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 Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On Friday, November 3, 2017, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued guidance (California Notice 2017-13) that DPR indicates is intended to align DPR policy with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance on secondary container labeling for pesticides.  DPR’s guidance states that secondary containers are used by the pesticide industry as part of the process of applying pesticides and “cannot be sold or distributed.”  The guidance further notes that secondary containers are “most commonly used in institutional settings for concentrated antimicrobials that are diluted prior to use or to hold pesticides filled from a larger container to be used and stored prior to application.” 

Registrants may elect to provide users with labels for secondary containers.  DPR’s new guidance states:  “Secondary container labels are not required to be submitted to U.S. EPA or DPR.”  Under the new DPR policy, however, effective immediately, if a registrant submits a secondary container label to DPR, “it must bear the same signal word as the concentrate label or no signal word.”  DPR states that it will accept a secondary container label with a lesser signal word, precautionary statements, and alternate directions for use for the diluted product only if acute toxicity data are submitted or are currently on file to support these lesser statements.

DPR’s new guidance also incorporates EPA guidance on what a secondary label should contain.  (EPA does not require secondary containers to be labeled, but notes that the applicator remains responsible for following the requirements on the pesticide product’s labeling, and complying with other relevant requirements in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and other statutes.)  Although registrants are not required to submit secondary container labels to EPA for review, EPA recommends that the applicator identify the material in the secondary container in the event of a spill to ensure that adequate information regarding the pesticide can be obtained in case of a medical or environmental emergency.  EPA recommends that such labels include the following information:

  • Product name;
  • EPA registration number;
  • Name and percentage of active ingredient of the concentrated product or if known, the percentage of active ingredient in the end-use dilution;
  • If the product in the secondary container is diluted, it should be followed by the phrase:  “The product in this container is diluted as directed on the pesticide product label”;
  • The same signal word as the registered concentrate container label;
  • The same precautionary statements as the registered concentrate container label unless the registrant has acute toxicity data supporting lesser precautionary statements for the diluted product and alternate directions for the diluted product are indicated on the concentrate container label; and
  • The statement:  “Follow the directions for use on the pesticide label when applying this product.”

DPR states:  “If currently registered products have secondary container labels on file with DPR that do not meet the above criteria, registrants should submit revised labels to DPR as an amendment.”

Each submission must include:

  • California Application to Amend Pesticide Product (DPR-REG-035);
  • $25 application fee (payable to:  Cashier, Department of Pesticide Regulation);
  • A copy of the most current EPA stamp-accepted label;
  • Six copies of the concentrate container label; and
  • Six copies of the secondary container label.
    • If the precautionary statement on the secondary container label bears lesser precautionary statements, the submission must be accompanied by acute toxicity data or a reference to data on file with DPR.

As an alternative to submitting revised labels, registrants have the option of requesting that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary container label previously submitted.  Registrants may submit their request in writing on company letterhead to their assigned Regulatory Scientist.  If a secondary container label is inconsistent with the DPR-approved label, DPR will consider the product misbranded, and DPR notes that misbranded products are subject to enforcement action.

Registrants that have previously submitted secondary labels to DPR should review the label in comparison to the DPR-approved concentrate container label and the requirements in this notice.  All inconsistencies must be corrected via amendment submission to DPR or by making a request that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary label so that the product is not considered misbranded and therefore subject to enforcement action.  


 

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

On October 13, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it had reached an agreement with Monsanto, BASF, and DuPont on measures “to further minimize the potential for drift to damage neighboring crops from the use of dicamba formulations used to control weeds in genetically modified cotton and soybeans,” and “new requirements for the use of dicamba ‘over the top’ (application to growing plants) will allow farmers to make informed choices for seed purchases for the 2018 growing season.”

EPA states that in a series of discussions, it “worked cooperatively with states, land-grant universities, and the pesticide manufacturers to examine the underlying causes of recent crop damage in the farm belt and southeast,” “sought extensive input from States and [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)] cooperative extension agents from across the country, as well as the pesticide manufacturers, on the underlying causes of damage,” and “reviewed all available information carefully and developed tangible regulatory changes for the 2018 growing season.”

The label changes that certain registrants of dicamba products have agreed to impose additional requirements for "over the top" use of these products next year.  These new requirements include:

  • Classifying products as "restricted use," permitting only certified applicators with special training, and those under their supervision, to apply them; dicamba-specific training for all certified applicators to reinforce proper use;
  • Requiring farmers to maintain specific records regarding the use of these products to improve compliance with label restrictions;
  • Limiting applications to when maximum wind speeds are below 10 mph (from 15 mph) to reduce potential spray drift;
  • Reducing the times during the day when applications can occur;
  • Including tank clean-out language to prevent cross contamination; and
  • Enhancing susceptible crop language and recordkeeping with sensitive crop registries to increase awareness of risk to especially sensitive crops nearby. 

