Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On October 13, 2017, Petitioners League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), et al. filed a motion to expedite briefing and hearing in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Pruitt, Case No. 17-71636 (9th Cir. June 5, 2017).  In their motion, Petitioners request that the court “expedite proceedings because of the harm being caused by [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)] Administrator Pruitt leaving chlorpyrifos tolerances in effect when he did not and cannot determine that chlorpyrifos is safe under the Food Quality Protection Act.” 

Petitioners state there is good cause for expedition “because children continue to be exposed to chlorpyrifos in their food, drinking water, and the air around their homes, schools, and playfields, putting them at risk of such brain impairments as lower IQ, attention deficit disorders, and developmental delays,” and “Ninth Circuit Rule 27-12 provides that ‘motions to expedite briefing and hearing may be filed and will be granted upon a showing of good cause,’” including ‘“situations in which … in the absence of expedited treatment, irreparable harm may occur.’”  Pursuant to Ninth Circuit Rule 27-12, Petitioners determined the position of EPA counsel on the motion, who stated that, “EPA opposes the motion to expedite as premature under Circuit Rule 27-11(b).” 

 The Petitioners’ motion to expedite briefing was submitted despite the pendency of an unresolved motion to dismiss submitted by Respondents Administrator Pruitt and EPA on August 21, 2017.  In that motion, EPA argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to review the March 29, 2017, order denying the petition by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to revoke all Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) tolerances for chlorpyrifos, until after the Petitioners have exhausted their administrative remedies by filing objections to the denial, and EPA has issued a final order ruling on such objections.  In its motion to dismiss, EPA noted that the Ninth Circuit denied a motion by PANNA and NRDC for further mandamus relief in In re PANNA on July 18, 2017, stating that “one valid agency response to a petition challenging a pesticide’s tolerances is to ‘issue an order denying the petition,’” and ‘“now that EPA has issued its denial, substantive objections must first be made through the administrative process mandated by’ the FFDCA.”

 On September 27, 2017, Petitioners filed their opposition to the motion to dismiss.  Petitioners argued that exhaustion of administrative remedies by filing objections under the FFDCA is not an absolute jurisdictional prerequisite to judicial review, and that the court can proceed with review under the “futility doctrine” because EPA’s refusal to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos constitutes a “flagrant violation of a statutory prohibition.”  Petitioners also argued that even if FFDCA exhaustion is required, EPA has also denied the petition by PANNA and NRDC to cancel the registrations of chlorpyrifos, and that additional denial constitutes a final order that is subject to immediate review under FIFRA Section 16(b) because the notice and comment process concerning the petition was a “public hearing” under the applicable precedent.

 Commentary

The new motion by Petitioners LULAC, et al. to expedite briefing on the challenge to EPA’s denial of the PANNA and NRDC petition reflects the view of the Petitioners that this matter is urgent because continued use of chlorpyrifos jeopardizes the health of children, but this motion is unlikely to be resolved before the court rules on EPA’s pending motion to dismiss.  EPA has stated that it will oppose the Petitioners’ motion to expedite briefing as premature. Moreover, EPA has not yet replied to the arguments made by the Petitioners in their opposition to the pending dismissal motion.

To prevail on their argument that exhausting the administrative process prescribed by the FFDCA will be “futile,” the Petitioners likely will have to persuade the Court that these FFDCA procedures are not jurisdictional prerequisites to judicial review, and that there is little likelihood that EPA will change its mind in response to their objections.  With respect to the argument that EPA’s denial of the petition to cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos is final agency action subject to immediate review under FIFRA Section 16(b), EPA will likely contend that this argument is contravened by 21 U.S.C. § 346a(h)(5), which states: “any issue as to which review is or was obtainable under this subsection shall not be the subject of judicial review under any other provision of law.”  It could be difficult for Petitioners to defeat this jurisdictional prohibition in the FFDCA; they would presumably need to show the court that their substantive contentions concerning the hazards posed by chlorpyrifos would not be directly implicated in EPA’s final determination of whether or not to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos.

 This case will be carefully watched by pesticide industry observers. 

