever for a pesticide case.  

Under EPA regulations, supplemental distributors like Harrell’s are agents of the registrants, and those registrants are thus responsible and liable for the actions of their supplemental distributors.  In its recent National Enforcement Program Managers Guidance (NPMG), EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance identifies Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) supplemental distribution as a mandatory “focus area.”  Specifically, EPA states:

Although required to be consistent with the labels of the basic registered products, distributor product labels frequently deviate substantially from the EPA accepted labels.  Such unapproved product labeling can lead to misuse and misapplication as well as pose significant risks to the users who rely on product labels to inform them about proper and safe pesticide use.  Due to the potential risk associated with the use of improperly labeled pesticides, it is important that the EPA aggressively pursue compliance for supplemental registrations. 

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) recently issued a memorandum discussing the enforcement actions, the regulatory requirements for supplemental distribution, and what issues companies should address to help avoid such an enforcement action. That memorandum, “EPA’s Enforcement Efforts Regarding FIFRA Supplemental Distribution and How to Avoid Noncompliance,” is available online.

B&C also presented a webinar, “EPA's Supplemental Distribution Enforcement Actions Are Buzzing: How to Avoid Getting Stung,” on July 23, 2014, highlighting the most important steps that both registrants and supplemental distributors can take to ensure compliance and avoid being stung in the current heightened enforcement environment.  A recap of the webinar is available online.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala

 

On April 9, 2015, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) held the first of a planned series of workshops intended to help DPR develop “regulation concepts” for possible notifications prior to field fumigations.  The presentations and video from that workshop are now available on DPR’s website.

 

DPR’s presentation at the workshop focused on the background that it believes supports the consideration of a notification requirement, and on current methyl bromide notification regulations and fumigant labeling requirements that it believes potentially could be used as a foundation to assist in the development of a rulemaking concept for soil-applied field fumigants. 

 

In addition, DPR considered whether the concept can be reconciled with the current label requirements as emergency preparedness and response requirements, or maintained as a separate “right-to-know” requirement.  DPR recommended expanding notification to all field fumigations, including applications of chloropicrin, 1,3-dichloropropene, methyl bromide, or pesticides that generate methyl isothiocyanate.

 

This potential regulatory development is of significant interest to pesticide registrants in general.  The application of a right-to-know model to pesticide applications, pursuant to which growers and applicators would have to notify those in a defined proximity to the planned pesticide application, would have far-reaching ramifications.  DPR’s further development of this potential regulation should be monitored closely.

 

Of note are similar notification schemes reportedly under consideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its pollinator protection proposals.  EPA staff has spoken of how one essential component of any pollinator protection program will be some kind of notification scheme for beekeepers, or at least commercial beekeepers, who have hives in the vicinity of the use area for certain pesticides.  As that issue evolves, it will invite comparison with EPA’s position on other requirements for mandatory notification, where generally EPA has not supported blanket federal requirements for notification of nearby pesticide applications.  This development in the pollinator area could lead to reconsideration at the federal level regarding broader advance notification requirements for specified pesticide applications. 


 
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