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 Lynn L. Bergeson, Lisa M. Campbell, and Lisa R. Burchi

On June 29, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Court) issued an opinion dismissing the complaint and denying the motion for summary judgment of the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility (CEH, et al.), and granting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for summary judgment. 

Background

This case stems from a petition filed in 2006 requesting EPA to initiate a rulemaking to require the labeling of 371 inert ingredients in pesticides.  EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in 2009, but did not proceed further with a rulemaking.  CEH, et al. filed a second lawsuit in March 2014, alleging that EPA’s failure to complete the rulemaking process started by the ANPR violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  In May 2014, EPA responded by amending its response to the 2006 petition to explain that it had decided to pursue an approach different from requiring mandatory disclosure on the pesticide label of a hazardous inert ingredient.  EPA announced that it would instead pursue a “‘combination of regulatory and focused non-regulatory actions that do not rely on rulemaking’ including potentially:  (1) removing over ninety chemicals from the list of inert ingredients approved for pesticide use; (2) evaluating the effect of the 371 inert ingredients on food crops; (3) directing pesticide registrants to modify their registrations by replacing hazardous inert ingredients with less hazardous ones; and (4) seeking to expand the existing voluntary disclosure program.”  The Court granted EPA’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in the March 2014 lawsuit, “finding that there was no further relief that [the Court] could offer to plaintiffs and that the action was moot.”

CEH, et al.’s complaint in the case at issue challenges EPA’s May 2014 denial of its rulemaking petition, alleging that under FIFRA and APA, EPA’s decision to deny the rulemaking petition was “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to [FIFRA].”  CEH, et al. requested the court to “set aside the denial and to remand the decision to the EPA to consider ‘the evidence weighing in favor of disclosure of inert pesticide ingredients.’”  Background on the complaint is available in our blog item NGOs File Suit Regarding Inert Ingredients’ Disclosure.

In support of its ruling to grant EPA’s motion for summary judgment, the court stated:  “EPA is not mandated to require disclosure of the inert ingredients at issue,” since “[p]laintiffs have provided no persuasive evidence that EPA’s decision to forego rulemaking is inconsistent with the ANPR.”  The Court noted, for example, that EPA’s regulation governing disclosure of inert ingredients, 40 C.F.R. § 156.10(g)(7), states that “[t]he Administrator may require the name of any inert ingredient(s) to be listed in the ingredient statement if he determines that such ingredient(s) may pose a hazard to man or the environment”; this allows EPA to require applicants to list hazardous inert ingredients, but “does not mandate it.”  In addition, the Court found that EPA’s decision “that a series of non-rule actions would achieve a greater reduction in the risks from the use of pesticides and could be implemented in a timelier manner,” was not arbitrary or capricious, even if it “conceivably offers a less effective remedy than what plaintiffs sought.”

Discussion

The decision supports EPA’s discretionary authority to determine how to best manage and address any inert ingredients that may cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.  EPA has set forth several actions that it is taking or intends to take in lieu of mandatory label disclosure of inert ingredients.  For example, on October 22, 2014, EPA proposed to remove 72 chemical substances from the current listing of inert ingredients approved for use in pesticide products because the inert ingredients are no longer used in any registered pesticide product.  Registrants of any pesticides containing a potentially hazardous inert ingredient should monitor how EPA’s regulatory and focused non-regulatory actions affect such substances.  


 

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

On June 24, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility (Plaintiffs) sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding a 2014 decision by EPA not to proceed with a rulemaking to require disclosure of hazardous inert ingredients on pesticide product labels under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  This decision was characterized by EPA as a denial of a petition previously filed by the Plaintiffs. 

Specifically, Plaintiffs and others previously petitioned EPA in 2006 to require label disclosure of some 370 substances used as inert ingredients in pesticide products that Plaintiffs claim are known to be hazardous to human health and the environment.  In 2009, EPA decided to partially grant the 2006 petition and issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to require disclosure of hazardous inert ingredients on pesticide labels.  When EPA did not pursue the rulemaking, the Plaintiffs filed a suit on March 5, 2014, alleging unreasonable delay.  On May 22, 2014, EPA issued a letter explaining that EPA had decided not to proceed with a proposed rule and stating that “this amended response constitutes a denial of the [2006] petitions.”

In the May 22, 2014, letter, EPA cited some legal arguments by registrants in opposition to the proposed rule, including a contention that inert ingredients are entitled to confidential treatment as a class, and that EPA cannot compel disclosure of inert ingredients based solely on hazard without considering exposure.  In the letter, EPA stated that it has concluded that it “can achieve greater reduction in the risks from use of pesticides containing potentially hazardous inert ingredients through a series of non-rule actions designed to reduce the presence of hazardous inert ingredients in specific pesticide products.”  EPA also set forth its plan to prioritize pesticide inert ingredients for increased scrutiny, as well as a list of voluntary and regulatory actions that could be used, as appropriate, to address potential risks from inert ingredients.

In the Complaint, Plaintiffs request that the court:  (1) declare that EPA’s May 22, 2014, decision violates FIFRA and is arbitrary, capricious, and runs counter to the evidence in the record; (2) remand the case to EPA with instructions to consider the evidence weighing in favor of disclosure of inert pesticide ingredients, including the abundance of documentation regarding toxicity and potential risks of exposure to inert pesticide ingredients; (3) retain jurisdiction over this matter until such time as EPA complies with its duties to control unreasonable risk as set forth under FIFRA, including the risks posed by hazardous inert ingredients, and completes its rulemaking to increase disclosure of inert ingredients contained in pesticide products; and (4) award Plaintiffs their costs of litigation.

 


 

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

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its new more “user-friendly” website for minimum risk pesticides. Under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b)(2) and EPA’s implementing regulations at 40 C.F.R. § 152.25(f), pesticides meeting certain criteria (e.g., containing only specified, listed active and inert ingredients, not bearing public health claims) are determined by EPA to pose little to no risk to human health or the environment and exempt from FIFRA registration requirements. EPA states the website “highlights the most-requested information and has been redesigned based on historic website traffic, with a focus on stakeholders who are interested in manufacturing, selling or distributing minimum risk pesticides.” Specifically, the website is now focused on four main areas:

          *   About Minimum Risk Pesticides;
          *  Conditions to Qualify as a Minimum Risk Pesticide Product;
          *  Clarifications about Minimum Risk Active and Inert Ingredients; and
          *  Regulation and Enforcement of Minimum Risk Pesticides.

Although the scope of application of minimum risk pesticides has been the focus of proposed regulatory changes in recent years, EPA states that this website is not intended to include any regulatory changes or new requirements. There is, however, a December 2010 rule proposing changes to the minimum risk pesticide requirements that has yet to be issued in final. It is noteworthy that EPA has highlighted and clarified its Section 25(b) policies, but has not yet issued a final rule. A memorandum regarding EPA’s proposed rule is available at http://www.lawbc.com/regulatory-developments/entry/epa-proposes-revisions-to-minimum-risk-exemption-for-pesticides/.

Instead, EPA states it has included more information to be clearer about the conditions that a product must meet to be considered minimum risk. Any clarifications of the applicable requirements could be helpful for manufacturers that are responsible for ensuring compliance at the federal level for minimum risk pesticides since EPA does not review or approve such registrations. It is important to note that minimum risk pesticides exempt from EPA registration are still frequently subject to registration requirements at the state level, and state regulators perennially identify non-compliance by products asserting eligibility for minimum risk status. Any outreach that makes the eligibility and compliance requirements clearer should assist companies in navigating both federal and state requirements.

The address for the new website is www2.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides.