By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Margaret R. Graham
On September 16, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it settled an enforcement matter with Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC (Syngenta or Respondent) via a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) concerning EPA’s allegations that Syngenta violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and EPA’s Pesticide Container and Containment Rule (PCCR). The investigation took place over three years, starting in August 2012 and concluding in January 2015. The multi-regional investigation which took place over three years, from August 2012 to January 2015, was conducted by EPA Regions 4, 5, 7, and 8, and found violations in six states: Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Missouri.
The CAFO listed the alleged violations in three parts:
- Failure to have repackaging agreements and failure to maintain records concerning the repackaging agreements: In the CAFO, EPA states that it identified numerous and separate occasions when Respondent distributed or sold approximately 19 registered pesticides to approximately 222 refillers “prior to having written repackaging agreements in place with such refillers,” “and/or failed to maintain records of the repackaging agreements with the refillers.” The requirements for such agreements and record keeping are set forth at 40 C.F.R. §§ 165.67(b)(3), 165.67(d), and 165.67(h).
- Distribution and sale of misbranded pesticides: In the CAFO, EPA states that at least seven inspections conducted at different facilities that were refillers of Respondent’s pesticides found pesticides affixed with outdated labels, as well as sales of such products with outdated labels. EPA states that Syngenta was the registrant of all the products at issue and had provided the refillers with the outdated labels for repackaging the pesticide products in refillable containers or bulk tanks on at least 19 separate occasions.
- Failure to maintain data submitted for pesticide registration: In the CAFO, EPA states it conducted an inspection at two laboratories to review compliance with Good Laboratory Practice requirements, and to audit the data for studies submitted by Respondent to EPA to support one of its pesticide registrations. In both cases, Respondent informed EPA that it did not maintain records or raw data associated with the studies and the laboratories confirmed they did not maintain the records at their facilities.
Syngenta neither admits nor denies these allegations, but has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $766,508, as well as to complete an environmental compliance promotion Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) within four years at a cost of not less than $436,990. Specifically, the SEP will involve a four-year educational awareness training and campaign to educate the regulated community on FIFRA regulatory compliance requirements pertaining to the PCCR. The training will focus on the requirements relevant to bulk pesticide containers, containment, labels, storage, transportation, delivery, clean-out, repackaging agreements, and recordkeeping. The training is intended to increase awareness across a broad array of businesses that handle pesticides, including registrants, refillers, retailers, commercial applicators, and custom blenders of pesticides.
EPA states that the settlement sends “a strong message to pesticide companies to maintain compliance with all federal environmental laws.” Indeed, the breadth of EPA’s investigation and the ultimate size of the penalty signify EPA’s focus on pesticide violations and, particularly, misbranded pesticides. EPA in recent years has focused on labeling violations between registrant and supplemental distributor labels and the issues in this case have some similarities, particularly the need for written contacts between registrants and refillers or supplemental distributors, and also the need to ensure that current pesticide labels are provided before repackaging and relabeling take place.
More information concerning supplemental distributors and repackaging is available in our blog item Registrants Penalized for Actions of Third-Party Pesticide Distributor, our memorandum EPA’s Enforcement Efforts Regarding FIFRA Supplemental Distribution and How to Avoid Noncompliance and in the materials from our webinar EPA's Supplemental Distribution: Enforcement Actions Are Buzzing: How to Avoid Getting Stung.
by James V. Aidala
The threat of the Zika Virus grows every day, and the need for clear information is especially pressing if you are pregnant. How do you prevent getting infected with the Zika Virus, and what insect repellents are best? The first question is easy to answer: public health experts agree that women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant should use insect repellents. The answer to the second question is not so simple.
I am a former senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and familiar with how the U.S. evaluates and approves pesticides, which include insect repellents. It is not easy for the average consumer to know what works and what does not work. Unfortunately, EPA policies have made this question much more complicated, having made important distinctions between some “natural”-type repellents and other products available in the marketplace.
Years ago, EPA de-regulated a number of natural, non-toxic materials from being subject to the registration requirements of the federal pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act). This made sense at the time since garlic, pepper, rotten eggs, vinegar, and other common chemicals are sometimes used as pesticides. Before de-regulation, these products were also subject to the same requirements as synthetic chemical pesticides with long unpronounceable names (e.g., diethyltoluamide, better known as DEET) which EPA requires to have volumes of efficacy and safety test data. Being natural does not mean a substance is non-toxic; some natural ingredients are fully evaluated and widely used. But in the interest of efficient use of resources EPA issued a list of products that could be sold as pesticides, but would not be subject to EPA data requirements and review (EPA calls them “minimum risk pesticides”).
This list of pesticides which are not subject to EPA evaluation, and which are not required to have data which proves they are effective, includes a number of botanical ingredients, such as oil of citronella, geranium, rosemary, peppermint, and many others. Many of these products can be used as pesticides -- some may work better than others -- and many work for the intended use (example: rotten eggs, or as EPA refers to them -- “putrescent whole egg solids” -- are used as a deer repellent).
Many of these ingredients have been marketed as “natural” insect repellents, and labeled as “safe” or “non-toxic” using words that will not appear on products where EPA reviews and approves the instructions on the product label.
Here is the bureaucratic distinction which matters greatly to EPA, but will not be understood by consumers:
- If the repellant label includes “public health claims” -- that it repels mosquitoes that may cause a disease (like Zika Virus or West Nile Virus) -- then the product has to have data showing that it works;
- If the product just says “repels mosquitoes,” it is not required to have data that shows it is effective, and may very well be ineffective.
Few, if any, humans outside of EPA label experts realize this important distinction: if there is no health claim on the label, then it is, in effect, a situation of “buyer beware.”
What remains: EPA’s deregulation of these products means it is legal to sell products which do not work, as long as the ingredients appear on the EPA minimum risk pesticides list.
Consumer Reports (CR) recently reported in May of this year on studies conducted on repellents. Their results:
- Using a “natural” mosquito repellent, with active ingredients such as citronella or clove, lemongrass, or rosemary oils, might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re pregnant or planning to be.
- But five of the six plant-based repellents we tested…lasted one hour or less against Aedes mosquitoes, the kind that can spread Zika.
Not all repellents with the same ingredient are equally effective, and they found that some formulations of the chemical repellents also do not work for very long in their tests. Some botanical pesticides are effective and have the public health claims on the label (example: lemon eucalyptus, a botanical ingredient not on the exempt product list, and CR testing did find it to be effective).
To reduce confusion about what works, EPA for years has struggled to correct the situation by trying to impose changes to the requirements for insect repellents.
Unfortunately, to end the confusion about the difference between “repels mosquitoes” and “repels mosquitoes that can cause the Zika Virus,” EPA has to conduct a rulemaking which requires a long and bureaucratic process to complete. The good news is that EPA is working on such a solution. The bad news is that they have been working on it for almost ten years and they still have more work to do. There are details and petitions and proposals and reasons why it has taken so long, but it is the kind of story that gives bureaucracy a bad name.
With the onset and fears about the Zika Virus, however, EPA should make the needed changes immediately to ensure that consumers are not misled into using products which are not proven effective in repelling mosquitoes.
From a consumer’s point of view, it really is that simple. Legally, it is more complicated. In the meantime, EPA should be loud and clear in its communication about the distinction, even if they cannot take immediate action to reduce the confusion.
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.
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.”
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, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
On June 7, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was making two draft Pesticide Registration Notices (PR Notices) available for public comment: (1) PR Notice 2016-X: Draft Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Pesticide Resistance Management Labeling; and (2) PR Notice 2016-XX: Draft Guidance for Herbicide Resistance Management Labeling, Education, Training, and Stewardship. In its news release, EPA states that it has started a “more widespread effort aimed at combating and slowing the development of pesticide resistance,” in an effort to “address the growing issue of resistance and preserve the useful life of pesticides.”
Draft PR Notice 2016-X
Draft PR Notice 2016-X, which revises and updates PR Notice 2001-5, applies to all conventional agricultural pesticides (i.e., herbicides, fungicides, bactericides, insecticides and acaricides). The focus of the updates in PR Notice 2016-X is on pesticide labels and improving information about how pesticide users can minimize and manage pest resistance.
Specifically, EPA is proposing that specific resistance-management statements be included with the Directions for Use section under the heading “Resistance Management Recommendations.” EPA states that the proposed labeling statements “focus on the mitigation of pest resistance and should be used where applicable based on the availability of other pesticides and production practices specific to that crop.” As one example, EPA recommends the following general resistance management labeling statements for insecticide/acaricide products containing only a single active ingredient or multiple active ingredients that are from the same Mode of Action (MOA) group:
- For resistance management, (name of product) contains a Group (mode of action group number) insecticide (or acaricide). Any (insect/mite) population may contain individuals naturally resistant to (name of product) and other Group (mode of action group number) insecticides/acaricides. The resistant individuals may dominate the insect/mite population if this group of insecticides/acaricides are used repeatedly in the same fields.