 More information on regulatory issues related to chlorpyrifos is available on our blog.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Sheryl Lindros Dolan

On October 4, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the availability of final guidance that helps to clarify FDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jurisdiction over the regulation of mosquito-related products intended to function as pesticides, including those produced through the use of biotechnology.  The notice was published in the Federal Register on October 5, 2017.  82 Fed. Reg. 46500.  Guidance for Industry #236, “Clarification of FDA and EPA Jurisdiction Over Mosquito-Related Products” (Guidance), provides information for industry and other stakeholders regarding the regulatory oversight of articles, including substances, for use in or on mosquitoes (mosquito-related products).  FDA states that it is providing the Guidance to clarify circumstances under which such products are regulated by FDA as new animal drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and other circumstances under which such products are regulated by EPA as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Scope of Guidance

FDA notes that the Guidance is important in light of the public health urgency of countering the spread of mosquito-borne disease such as that caused by the Zika virus.  While novel mosquito control technologies have gained greater attention, there has been confusion regarding FDA and EPA jurisdiction over such products.  FDA, working collaboratively with EPA, is providing the Guidance to clarify the regulatory oversight of mosquito-related products.  This includes, but is not limited to, those produced through biotechnology.

The Guidance includes the following examples of new animal drugs regulated by FDA:

  • Products intended to reduce the virus/pathogen load within a mosquito, including reduction in virus/pathogen replication and spread within the mosquito and/or reduction in virus/pathogen transmissibility from mosquitoes to humans; and
  • Products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals.

Examples of pesticide products regulated by EPA are “[p]roducts intended to reduce the population of mosquitoes (for example, by killing them at some point in their life cycle, or by interfering with their reproduction or development).”

Guidance for Sponsors/Manufacturers of Products Intended for use on Mosquitoes

In the Guidance, FDA encourages sponsors of mosquito-related products, other than those that are “intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate mosquitoes by controlling a mosquito population,” to contact FDA early in the development process.  FDA states that if a developer has a jurisdictional question, such as which agency or agencies would have oversight of a mosquito-related product that is expressly intended for both mosquito population control and human disease suppression, the developer may contact either or both agencies via the contacts listed.  FDA and EPA will consult with each other on the jurisdictional question, “as is already common practice.”  The agencies may suggest a joint meeting among EPA, FDA, and the sponsor to discuss appropriate pathways to market.

Commentary

The guidance notes that FDA, EPA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have committed to clarifying how the federal government intends to regulate genetically engineered insects as described in the September 2016 National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.  More information on the National Strategy is available in our September 21, 2016, memorandum White House Releases Proposed Update to the Coordinated Framework and National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products.

The new FDA guidance states that products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals are regulated as new animal drugs subject to FDA jurisdiction, but products intended to control mosquito populations would be regulated by EPA as pesticides.  That FDA and EPA are attempting to clarify their respective jurisdictions is appreciated.  Potential commenters may wish to consider whether the guidance offers sufficient clarity for product development planning purposes.  If “products intended to prevent mosquito-borne disease in humans or animals” are under FDA jurisdiction, the status of mosquito repellents currently registered by EPA that make claims about repelling mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, the West Nile virus, or other viruses is unclear.  Additionally, it would seem that the Oxitec mosquito is intended to reduce the mosquito population, among other goals.  The Guidance is a good start, but further clarification likely will be needed to support emerging technologies.

More information is available in our memorandum FDA Guidance Addresses FDA and EPA Jurisdiction over Mosquito-Related Products.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala

On September 18, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on an evaluation conducted by OIG entitled “EPA Needs to Manage Pesticide Funds More Efficiently.”  OIG states that it conducted the audit “to determine whether EPA manages the Pesticides Reregistration and Expedited Processing Fund (known as the [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)] Fund) and the Pesticide Registration Fund (known as the [Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA)] Fund) effectively to minimize reliance on appropriated funds.”

In the report, OIG states its finding that “EPA should manage the [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)] and [Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA)] Funds more effectively by reducing excess fund balances to within a target range. As of September 30, 2016, [OIG] identified excess funds of approximately $21.4 million for FIFRA and $8.5 million for PRIA, for a total of $29.9 million.  A reduction in fund balances would increase the availability of appropriated funds for other environmental purposes.”

In the report, OIG makes the following recommendations to EPA:

  1. For the Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) to “establish a target range for its FIFRA and PRIA Fund balances and develop and implement a plan to reduce excess funds to within the target range”; and
  2. For the Chief Financial Officer to “reconcile the FIFRA and PRIA Funds’ balances to the corresponding liabilities.”

The report states that EPA concurred with establishing a target range and developing a plan to reduce excess funds for FIFRA Fund balances, but did not agree with establishing a target range and developing a plan to reduce excess funds for PRIA Fund balances, citing the lack of predictability of PRIA collections. OIG stated that it “still believe[s] PRIA has excess funds that should be addressed,” and “[t]he agency agreed to reconcile FIFRA and PRIA balances.”

