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.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Susan Hunter Youngren, Ph.D.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced on February 26, 2015, a revision to the process for evaluation of the potential for a pesticide to move off-site into surface water when the pesticide is used in an urban area. The former evaluation method followed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approach with California specific parameters. This revision will continue to use the EPA approach but allow incorporation of a module specific for California urban settings.
Potential adverse impacts on surface water from use of pesticides are assessed in California by DPR’s Environmental Monitoring Branch’s Surface Water Protection Program (SWPP) using EPA methodology. The SWPP uses the EPA evaluation method for proposed agricultural pesticide registrations based on PE5 (PRZM-EXAMS version 5) and Tier 2 modeling scenarios but there have been no consistent methods for assessing potential pesticide runoff on impervious surfaces in an urban setting. The new California urban module includes the following improvements that are designed to be further representative of urban conditions in California:
* Introduction of four types of surfaces by permeability and water sources;
* Consideration of pesticide transport induced by dry-weather runoff from impervious surfaces;
* Separation of impervious and pervious portions in the modeling scenarios;
* Use of prescheduled lawn irrigation;
* Characterization of residential and commercial/industrial areas to reflect California urban conditions; and
* Aggregations of water, sediment, and pesticide yields for the urban watershed.
The urban model is designed particularly for evaluating pesticides applied outdoors in areas with large amounts of impervious surfaces such as residential areas, commercial/industrial facilities, and highway and road rights-of-way applications. Pesticide products of interest would be those that have the potential for impact to surface waters through overspray to impervious surfaces in these areas
March 12, 2015
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. (EST)
Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is pleased to host a complimentary webinar on recent compliance and enforcement issues regarding the importation of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2014 revisions to its Notice of Arrival (NOA) form (EPA Form 3540-1), coupled with EPA's increasing scrutiny of pesticide imports, indicate that this is an issue of growing interest to EPA and could result in a rise of enforcement cases or, at a minimum, business disruption for shipments that are refused entry.
Speakers who will be highlighting recent developments and steps for importers to take to ensure compliance and avoid potential enforcement include: Eileen B. Salathé Gernhard, Lead Counsel -- Regulatory and EH&S at Dow AgroSciences, LLC, B&C's Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi, and attorney Jon Jacobs, a 25-year veteran of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, now in private practice at Jacobs Stotsky PLLC. There will be 45 minutes of presentation followed by a 15 minute Q&A period.
Please save the date -- registration details will follow.
By Timothy D. Backstrom
On January 20, 2015, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued its latest Biological Opinion (BiOp) in a series of BiOps evaluating potential effects of pesticide use on salmon in the Pacific Northwest. When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decides to permit continued registration of a pesticide (during reregistration or registration review), Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 7(a)(2) requires EPA to determine, in consultation with the NMFS and/or the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), that continued registration is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species. Under current procedures, EPA scientists make an initial threshold determination whether or not continued registration “might” have such an effect, followed by referral to the FWS or the NMFS for formal consultation in those instances where that threshold is met.
The January 20, 2015, NMFS BiOp concerns the pesticides diflubenzuron, fenbutatin oxide, and propargite, and is one in a series of NMFS BiOps for Pacific salmon. As part of litigation that began in 2001, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered EPA to determine whether it should have consulted with NMFS concerning reregistration of 55 specific pesticides. EPA subsequently initiated a formal consultation with NMFS for 37 of these 55 pesticides.
Like most of the prior BiOps, the latest NMFS BiOp recommends that EPA require the affected pesticide registrants to adopt buffer zones and other mitigation measures. The scientific methodology underlying the NMFS BiOps has been sharply criticized by industry and questioned by EPA. EPA has not yet adopted the measures recommended by NMFS in any of the previous BiOps. The BiOp for the pesticides chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion was vacated and remanded to NMFS by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 21, 2013. That decision was based in part on use of implausible assumptions in the NMFS model and on the decision of NMFS to recommend uniform buffer zones without regard to site-specific factors. Industry has criticized the latest BiOp on similar grounds. Some may also ask why NMFS did not utilize methodology like that recommended in 2013 by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, but NMFS states that consultations with other agencies concerning a process to implement the NAS recommendations are still pending.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Susan Hunter Youngren, Ph.D.