This announcement follows two compliance advisories issued by EPA in August 2016 and July 2017 on what EPA described as the high number of complaints received regarding crop damage from the alleged misuse of herbicides containing the active ingredient dicamaba.  EPA’s August 2016 compliance advisory stated that the Missouri Department of Agriculture received 117 complaints alleging misuse of pesticide products containing dicamba, and Missouri growers estimated that more than 42,000 acres of crops had been adversely affected.  Further, that similar complaints alleging misuse of dicamba products were received by Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.  In the spring of 2016, EPA issued a proposal to register dicamba to control weeds in cotton and soybean that have been genetically engineered to tolerate dicamba.  In November 2016, EPA issued a conditional registration for dicamba on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean to Monsanto for its Xtendimax product; and EPA recently approved a label amendment made by Monsanto for Xtendimax which includes “additional restrictions further minimizing off-field movement of the active ingredient dicamba.”

EPA’s July 2017 compliance advisory states that by early July, EPA had received reports of hundreds of complaints to state agencies in Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, a significant increase from 2016; lists the three new conditional registrations issued late last year (including Xtendimax); and states that only these new registered products may be lawfully applied over-the-top of growing soybeans and cotton.  It discusses what it describes as unlawful applications of dicamba products, and states that “[e]xcept for the new conditionally registered dicamba products, application of a dicamba product during either the cotton or soybean crop growing season is unlawful under FIFRA.”

EPA’s July 2017 compliance advisory further states that each of the conditionally approved dicamba herbicide products has labeling that provides mandatory directions for use, restrictions, and special precautions that must be followed, and that the labels of the new products require specific and rigorous drift mitigation measures to further reduce the potential for exposure from spray drift including:

  • No application from aircraft;
  • No application when wind speed is over 15 mph;
  • Application only with approved nozzles at specified pressures; and
  • Buffer zones to protect sensitive areas when the wind is blowing toward them.

Commentary

The reports of and concerns about potential damage to crops in connection with the application of dicamba illustrate a problem that has long been discussed, which is the potential for unintended impact when a pesticide that has been specifically designed for use with one or more crops that have been genetically engineered to be tolerant to the pesticide is applied in close proximity to other crops that do not share these tolerant characteristics. 

The dicamba case also illustrates the differing views on potential misuse issues.  Some observers have questioned whether all of the reported dicamba incidents were due to misuse or misapplication of the product.  Although the 2018 label changes are designed to mitigate the potential for damage to sensitive crops, some question whether some unanticipated or as yet not completely understood factor may be at play in some of the incident reports.  One issue raised by some researchers concerns potential unexpected volatility of the product even when applied according to the label directions by well-trained applicators.  The registrants have disputed this suggestion, but it is an area which will likely be more thoroughly researched over the next few growing seasons.

More information on EPA’s regulatory action on dicamba is available on EPA’s website.


 

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 Lisa M. Campbell, Heather F. Collins, M.S., and Margaret R. Graham

On October 5, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of extension of the comment period for the draft guidance Pesticide Registration Notice (PR Notice) 2017-XX: Notifications, Non-notifications and Minor Formulation Amendment issued on September 6, 2017.  Comments now must be received by EPA on or before December 5, 2017.  The notice states that it will “allow stakeholders additional time to submit comments on the proposed guidance.”  Eleven comments were filed in the docket, most of which expressed significant concern with changes EPA is proposing, in addition to requesting an extension to the previous deadline which was set to end on October 6, 2017.

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.”  A full summary of the changes in the draft guidance is available in our blog item "EPA Releases Draft Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Notifications, Non-notifications, and Minor Formulation Amendments."

Some of the more substantive comments noted the following issues:

  • Several commenters stated objections to the provisions in the draft PR Notice that would eliminate the ability of registrants of formulated products to use notification to add or change sources of either registered technical active ingredients or inert ingredients.  Concerns expressed with this proposed change included the effect it would have on the ability of registrants to respond quickly to market changes and conditions, including the availability and price of technical and inert ingredients needed for formulations.
  • One commenter had concerns with regard to the proposed changes to the inert ingredient disclosure statement, as EPA is “considering whether the notification method or the non-notification method is an appropriate avenue for industry requested inert disclosure based upon third-party vendor requirements.”  The commenter stated that it “believes there is an approach that satisfies third-party vendors while minimizing the burden on the Agency’s resources,” and “a significant delay to this issue could have third-party vendor impacts.” 
  • Commenters also expressed disappointment with EPA’s notification delivery, stating that EPA “provided very little notice to Stakeholders of this major change in its policies regarding notification” and “as a result, many potentially affected registrants may overlook this change and fail to file comments on it.”