This report follows two OIG reports issued on August 14, 2017, on audits of the financial statements of (1) the FIFRA Fund; and (2) the PRIA Fund for fiscal years (FY) 2015 and 2016.  OIG is required to perform an annual audit of the financial statements of the FIFRA Fund under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), and of the PRIA Fund under PRIA.

OIG states in its reports on the audits for FYs 2015 and 2016, of both the FIFRA and the PRIA Funds, that it “noted a material weakness in that the EPA cannot adequately support its FY 2016 [PRIA/FIFRA] Fund costs.”  OIG further stated, however, that this issue has been noted in prior audit reports, and that EPA is taking corrective actions.”  For those reasons, OIG stated that it was making “no new recommendations for [these] material weakness[es].”  In FYs 2016 and 2015, EPA “lost the audit trail to properly support how much of the [PRIA/FIFRA] payroll expenses were paid for by appropriations.”  To address these losses, in October 2016, EPA instituted an enhancement to its timekeeping system’s cost allocation that will allow for “the creation of an audit trail to capture costs incurred by the [PRIA/FIFRA] Fund and other appropriations that support [PRIA/FIFRA]-related activities.”

More information on other EPA OIG reports is available on our blog under key terms OIG and EPA OIG.

Commentary

The reality of why the FIFRA funds are in surplus is a political response to the overall budgetary politics of Congress.  The Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) has not been authorized to utilize these funds fully or freely hire staff due to the budget agreements of Congress, and, more recently, due to the attempt by the new Administration to keep the Presidential budget proposal more in balance.  The OIG knows this also, but “politics” is not the concern of a good audit, and this is not helped by the problem of EPA having “lost the audit trail” of how these monies were spent.  PRIA reauthorization is soon to be overdue, and now appears perhaps to be in some jeopardy, at least in the near term.  Fortunately for OPP, the surplus in these funds that OIG addresses will be able to buy the program some time to continue relatively “as is” while waiting for PRIA politics to subside to the point where reauthorization is approved and the program can focus more on the improvements suggested by the OIG report.


 

By Lara A. Hall, MS, RQAP-GLP and Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.                                                                                       

On September 13, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued three supporting documents for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting regarding the “Continuing Development of Alternative High-Throughput Screens to Determine Endocrine Disruption, Focusing on Androgen Receptor, Steroidogenesis, and Thyroid Pathways.”  This FIFRA SAP meeting will be held on November 28-30, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST) at the EPA Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Bldg.), 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202.

The supporting documents include:

Written comments will be accepted on or before October 16, 2017.  Comments may be submitted online via Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0214-0001, mail, or hand delivery. 

Updated details regarding other comment periods for the FIFRA SAP are provided below:

A listing of ad hoc panel members, including their biographical sketches, was posted online on August 22, 2017.  The public comment period for the proposed panel members closed on September 7, 2017. 

Requests to make oral comments at the meeting should be submitted on or before November 7, 2017, by contacting the Designated Federal Official, Dr. Todd Peterson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 202-564-6428.

The original Federal Register notice announcing the meeting was published on June 6, 2017.

This important meeting, and materials issued in connection with it, will have potentially significant consequences for registrants.  Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide additional updates as they become available.  More information on EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) as well as the FIFRA SAP are available on our blog under key terms EDSP and FIFRA SAP.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Sheryl L. Dolan, and Barbara A. Christianson

On September 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of and seeking public comment on draft guidance, Pesticide Registration Notice (PR Notice) 2017-XX: Notifications, Non-notifications and Minor Formulation Amendments.  EPA states it is issuing this notice to “align the notification program with the requirements of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and [the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA)] and to clarify the processes for accepting minor, low risk registration amendments to be accomplished through notification, non-notification or as accelerated amendments.”  EPA is requesting comments, and specifically information on projected cost implications of this draft updated guidance.

PR Notices are issued by the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP).  EPA states that PR Notice 2017-XX will update and clarify “the scope of changes accepted by notification, non-notification and minor formulation amendments for all pesticide products, and supersedes both PR Notices 95-2 and 98-10 in their entirety.”  The PR Notice lists the changes from PRN 98-10 in a table.  Those changes include:

In addition to the changes listed on the table, modifications to PR Notice 98-10 consist of the following:

Notifications

  • F. Product Composition:  (1) Pesticide Category -- Under PR Notice 98-10, the pesticide categories "disinfectant" and "sanitizer" were two pesticide categories that were allowed to be added to a label by notification.  Under the proposed PR Notice, "disinfectant" and "sanitizer" were removed.
     