Since the recommended resistance-management statements depend on an active ingredient’s MOA, PR Notice 2016-X also addresses MOA grouping and identification symbols for agricultural uses of herbicides, fungicides/bactericides, and insecticides/acaricides. The pesticide groupings are provided by the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), the Herbicide Resistance Action Committee (HRAC), the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) and the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC). The MOA groups, and the identifier numbers and/or letters (i.e., symbols or codes) for herbicides, fungicides/bactericides and insecticides/acaricides may be accessed through the websites of the different Resistance Action Committees. For example, for insecticides, IRAC uses a combination of numbers and letters to identify various MOA groups. EPA recommends that the IRAC MOA identifier codes be used for designating insecticide MOA grouping information on labels for pesticides containing insecticides. The IRAC MOA list and identifier codes can be found online.
While current PR Notice 2001-5 contains similar guidance in terms of MOA groupings and general pesticide-resistance statements, the Draft PR Notice 2016-X provides: (1) additional guidance, and recommended format, for resistance management statements or information to place on labels; (2) includes references to external technical resources for guidance on resistance management (e.g., professional scientific societies, resistance action committees for different types of pesticides); and (3) updates the instructions on how to submit changes to existing labels to enhance resistance management language. In addition, while PR Notice 2001-5 states that “implementation of this program is purely voluntary by the pesticide industry,” the language in Draft PR Notice 2016-X is arguably stronger, with EPA “encouraging” registrants to add the appropriate resistance-management statements through notification, amendment, or as part of an application for a new product.
Draft PR Notice 2016-XX
Draft PR Notice 2016-XX, which only applies to herbicides, is intended to provide guidance on labeling, education, training, and stewardship for herbicides undergoing registration review or registration (i.e., new herbicide actives, new uses proposed for use on herbicide-resistant crops, or other case-specific registration actions). EPA states it is focusing on the holistic guidance for herbicides first because:
- Herbicides are the most widely used agricultural chemicals;
- No new herbicide mechanism of action has been developed in the last 30 years; and
- Herbicide-resistant weeds are rapidly increasing. In the future, the Agency plans to evaluate other types of pesticides (e.g., fungicides, bactericides, insecticides, and acaricides) to determine whether and what guidance may be appropriate for these types of pesticides.
Under guidance described in PR Notice 2016-XX, EPA proposes to divide 28 herbicide Mechanisms of Actions into three categories of concern (low, moderate, high) based on the risk of developing herbicide-resistant weeds. Appendix I to PR Notice 2016-XX provides three tables with herbicide Mechanisms of Actions of “Low Concern,” “Moderate Concern,” and “High Concern” for herbicide resistance. EPA states its intent to make these tables available on its website, noting that the tables would need to be “checked periodically to determine if there are changes to the groupings or level of concern categories.” Appendix II to PR Notice 2016-XX sets forth the following eleven elements that are focused on labeling, education, training, and stewardship strategies:
- Element 1. List Mechanism of Action Group Number on label.
- Element 2. List seasonal and annual maximum number of applications and amounts.
- Element 3. Provide Resistance Management language from PR Notice 2016-X, and/or Best Management Practices language from WSSA and HRAC, and/or HRAC proposed guidelines for herbicide labels. Note that Best Management Practices (BMP) should be appropriate to crop and production system.
- Element 4. Instruction to user to scout before and after application.
- Element 5. Provide definition of Likely Resistance.
- Element 6. Instruction to user to report lack of performance to registrant or their representative.
- Element 7. List confirmed resistant weeds in a separate table and list recommended rates for these weeds with the table.
- Element 8. Registrant report new cases of likely and confirmed resistance to EPA and users yearly. This is in addition to any adverse effects reporting.
- Element 9. Provide growers with:
- Resistance Management Plan;
- Remedial Action Plan (to control resistant weeds this season or next season);
- Educational materials on resistance management; and
- Plans should be locally developed and easily modified. EPA recommends that registrants work with Extension, Consultants, Crop Groups, HRAC, and the U.S. Department of Agricultute (USDA).
- Element 10. For combination products with multiple Mechanisms of Action, list which herbicide is controlling which weed (a three-way mixture may only have one effective Mechanism of Action for some problem weeds). List minimum recommended rate if resistance is suspected.