More information on this draft notice and other pesticide registration notice issues is available on our blog under key phrase Pesticide Registration Notice.


 

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 Sheryl Lindros Dolan and Heather F. Collins, M.S.

On September 29, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of two final test method Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for evaluating the efficacy of antimicrobials against spores of Clostridium difficile (C. diff)

EPA also released regulatory guidance for test criteria and pesticide claims for these products, specifically “Methods and Guidance for Testing the Efficacy of Antimicrobial Products Against Spores of Clostridium difficile on Hard Non-Porous Surfaces.”  EPA states that these test methods and guidance “provide a framework for registrants who seek to make a claim for antimicrobial pesticide products to control C. difficile spores on hard, non-porous surfaces.”

C. diff is an anaerobic, spore-forming bacterium and a frequent cause of hospital-acquired infections.  The spores survive on hard surfaces such as glass, metals, and plastics that are commonly found in health-care settings.  Hospitals and other health care facilities often use antimicrobial pesticides to reduce the number of spores on environmental surfaces.  Registrants seeking antimicrobial product registrations with claims to control C. diff will need to carefully review these documents as they consider the efficacy data that EPA will likely require to support these claims, as well as the claims that can be made and supported for these products.

EPA MLB SOP MB-28 describes the test methodology for producing and storing standardized spore suspensions of C. diff based on ASTM E2839, Standard Test Method for Production of C. difficile Spores for Use in Efficacy Evaluation of Antimicrobial Agents (ASTM International).  A spore suspension should be developed and qualified according to EPA MLB SOP MB-28 before an efficacy evaluation can be performed using method EPA MLB SOP MB-31.  EPA MLB SOP MB-31 describes a quantitative method intended for evaluating the sporicidal efficacy of liquid disinfectants against spores of C. diff on inanimate, hard, non-porous surfaces. 

EPA solicited comments on the clarity of the test method SOPs and the regulatory guidance in December 2016.  EPA received comments from 12 entities.  The primary areas of comment included the following:

  • Test carrier interaction;
  • Additional method validation;
  • Verification testing;
  • Soil load;
  • Use of a standard setting organization to publish test methods;
  • Proposed revisions to the guidance document; and
  • Proposed revisions to the standard operating procedures.

EPA revised the drafts to incorporate suggested changes.  EPA posted its response to those comments in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0753-0026

Some of the changes to the guidance document based on submitted comments include clarifying:

  • Three batches of test product should be tested on independent test days;
  • The inclusion of the three-part soil load is used for all test, control, and test system control carriers; and
  • The current document supersedes the previous 2014 guidance document.

The new guidance proposes updated standard label claims and special instructions that are intended to provide greater clarity to the user community.

EPA’s response to comments and other documents associated with this action are available in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0753 at www.regulations.gov.  The methods and guidance also are found on EPA’s Antimicrobial Testing Methods & Procedures Developed by EPA's Microbiology Laboratory webpage, at the Methods tab as Method IDs MB-28 and MB-31, and at the Guidance tab as Sporicidal Claims Against Clostridium difficile.

Commentary

C. diff is widely recognized as one of the most common causes of healthcare-acquired infection.  C. diff infections, spread by transmission of bacterial spores, have proven difficult to prevent.    EPA’s new guidance and test methods are intended to clarify the efficacy standards that pesticide products claiming to reduce C. diff spores must meet, as well as the associated claims that can be made.  This guidance should bring more clarity to pesticide registrants seeking to register such products and to healthcare facilities in their identification of registered pesticide products that may help them to reduce C. diff spores and thus help with prevention efforts. 


 

By J. Brian Xu, M.D., Ph.D., DABT®

On September 29, 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture of China (MOA) issued the final revisions to Data Requirements on Pesticide Registration (MOA Proclamation No. 2569).  The revisions will become effective on November 1, 2017, under the new Regulation on Pesticide Administration (RPA) and Pesticide Registration Management Measures (MOA Order No. 3, 2017).  The draft revisions to Data Requirements on Pesticide Registration were initially released for public comment on June 30, 2017.  The new Data Requirements include 10 chapters and 14 annexes and a category of pesticides for specialty minor crops has been added.  More information on China’s new pesticide regulations is available in our blog under key word China.