  • F. Product Composition: (2) Odor -- Under PR Notice 98-10, the terms "fragrance free" and "unscented" were allowed to be added to a label by a notification provided that the product is odorless or nearly odorless and contains odor-masking ingredient such as a perfume.  Under the proposed PR Notice, these terms were removed. 

Minor Formulation Amendments

  • A. Minor Formulation Amendments:  (1) Addition, deletion or substitution of one or more colorants in a formulation -- Under PR Notice 98-10, if a product was intended for a use as a seed treatment or rodenticide, it would not be eligible for an accelerated review; that restriction was deleted from the proposed PR Notice.
     
  • A. Minor Formulation Amendments:  (2) Addition, deletion or substitution of one or more inert ingredients (other than colorants and fragrances) in a formulation -- Under the proposed PR Notice, if a product is a dog/cat pet spot-on product or if an inert is a bittering agent or a safener, the product would not be eligible for an accelerated review. 
     
  • A. Minor Formulation Amendments:  (3) Addition, deletion or substitution of one or more fragrances in a formulation -- Under the proposed PR Notice, fragrances will be eligible for an accelerated review if all fragrance component ingredients are included on the Fragrance Ingredient List; individual fragrance component ingredients that exceed 0.1 percent (by weight) of the total pesticide product composition have existing approval for non-food use as an inert ingredient; and new/modified fragrances for antimicrobial products making public health claims are within the certified limits established for fragrances already approved for the product. 
     
  • Under the proposed PR Notice, products that are not eligible for accelerated review under minor formulation amendments are:
    • Pet spot-on products;
    • Rodenticides;
    • Change to an active ingredient source; 
    • Change to nominal concentration of the active ingredient; or
    • Addition of new or additional Confidential Statements of Formula (CSF).

 

EPA Procedures to Review Notifications

Under the proposed PR Notice, EPA outlines changes to the policy for processing notifications by the Registration Division (RD) and the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division (BPPD), but procedures to process notifications by the Antimicrobials Division remain the same. 

One item to note under the proposed notification process for RD and BPPD is that a registrant may distribute or sell a product modified by notification once EPA receives the notification but, if EPA determines that a product has been modified through notification inappropriately, EPA may initiate regulatory and/or enforcement action without first providing the registrant with an opportunity to submit an application to amend the registration.

Registrants Submitting Minor Formulation Amendments

Under the proposed PR Notice, EPA requires that registrants submit with their application for registration a cover letter listing names and dates of all EPA accepted CSFs.  EPA will consider any CSFs not listed in the cover letter as superseded/no longer valid.

Comments on this PR notice are due October 6, 2017, and can be submitted online under Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0671.

Commentary

Registrants should review the draft PR Notice carefully, as it includes important changes.  For example, the consequence for submitting a minor formulation amendment and neglecting to include a list of all current CSFs is severe.  As another example, EPA signals in its proposal that proceeding to market with a product revised through the notification process may be risky if the submitter has erred in its judgment regarding what is eligible for a notification.  Should the PR Notice be issued without change to this provision, submitters may wish to give close consideration to waiting until it has EPA’s written confirmation that a notification has been accepted before introducing the revised product to market.  Comments on issues of concern should be considered.


 

By Heather F. Collins

On August 28, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first of three feature and functionality updates to the Pesticide Submission Portal (PSP) expected this year.  The portal is a web-based application allowing registrants to submit pesticide application packages to EPA electronically.  The PSP application is accessed through EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) Network which requires user registration. 

This new PSP, version 1.4, release expands the feature to allow users to submit voluntary data related to specific registration review cases.  Users can submit study citations, data matrices (Form 8570-35), cover letters and studies (protocols, study profiles, supplemental study data) using the new "Voluntary Submission" link on the PSP home page.  This new release also allows users to resubmit previously submitted 90-day responses. Once a 90-day response or data submission has been successfully transmitted to the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), users may now modify responses to data requirements, cite additional studies, upload additional documents, and change how the product registration is supported.  EPA states:  “This action is another step in a phased approach that will ultimately lead to EPA’s ability to accept all pesticide applications electronically, a move that will help modernize the pesticide registration process, increase operational efficiencies and reduce paper waste.”  EPA indicates that in addition to these changes, this update introduces enhancements and bug fixes.

EPA also released the OPP Pesticide Submission Portal (PSP) User Guide Version 1.4 which provides detailed instructions on how to use the PSP application and guidance on how to prepare a package for electronic submission.