- Element 11. Any additional specific requirements (e.g., mandatory crop rotation, unique agronomic aspects, additional training, time limited registration, etc.).
Elements 1 through 4 are proposed for Mechanisms of Actions of Low Concern, elements 1 through 8 are proposed for Mechanisms of Actions of Moderate Concern, and elements 1 through 11 are proposed for Mechanisms of Actions of High Concern.
The PR Notices are available on www.regulations.gov under Docket Numbers EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0242 for PR Notice 2016-X; and EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0226 for PR Notice 2016-XX. Comments are due by August 2, 2016.
With regard to PR Notice 2016-XX, EPA states that while comments are welcome on all aspects of this Notice, EPA is especially interested in comments on the following: (1) the approach, elements and categorization used to address herbicide resistance; (2) limiting the application of these measures during registration review to new herbicide active ingredients, new uses of herbicides proposed for use on herbicide-resistant crops, and other case-specific registration actions; (3) other effective measures to inform the stakeholder community of the occurrence of likely resistance; and (4) other useful strategies that, when implemented, would slow the development of herbicide resistance and prolong the useful life of herbicides.
More information on pesticide resistance management is available on EPA’s website.
Avoiding the onset of resistance to any pesticide product is a widely shared goal of users and registrants of the pesticide to maintain the effectiveness and profitability of the product. There is controversy, however, when EPA suggests specific instructions to the user community, since pesticide applications are site and situation specific, making general “one size fits all” approaches, even “flexible” ones, suspect among much of the user community. When the instructions involve label requirements, which are enforceable, concerns about flexibility and the need to adapt to local conditions increase.
Resistance management has been a stated goal of EPA for some time; here EPA seems to argue it is of the utmost importance to preserve useful pest control tools since it is better to have more “tools in the toolbox.” Yet, when EPA seeks to restrict a product or class of products and users and registrants cite the need for that product for resistance management, few benefits seem to be associated with resistance management in such cases. Overall, there is also suspicion that EPA’s concerns regarding herbicide resistance masks a political response to critics of the widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops -- since the high value of resistance management gains little value when EPA attempts to restrict other products. An example is EPA’s approach to organophosphate insecticides, where EPA is currently seeking to eliminate many uses that otherwise are viewed as important for insecticide resistance management.
Having EPA attempt to address resistance management via label instructions will be controversial, notwithstanding broad consensus that avoiding resistance is a shared goal. So, the likely debate will focus less on the goal, and more on the means of achieving the goal, as this issue moves forward.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
In response to the increasing concerns regarding emerging viral pathogens that are not on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectant labels, EPA announced on April 7, 2016, that it was updating its Guidance regarding emerging viral pathogens. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA is authorized to evaluate the efficacy of antimicrobial products intended to control pathogens that can be detrimental to public health. Many believe that the process under which registrants can identify “effective disinfectant products for use against emerging pathogens,” and the process for EPA to “permit registrants to make limited claims of their product’s efficacy against such pathogens,” have not been clear and efficient. EPA notes, for example, that “[emerging] pathogens are often unavailable commercially, and standard methods for laboratory testing may not have been developed,” such that it “can be difficult to assess the efficacy of EPA-registered disinfectants against such pathogens in a timely manner and to add these viruses to existing product registrations.”
EPA hopes that its Guidance will “expedite the process for registrants to provide useful information to the public” regarding products that may be effective against emerging viral pathogens associated with certain human or animal disease outbreaks.
EPA’s new draft Guidance document, Draft Guidance to Registrants: Process for Making Claims Against Emerging Viral Pathogens Not on EPA-Registered Disinfectant Labels, describes “a voluntary two-stage process to enable the use of certain EPA-registered disinfectant products against these emerging viral pathogens, uses not previously identified on the product label”:
- First Stage: This stage may be performed prior to any outbreak. EPA summarizes the first stage as follows: “registrants with an eligible disinfectant product may submit a request, via label amendment, to add a designated statement to the master label and additional terms to the product registration. If the product meets the eligibility criteria suggested in this Guidance, [EPA] generally will approve the amendment. Approval of the amendment would include additional terms and conditions of registration regarding how the designated statement may be published and communicated.”