Along with the release of the revised human health risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, in late December 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a Response to the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus that the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council, among others, filed in September 2014 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This action is the latest of several brought to try to achieve a ban of chlorpyrifos and a revocation of food tolerances for chlorpyrifos.
EPA’s December 2014 response states that its “thorough consideration of these issues will inform its ultimate decision whether to leave in place the tolerances for chlorpyrifos or cancel chlorpyrifos registrations, and a full record will facilitate any subsequent judicial review of those decisions.”
On January 7, 2015, EPA included in a status report to the court the issuance of its revised human health risk assessment. EPA indicated that currently it plans to “issue a proposed rule to revoke tolerances in early 2015 or a final denial order in mid-2015.”
It is not clear what EPA implies by stating that it could issue a proposed tolerance revocation in “early 2015” when the assessment of chlorpyrifos has only recently been released, availability announced in the Federal Register on January 14, 2015, and there is an open comment period on the document scheduled to close on March 16, 2015. Any action would presumably take some time, given the need to review submitted comments and formulate a response. Preparing any regulatory action would take some additional amount of time, especially since registrants of chlorpyrifos products can be expected to have substantial comments on the documents.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Susan Hunter Youngren, Ph.D.
On January 5, 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit challenging the November 6, 2014, decision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow the continued use of tetrachlovinphos (TCVP) in flea control products used on pets. NRDC’s 2009 petition sought to cancel all pet uses of TCVP based on alleged potential health risks to children.
In February 2014, NRDC filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking the court to compel EPA to respond to NRDC’s petitions to cancel all manufacturer registrations and uses of propoxur and TCVP, which are used in pet flea treatment products. Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc., Wellmark International, and Hartz were among flea collar brands at issue.
In March 2014, EPA announced an agreement with Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc. and Wellmark International, whereby the companies voluntarily cancelled the use of propoxur in flea collars. Related uses of other chemicals, including TCVP in pet collars, were not addressed in that agreement, and EPA denied, in November 2014, NRDC’s 2009 petition seeking to cancel all pet uses of TCVP.
NRDC first petitioned EPA to cancel propoxur uses in pet collars in 2007. NRDC filed a petition in April 2009 to cancel all pet uses of TCVP based on its Poison on Pets II report, which asserted that unsafe levels of pesticide residues are present on dogs and cats after a flea collar is used.
EPA conducted a risk assessment of multiple pet use products (e.g., shampoos, dips, powders, and flea collars) containing TCVP in 2006 during the reregistration process. The majority of the uses were assessed using registrant-submitted chemical-specific data. Potential post-application assessments for the majority of the uses included assessing dermal contact with the treated animal (e.g., a child hugging a dog) and hand-to-mouth contact by a toddler following contact with treated animals (e.g., touching the dog and then putting their hand in their mouth). These were considered to be worst-case assessments based on the amount of dermal and hand-to-mouth contact used by EPA. Potential post-application exposure to adults and children were not assessed for flea collars. In the case of flea collars, EPA concluded: “Post application exposure to residues from pet collars is considered to be insignificant when compared with exposure to other products. Because other, higher exposure uses were not of concern, an assessment for collars was not conducted.”
This last sentence is especially important, as EPA is likely to reiterate this conclusion, whether curtly or in detail, as its direct response to the petition. As this is a fairly predictable Agency response, NRDC appears to want this petition to signal its continuing concerns about organophosphate use generally, and be able to raise concerns about “children’s risks” in particular.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On October 22, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested public comment on a proposal to remove 72 chemicals from its list of substances approved for use as inert ingredients in pesticide products. EPA reportedly is responding to petitions submitted by the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and others that have asked EPA to issue a rule requiring disclosure of 371 inert ingredients found in pesticide products. EPA developed an alternative strategy designed to reduce the risks posed by hazardous inert ingredients in pesticide products more effectively than by disclosure rulemaking. EPA outlined its strategy in a May 22, 2014, letter to the petitioners, which is available online. Many of the 72 inert ingredients targeted for removal are on the list of 371 inert ingredients identified by the petitioners as hazardous. The 72 chemicals are not currently being used as inert ingredients in any pesticide product. The list of chemicals is available online.
Ingredients that are directly responsible for controlling pests such as insects or weeds are called active ingredients. An inert ingredient is any substance that is intentionally included in a pesticide that is not an active ingredient. Comments are due November 21, 2014. General information on inert ingredients can be found online.