Applicants using PSP need not submit multiple electronic copies of any pieces of their applications; EPA states that the requirement to submit multiple copies of data in Pesticide Registration Notice 2011-3 is applicable only to paper submissions.  Pesticide registrants who previously submitted information via paper, CD, or DVD may instead use the portal and forego the courier costs of sending to EPA.

More information about the Electronic Submissions of Pesticide Applications is available on EPA’s website.


 

By Lara A. Hall

On August 3, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Federal Register notice announcing revised comment period dates for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA SAP) meeting regarding the “Continuing Development of Alternative High-Throughput Screens to Determine Endocrine Disruption, Focusing on Androgen Receptor, Steroidogenesis, and Thyroid Pathways.”  This SAP meeting will be held on November 28-30, 2017, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (EST) at the EPA Conference Center, Lobby Level, One Potomac Yard (South Bldg.), 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington, VA 22202.  Updated details regarding commenting periods are provided below:

  • A listing of ad hoc panel members, including their biographical sketches, was posted online today, August 22, 2017 (Docket: EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0214).  EPA is inviting comments on candidates to serve on this panel. Comments should be sent to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by September 7, 2017.
  • Supporting documents for the FIFRA SAP meeting will be posted online on or before September 1, 2017.  Written comments will be accepted on or before October 16, 2017.
  • Requests to make oral comments at the meeting should be submitted on or before November 7, 2017, by contacting the Designated Federal Official, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (202-564-6428).

The original Federal Register notice announcing the meeting was published on June 6, 2017.

This important meeting, and materials issued in connection with it, will have potentially significant consequences for registrants and should be monitored closely.


 

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

On July 20, 2017, the Trump Administration released its 2017 Unified Regulatory Agenda.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Agency Rule List included several pesticide rulemakings in the proposed rule stage, as well as the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rulemaking that is in the final rule stage.  The five items in the proposed rule stage are:

  1. RIN 2015-AA00:  Revision of Procedural Rules for Hearings on Cancellations, Suspensions, Changes in Classifications, and Denials of Pesticide Registrations.  The agenda states that this proposed rulemaking is a “revision of the Rules of Practice governing the conduct of licensing adjudications under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).”   The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for January 2018.
  2. RIN 2070-AK00:  Pesticides; Technical Amendments to Data Requirements.  The agenda states that to satisfy one of the commitments in a settlement agreement reached with the American Chemistry Council (Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0110-0139), EPA is proposing a correction pertaining to the 200 parts per billion (ppb) level described in 40 C.F.R. Section 158.2230(d) that was originally used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with respect to the “concentration of residues in or on food for tiering of data requirements for indirect food use biocides.”  Through this rulemaking, the agenda states that EPA intends to “clarify that the 200 ppb level is based on total estimated daily dietary intake for an individual and not on the amount of residue present on a single food.”   The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for July 2017.
  3. RIN 2070-AK06:  Pesticides; Procedural Rule Amendment; Requirement for Certain Pesticide Actions to Publish Notices in the Federal Register.  In the agenda, EPA states that as the as the Federal Register is “no longer the most cost effective or efficient way for providing notice or sharing information with the public,” it is considering changing the way that it provides notice on or shares information with the public -- specifically, by no longer publishing certain information in the Federal Register, but instead providing the same information on a consolidated website which the agenda states “will be more accessible to the public and other interested parties, as well as a more cost effective and efficient mechanism for providing timely updates.”  The agenda lists the following kinds of notification it is considering making this change regarding: (1) reregistration of a pesticide product with a new active ingredient or new use; (2) announcing approvals of specific, quarantine and public health exemptions; and (3) Summaries of certain state registrations.  For Registration Review, the agenda state that EPA “intends to announce availability of the documents that are currently announced in the Federal Register on the EPA's Registration Review Website.”  For notices of availability announced in the Federal Register, the agenda states that “EPA intends to direct the public to a case-specific docket on Regulations.gov to view pertinent registration review documents and provide comment.”  The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for April 2018.
  4. RIN 2070-AK40:  Extension of Compliance Date(s); Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.  As reported in our memoranda summarizing the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) final rule, EPA Publishes Worker Protection Standard Final Rule, the WPS final rule was issued on November 2, 2015, but has not yet been made effective.  More information on the delay of its effective date is available in our blog item EPA to Delay Agricultural WPS Indefinitely; Cites Issues with Guidance and Training.  This proposed rulemaking will adjust the compliance date.  The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for July 2017 and the issuance of the final rule is scheduled for November 2017.
  5. RIN 2080-AA13:  Updates to 40 C.F.R. § 26 Subpart K to reflect recent changes to 40 C.F.R. Subpart A (The Common Rule).  As reported in our blog item Federal Agencies Announce Revision to Modernize Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, on January 19, 2017, EPA, together with a host of other federal agencies, released a final rule to modernize, strengthen, and make more effective the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects that was originally promulgated as a Common Rule in 1991, and is now codified in 40 C.F.R. § 26, Subpart A.  These revisions, scheduled to become effective on January 19, 2018, will create a conflict within some of the EPA-specific subparts, in particular, Subpart K of 40 C.F.R. 26 (Basic Ethical Requirements for Third-Party Human Research for Pesticides Involving Intention Exposure of Non-Pregnant, Non-Nursing Adults) which regulates third party pesticide research.  The agenda states that this proposed rulemaking is “intended to resolve proposed rulemaking discrepancies created by the recent revision to Subpart A, and will not alter the fundamental protections for human subjects, including vulnerable populations.”  The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for January 2018.