- Second Stage: This stage would occur only during a human or animal disease outbreak caused by an emerging virus. EPA summarizes this stage as follows: “In this stage, registrants of products with the previously mentioned label amendment and terms of registration would be allowed to use the designated statement in off-label communications intended to inform the user community/public that the disinfectant product(s) may be used against the specific emerging viral pathogen. These off-label statements can inform the public about the utility of these products against the emerging pathogen in the most expeditious manner and can be more easily removed once the outbreak has ended than statements on a label.”
Comments related to clarity of this Guidance will be accepted until May 6, 2016. For more information, please see our memorandum EPA Announces Updated Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticide Products Intended to Combat Emerging Pathogens.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and James V. Aidala
On September 28, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced revisions to its worker protection standard. EPA states that these revisions are intended to “enhance the protections provided to agricultural workers, pesticide handlers, and other persons under the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) by strengthening elements of the existing regulation, such as training, notification, pesticide safety and hazard communication information, use of personal protective equipment, and the providing of supplies for routine washing and emergency decontamination.”
Among the changes to the WPS are the following:
- Training: The final rule retains proposed content expansions that have been the subject of considerable discussion and concern (e.g., provisions that EPA intends to reduce take-home exposure) and the requirement for employers to ensure that workers and handlers receive pesticide safety training every year (increased from existing rules that require training every five years). EPA has eliminated the proposed training “grace period,” that would have allowed employers to delay providing full pesticide safety training to workers under certain circumstances.
- Notification: The final rule retains the proposed requirements for employers to: (1) post warning signs around treated areas in outdoor production when the product used has a restricted-entry interval (REI) greater than 48 hours; and (2) provide to workers performing early-entry tasks (i.e., entering a treated area when an REI is in effect), information about the pesticide used in the area where they will work, the specific task(s) to be performed, the personal protective equipment (PPE) required by the labeling, and the amount of time the worker may remain in the treated area. EPA has not promulgated the proposed requirement for employers to keep a record of the information provided to workers performing early-entry tasks.
- Hazard Communication: The final rule requires employers to post pesticide application information and a safety data sheet (SDS) for each pesticide used on the establishment at a central location on the establishment (the “central display”). This is a departure from the proposal to eliminate the existing requirement for a central display of pesticide application-specific information. The final rule also requires the employer to maintain and make available to workers and handlers, their designated representatives, and treating medical personnel upon request, the pesticide application-specific information and the SDSs for pesticides used on the establishment for two years. EPA has eliminated the proposed requirement for the employer to maintain copies of the labeling for each product used on the establishment for two years.
- Requirements During Pesticide Applications: The final rule requires an “application exclusion zone,” that is, the area immediately surrounding the application equipment, from which workers and other persons must be excluded. An application exclusion zone of 100 feet horizontally from the application equipment in all directions applies when the pesticide is applied by any of the following methods: (1) aerially; (2) air blast application; (3) as a spray using a spray quality (droplet spectrum) of smaller than medium (volume median diameter of less than 294 microns); or (4) as a fumigant, smoke, mist, or fog. An application exclusion zone of 25 feet horizontally from the application equipment in all directions applies when the pesticide is sprayed from a height of greater than 12 inches from the planting medium using a spray quality (droplet spectrum) of medium or larger (volume median diameter of 294 microns or greater). This “application exclusion zone” differs from the proposed “entry-restricted areas,” that would have extended a specified distance around the entire treated area during application based on the application equipment used. The final rule requires handlers to suspend application, rather than cease application, if they are aware of any person in the application exclusion zone other than a properly trained and equipped handler involved in the application.
- Minimum Age: The final rule increases the minimum age for handlers and workers performing early-entry tasks from a proposed 16 years old to at least 18 years old. EPA states it increased the minimum age from 16 to 18 based on “comments received and an evaluation of existing literature related to adolescents’ development of maturity and judgment.” EPA provides an exemption from minimum age requirements for adolescents working on an establishment owned by an immediate family member. The final rule does not require the employer to record workers’ or handlers’ birthdates as part of the training record, but does require the employer to verify they meet the minimum age requirements.
- PPE: The final rule cross-references certain Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for respirator use for which employers will be required to comply. In response to comments, the final rule expands the respirators subject to fit testing beyond the proposal to include filtering facepiece respirators. The final rule maintains the existing exception from the handler PPE requirements when using a closed system to transfer or load pesticides, and adopts a general performance standard for closed systems, which differs from the specific design standards based on California’s existing standard for closed systems discussed in the proposal.