The two items in the final rule stage are:

  1. RIN 2070-AJ20:  Pesticides; Certification of Pesticide Applicators.  As reported in our memoranda summarizing the Certification of Pesticide Applicators’ final rule, Final EPA Rule Requires Stronger Standards for Applying Riskiest Pesticides, the final rule was issued on January 4, 2017.  More information on the delay of its effective date is available in our blog item EPA Delays Effective Date of Certification of Pesticide Applicators Final Rule.  On June 2, 2017, a Federal Register publication was issued that delayed the effective date until May 22, 2018.
  2. RIN 2070-AK13:  Procedural Rule to Remove Obsolete Information.  The agenda states that this final rule will remove information from EPA’s existing pesticide regulations that is now out of date or obsolete and will “provide clearer and more reliable information to those seeking to register a pesticide product.”  The agenda further states that as rulemaking is intended to be a non-substantive, procedural rulemaking “since the EPA does not intend to make any substantive changes to the existing requirements,” EPA is considering issuing this as a final rule and not going through the notice and comment period.  The issuance of the final rule is scheduled for January 2018.

Commentary

Much of the work noted emphasizes potential procedural efficiencies and clarifications.  The potential move to more announcements on the websites and away from the Federal Register is, at least in part, likely intended as a cost-saving measure.  It is also a change that will be closely watched.  For example, in recent years, EPA has seen registrations challenged based on assertions of an alleged lack of appropriate notice concerning the receipt or processing of registration applications, and these past challenges will likely influence any new procedures that EPA may adopt. 

Of more interest is the new Administration’s call for suggestions of what rules or policies should be changed as part of a broader push for economic growth and less regulatory costs, which may result in more substantive regulatory changes and some likely controversial decisions about what rules or programs will be modified or eliminated -- but that exercise is not part of this announcement.  The delay in the compliance date for the WPS regulation is more substantive, but changes that may be proposed have not yet been announced.


 

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

On June 30, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Case No. 14-1036, resolving jurisdictional and substantive issues following complaints alleging that EPA violated Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to make an effects determination or to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) before registering cyantraniliprole (CTP) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Regarding the jurisdictional issue and the appropriate court in which to bring such a challenge, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on May 14, 2015, had dismissed the ESA complaint of CBD, the Center for Food Safety, and the Defenders of Wildlife (Conservation Groups), finding that the Conservation Groups’ “Complaint gives rise to an ‘actual controversy as to the validity’ of the FIFRA Registration Order and is therefore governed by that Act’s jurisdictional grant.”  The D.C. Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court’s ruling to dismiss the ESA petition on jurisdictional grounds, concluding that FIFRA “grants the court of appeals exclusive jurisdiction to review an ESA claim that is ‘inextricably intertwined’ with a challenge to a pesticide registration order.”

The D.C. Circuit also, however, granted the Conservation Groups’ FIFRA petition, finding that EPA registered CTP without having made an effects determination or consulting with the FWS and/or the NMFS as required under ESA Section 7(a)(2).  The court remanded the case to EPA for further proceedings, but allowed the CTP registration order to remain in effect until it is replaced by an order consistent with the court’s opinion.

Considering the growing number of complaints that allege a failure to consult with the FWS and/or the NMFS under the ESA, this decision could have broad reaching implications for how these complaints are filed and reviewed.