EPA received a significant number of comments on the proposed rule, which has generated significant controversy. While it appears that EPA has modified the final WPS in certain respects in response to concerns raised, there remain many provisions that are controversial and will require significant work, with significant costs, by agricultural and handler employees to meet.
Controversy regarding these new requirements is longstanding. At its most simple form, critics of increasing the stringency of the current regulations ask why significant changes were needed after twenty years of greater protection offered by the existing regulatory requirements. In addition, over the intervening years, for a variety of reasons, many (not all) of the most hazardous pesticides have been removed from the market or otherwise are used less. More complex concerns address potential jurisdictional overreaches and the paltry record supporting what some view as expansive and expensive regulatory requirements. Others, not surprisingly, cite the number of reported (and unreported) incidents as proof for the need nonetheless to improve the extent and effectiveness of the current regulations. What EPA has issued here as the final revisions to the regulations attempts to balance these views.
Some believe that, in similar situations, where industry and activist groups criticize an action, albeit for very different reasons, the EPA action at issue must have struck the correct balance of disparate views. This breezy measure of success in an important health protection program such as this rule addresses by definition is not likely to satisfy either perspective, and complaints about the new requirements can be expected to continue, especially about the economic impact of the new requirements for some, and for others, how the occupational risks of pesticides remain too high and deserve even greater restrictions.
Outside the boundaries of the worker protection regulations, some of the underlying logic and regulation of the updated requirements indicate that EPA, at least under the current Administration, will continue its emphasis on the broader goals of environmental justice and protecting “children” from the hazards of pesticide exposure. (For example, among the most controversial elements of the changes is the prohibition on certain activities for those under the age of 18, while beforehand the cutoff age was 16; this seems partly a result of EPA’s attempt to make its policy of prohibiting testing of pesticides on children consistent with its policy of who might be exposed in occupational settings.)
The final rule will become effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, but agricultural employers and handler employers will not be required to comply with most of the new requirements in the final rule until 14 months after the effective date.
For more information, please see Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) memorandum Predictions and Outlook for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) 2015 and James V. Aidala Comments on EPA’s Worker Protection Standards. More information is also available on EPA’s Worker Protection Standard webpage.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and James V. Aidala
In an opinion issued on August 10, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted a writ of mandamus requested by Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council (Petitioners) to require that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) act in response to a 2007 administrative petition to cancel the registrations of all pesticides containing chlorpyrifos. A writ of mandamus to compel administrative action is an extraordinary remedy and is generally reserved for instances of egregious delay. The same court had previously declined to grant mandamus to the same Petitioners in 2013, but has now concluded that mandamus is the only way to end a “cycle of incomplete responses, missed deadlines, and unreasonable delay.”
After the Petitioners commenced the current case, EPA issued a preliminary decision indicating that it intended to deny the petition to cancel chlorpyrifos, and told the court that it would take final action after reviewing public comments by the summer of 2015. In a status report subsequently filed in response to a June 10, 2015, order by the court, EPA changed course and stated that unresolved concerns about the risk associated with chlorpyrifos levels in some drinking water might warrant a rulemaking to revoke all existing chlorpyrifos tolerances. EPA stated that it intended to commence such a rulemaking in April, 2016, unless the registrants of chlorpyrifos products agree to make labeling changes to mitigate the risk from residues in drinking water. The Petitioners were not satisfied with this amorphous response by EPA, and the court has now agreed.
The writ of mandamus directs EPA to issue a proposed or final rule to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances, or a full and final response to the administrative petition to cancel chlorpyrifos, no later than October 31, 2015. If EPA elects to issue a proposed revocation rule, EPA must inform the court by October 31, 2015, of the timeline for finalizing the proposed rule. Meeting this specific directive from the court will be very challenging. EPA must determine quickly whether the registrants of chlorpyrifos products will agree to label changes that EPA considers sufficient to mitigate drinking water risks. Such label changes could hypothetically obviate the need for a tolerance revocation rule and provide a basis for a final decision by EPA to deny the petition to ban chlorpyrifos. Otherwise, EPA will need to substantially accelerate its stated timetable for issuing a proposed rule to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances.
In brief, this commitment by EPA will accelerate discussions with the registrant and user groups in an attempt to resolve the issues identified in EPA’s assessment. It appears that this will compress a process which has typically taken many months into a much tighter time frame, to comply with the court’s order. That obviously was among the goals of the plaintiffs in the case; it remains to be seen how doing so will affect the EPA’s ability to evaluate the risks and benefits of the pesticide as fully as it typically has done in the past.