Background

On February 29, 2012, EPA announced that it had received applications to register pesticide products containing CTP under FIFRA.  On June 6, 2013, EPA announced its proposal to register CTP as a pesticide under FIFRA.  As part of its review, EPA prepared an “Environmental Fate and Ecological Risk Assessment for the Registration of the New Chemical Cyantraniliprole” in which EPA states that CTP is “highly toxic or very highly toxic” to multiple taxonomic groups, including terrestrial invertebrates such as butterflies and beetles.

On January 24, 2014, EPA registered CTP as a pesticide under FIFRA and approved fourteen end-use products containing CTP.  At issue in this case was EPA’s decision to register CTP without having made an effects determination or consulting with the FWS and/or the NMFS as required by ESA Section 7(a)(2) and implementing regulations (50 C.F.R. § 402.13-14).

Under the ESA citizen-suit provision, “any person” may “commence a civil suit on his own behalf … to enjoin any person, including the United States and any other governmental instrumentality or agency … who is alleged to be in violation of any provision of this chapter or regulation issued under the authority thereof.” 16 U.S.C. § 1540(g)(1).  “The district courts … have jurisdiction” of ESA citizen suits, id., but no action may be commenced “prior to sixty days after written notice of the violation has been given to the Secretary, and to any alleged violator.” Id. § 1540(g)(2)(A)(i).

FIFRA’s citizen-suit provision at 7 U.S.C. § 136n(b) provides the federal circuit court with exclusive jurisdiction to affirm or set aside an EPA pesticide registration order following a public hearing, provided a challenge is filed within 60 days of the registration decision.

With potentially conflicting statutory provisions regarding the court in which to file a complaint and the timing to do so, the Conservation Groups initiated two actions:  a complaint against EPA in D.C. District Court under the ESA’s citizen-suit provision; and a petition for review in D.C. Circuit Court pursuant to FIFRA’s citizen-suit provision.

Jurisdictional Issues

The D.C. Circuit first addressed the jurisdiction issue, which involved a determination of standing and a resolution of the “dueling jurisdictional provisions of the ESA and of FIFRA.”

On the issue of standing, the D.C. Circuit found that petitioners did in fact have standing, as not only did EPA make procedural omissions through “its failure to make an effects determination and to consult,” but the plaintiffs show that EPA’s failure affected the plaintiffs’ members’ “concrete aesthetic and recreational interests.” 

With regard to the appropriate court in which to bring this claim, the D.C. Circuit found that “FIFRA vests the courts of appeals with exclusive jurisdiction over controversies arising from an EPA pesticide registration, so long as, inter alia, registration follows a public hearing.”  The court thus also found:

  • Because FIFRA’s grant of exclusive jurisdiction to the court of appeals to review registration orders is more specific than the ESA’s citizen-suit provision, we believe the Conservation Groups must bring their ESA section 7(a)(2) challenge to us if 7 U.S.C. § 136n(b) is satisfied.  And the Conservation Groups do satisfy the requirements of 7 U.S.C. § 136n(b): they are adversely affected by the registration of CTP; they challenge the validity of the CTP registration order based on the EPA’s failure to make an effects determination and to consult; and their challenge comes after a “public hearing” by way of three notice and comment periods.  We therefore have “exclusive jurisdiction” to review their claim under FIFRA and the district court correctly dismissed their ESA citizen suit. (citations omitted).

Merits

While the ESA citizen suit was dismissed, the FIFRA citizen suit remained under the D.C. Circuit’s exclusive jurisdiction and review.  The court found that EPA violated ESA Section 7(a)(2) by registering CTP before making an effects determination or consulting with the FWS or the NMFS.

Significantly, the court decided to remand the case to EPA for further proceedings without vacating the CTP registration.  The court stated that remand without vacatur is appropriate in this case because “[n]otwithstanding the EPA’s failure to make an effects determination and to engage in any required consultation, it did not register CTP in total disregard of the pesticide’s potential deleterious effects; indeed, the Conservation Groups themselves rely heavily on the EPA’s ‘Ecological Risk Assessment for the Registration of the New Chemical Cyantraniliprole.’”  The court further stated that “allowing the EPA’s CTP registration order to remain in effect until it is replaced by an order consistent with our opinion will maintain ‘enhanced protection of the environmental values covered by the CTP registration order.’”