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  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 and James V. Aidala
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Proposal to Mitigate Exposure to Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products published in the Federal Register on May 29, 2015, seeks comment on a proposal to adopt mandatory pesticide label restrictions to protect managed bees under contract pollination services from foliar application of pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees on a contact exposure basis, unless the application is made in accordance with a government-declared public health response. These label restrictions would prohibit applications of pesticide products that EPA has identified as acutely toxic to bees, during bloom when bees are known to be present under contract.
As part of this mitigation proposal, the 48-hour notification exception for crops under contracted pollination services during bloom for all neonicotinoid product labels would be removed. These restrictions are intended to reduce the likelihood of acute exposure and mortality to managed bees under contract. EPA is not proposing at this time to require new language for pesticide labels for managed bees not under contract pollination services. This does not, however, alter EPA’s previous actions intended to impose more specific restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides through label language addressing potential risks to bees not under contract for pollination services.
EPA is also seeking comment on a proposal to rely on efforts made by states and tribes to reduce pesticide exposures for application sites not under contracted services, through development of locally-based measures, specifically through managed pollinator protection plans. These plans would include local and customizable mitigation measures to address certain scenarios that can result in exposure to pollinators. EPA intends to monitor the success of these plans in deciding whether further label restrictions are warranted.
EPA states that if it receives evidence during the public comment period, and/or through outreach at stakeholder meetings, that the contract provisions that are the subject of the proposed rule commonly considered effective and mutually agreed upon stakeholder practices (i.e., beekeeper-to-grower) indicating that the application of acutely toxic pesticides is not of risk concern for bees under contract, then EPA will consider this information in determining whether this scenario needs the mitigation indicated in the proposed language.
EPA states that the proposed actions are consistent with the Presidential Memorandum issued in June 2014 to reduce the effect of factors that have been associated with pollinator declines in general, as well as the mandate to engage state and tribal partners in the development of pollinator protection plans. Comments on the proposal are due by June 29, 2015.
The main elements of EPA’s pesticide regulatory strategies and policies were only a small part of the response to the President last week on a National Strategy for pollinators, but now that EPA has issued this proposal, attention will turn to what EPA is more precisely planning to do with regard to proposing and implementing new restrictions on pesticides generally and/or neonicotinoid products in particular.
As expected, the focus of the proposal is on new restrictions for acutely toxic pesticide applications (defined in the notice as “pesticides with an acutely lethal dose to 50% of the bees tested of less than 11 micrograms per bee”), where the pesticide application site is also where there are contracted pollination services. Essentially, foliar application of pesticides acutely toxic to bees are prohibited where there are bee colonies present pursuant to a contract to provide pollination services. EPA’s proposal (at Appendix A) includes a long list of pesticides (over 75) that meet the acute toxicity criteria that will be subject to the new restrictions. This list includes many more pesticides than just the neonicotinoid products.
In addition, for managed bees not under contracted services, or for other “unmanaged” bees, EPA’s reliance on state “Managed Pollinator Protection Plans” (MP3s) is consistent with public statements that EPA officials and line staff have made in recent months, so there appears to be few surprises in the proposal at first glance. Some states already have plans; many are under development. EPA has worked closely with state pesticide regulatory officials on development of state plans, and signaled that it expects state plans to incorporate three core ideas: public participation in developing the plan; some kind of notification scheme to alert beekeepers of insecticide applications; and a way to evaluate whether the state plan is effective in reducing insecticide exposure to bees.
Even so, what may generate the most public comment about EPA’s proposal is what it does NOT do; for example:
- The proposal does not impose a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides as some advocacy groups have sought;
- The proposal does not require EPA approval of state management plans (MP3s);
- The proposal does suggest options for registrants to seek product-specific exemptions to what is mandated; in other words, it again seeks to impose EPA regulatory actions “by letter” using a “one size fits all” approach; and
- The proposal does not offer significantly new restrictions regarding pollinators generally, but maintains a focus on contracted honeybees and commercial pollination services.
As the proposal has just been issued, stakeholders will now review the content to look for “the devil in the details” -- and develop comments to submit during the 30-day comment period EPA offers. (It would not be surprising if the comment period on such a high profile proposal is extended.)
More information concerning the Presidential Memorandum and the national strategy are available in Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) blog post on Pollinator Health Task Force Issues National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.
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.