Commentary

This case is significant in at least two respects and should have implications in other cases being brought under ESA and FIFRA citizen suit petitions.  First, the court provides the same answer concerning the “dueling jurisdictional provisions of the ESA and of FIFRA” as prior decisions in the Ninth Circuit, finding that FIFRA’s jurisdictional grounds take precedence and that the Courts of Appeal have exclusive jurisdiction to review cases claiming ESA violations in the context of an approved FIFRA pesticide registration.  The court found the Conservation Groups’ arguments to the contrary “unavailing,” including but not limited to their argument that the public notice and comment periods that were provided did not constitute a “public hearing” under FIFRA Section 16(b) as well as their argument that the ESA challenge was not “inextricably intertwined” with FIFRA, even though the Conservation Groups were challenging the CTP registration order itself.  It also is significant that the court, while remanding the registration order to EPA for further actions under the ESA, did not immediately vacate the existing CTP registration order.

Some observers of the extensive ESA-FIFRA litigation over recent years wondered whether the CTP registrations would be vacated once challenged for conformity to ESA requirements.  EPA effectively admitted that it did not follow the full consultation process with FWS and NMFS, in this case substituting a relative risk argument that CTP was an improvement that would provide more species protection compared to the compounds it is expected to replace in the marketplace.  The remand without vacatur does not resolve what some have called the “train wreck” scenario, where the need to complete ESA consultation, combined with time and resource constraints at the respective agencies, will result in a virtual freeze on new pesticide product registrations.  The court makes it clear that, if EPA makes an affirmative ESA effects determination for CTP, consultation with the FWS and/or the NMFS must follow.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

In June 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) National Program Manager Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-2019, which sets forth the strategies and actions that EPA and its state and tribal partners will undertake to protect human health and the environment via six key programmatic activities.  EPA uses an Annual Commitment System (ACS) to track annual regional performance information and results.  Below is a listing of the six programmatic activities and their ACS measures, if applicable:

  1. Strengthening state and tribal partnerships through continued effective management of pesticide cooperative agreements.  The guidance states that the “National Pesticide Program depends on cooperative agreements with states and tribes to implement many of the requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and to help ensure [EPA’s] regulatory decisions and programs achieve intended protections.  For the ACS measure, the commitment target is 100 percent of pesticide program required activities included in grantee work plans completed under pesticide program portion of the FIFRA Grant Guidance.  More information on the activities is listed in the guidance.
  2. Assisting in national, regional, and local pollinator protection efforts.  EPA states that “through risk assessment, mitigation, education, and outreach, EPA’s Office of Pesticides Programs’ goal for pollinator protection is to ensure all pollinators, including managed pollinators such as honey bees, and native pollinator including Monarch Butterflies, are protected from adverse effects of pesticide exposure.”  More information on the activities is listed in the guidance.  EPA is not proposing any ACS measures to be associated with this area of focus for FY2018-2019.
  3. Effectively implementing the revised pesticides worker protection standard rule.  More information on this rule is available on our blog under key phrase Worker Protection Standard.  EPA states that no ACS measure is proposed to be associated with this area of focus for FY2018-2019 to “allow regional offices the flexibility to direct their efforts where they are most needed, and to select the activities and level of effort appropriate for the needs of their region.”
  4. Effectively implementing the revised certification of pesticide applicators rule.  Same as above, EPA states that no ACS measure is proposed to be associated with this area of focus for FY2018-2019 to “allow regional offices the flexibility to direct their efforts where they are most needed, and to select the activities and level of effort appropriate for the needs of their region.”  More information on this rule is available on our blog under key phrase pesticide applicators.
  5. Focusing region-specific pesticide priorities on those areas of greatest need nationally.  EPA states that region-specific pesticide priority areas “support the agency’s national pesticide program efforts. In addition, these projects support one or more of the agency’s Strategic Plan goals and strategies, and directly benefit states and/or tribes.  The region-specific pesticide priority areas to choose from are: (1) promotion of state and tribal pesticide program coordination and communication; (2) bed bug outreach and assistance; (3) promotion, development or support of integrated pest management efforts; (4) support of water quality risk assessment and mitigation; (5) spray drift outreach and incident data collection; and (6) support of emerging public health pesticide issues.  The ACS measure commitment target is one project or initiative contributing to the implementation and enhancement of the region-specific pesticide program priority areas.
  6. Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).  For the TRI program, EPA includes three ACS measures on the number of TRI data quality checks:
  • The TRI-1 measure allows EPA to track performance of the TRI program, and aid in improving the accuracy and reliability of environmental data.  This measure will provide valuable information as more than 21,000 facilities report to the TRI program annually.
  • For FY2018, TRI-1 is a non-commitment measure of data quality calls and emails to 600 facilities in total across all regional offices.
  • For FY2019, TRI-1 will be a commitment measure of data quality calls and email to 600 facilities in total across all regional offices.

 
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