Commentary

MOA Order No. 3, 2017 requires chemistry and toxicology tests to be completed in laboratories located in China approved by the MOA or overseas laboratories that have a mutual recognition agreement with the relevant Chinese Authority.  The new Data Requirements on Pesticide Registration do not provide any additional information about the acceptance of data generated in overseas laboratories.

It remains unclear whether, for example, for literature or data prepared in a foreign language, entire study reports/articles, or only summaries, must be translated into Chinese.  In addition, the final revision of Data Requirements on Pesticide Registration deletes the category of “Pesticides for Overseas Uses Only” that was set forth in the draft revision of Data Requirements on Pesticide Registration.

The new RPA, MOA Order No. 3, 2017, and the Data Requirements on Pesticide Registration significantly change the registration requirements and the registration process for pesticides in China.  These new requirements, and the many ambiguities they contain, will likely extend the time for obtaining registrations and impose additional challenges on manufacturers to overcome, particularly foreign manufacturers who wish to bring pesticide products to the Chinese market.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On September 19, 2017, California’s Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District reversed a trial court decision denying a petition by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) challenging the approval by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) of amended labeling for two previously registered pesticides containing the active ingredient dinotefuran, a neonicotinoid:  Dinotefuran 20SG, manufactured by Mistui Chemicals Agro, Inc.; and Venom Insecticide, manufactured by Valent U.S.A. Corporation.  PANNA’s petition alleged that DPR “violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving the label amendments without sufficient environmental review.”  The amended labeling for these two neonicotinoid products added some new registered uses and also increased the allowable application rates for certain existing uses.

The court’s construction of CEQA was a critical element in its decision.  Since the DPR regulatory program has been certified pursuant to CEQA, the court agreed that DPR can utilize its standard program documents for pesticide registration actions in lieu of the documents typically prepared under CEQA.  The court disagreed, however, with DPR’s assertion that “its regulatory program ‘is exempt from the substantive portions of CEQA.’”  The court found the DPR’s record supporting the dinoteferan registration actions to be deficient because DPR could not demonstrate that it properly considered certain factors specified in CEQA.  In essence, the court concluded that certain CEQA requirements that DPR construed as procedural in nature were actually substantive standards that DPR must meet and adequately document in its administrative record.

The court’s analysis of the two registration approvals focused on the potential effect of these actions on honeybees.  The court found that the administrative record compiled by DPR did not demonstrate that DPR meaningfully addressed potential alternatives to the registration amendments, and that DPR must consider alternatives even when it makes a finding that approved changes would have no significant environmental impact.  The court also found that DPR did not demonstrate that it properly assessed the “baseline” existing conditions prior to approval of the amendments, or the cumulative effects of these existing conditions and the new actions on honeybees.  The court additionally found that DPR should have recirculated its decision for further comment because the explanation of its decision was inadequate to allow meaningful public comment.  The court stated that “in light of the Department’s pending neonicotinoid reevaluation, its initial public reports for Venom Insecticide and Dinotefuran 20SG were both so inadequate and conclusory that public comment on the draft was effectively meaningless.”  Based on all of these factors, the court remanded the matter to the trial court with instructions to direct DPR to rescind the two approvals.

Commentary

That the court focused the basis for its decision on its finding that DPR failed to compile a record adequate to show that it met the substantive standards for decision established by CEQA is of concern to many industry stakeholders.  The court stated it was “perplexed” by how DPR could determine that the label amendments to allow new uses and use rates would have no significant impact on honeybees, when DPR is still engaged in a reevaluation of the effect of all neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators.  In particular, the court was not persuaded that DPR made any meaningful evaluation of cumulative impacts because DPR only observed in “conclusory fashion” that “the uses are already present on the labels of a number of currently registered neonicotinoid containing products.”  This finding is of significant concern to registrants and will be monitored closely. 

More information on neonicotinoids is available on our blog.


 

By Margaret R. Graham

On September 22, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice in the Federal Register (82 Fed. Reg. 44406) announcing the availability of two final Pesticide Registration Notices (PRN):

  1. PRN 2017-1:  Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Pesticide Resistance Management Labeling, which updates PRN 2001-5 and provides guidance for registrants to follow when developing resistance management information to include on their pesticide labels.  It addresses “end-use herbicide, fungicide/bactericide, or insecticide/acaricide products that are intended mainly for agricultural and certain non-crop land areas under commercial or government-sponsored pest management,” and applies in particular to “all field use agricultural pesticide products, as well as pesticides which are labeled for greenhouse production, sod farms, ornamental crops, aquatic vegetation, rights-of way, and pest management along roadways.”
  2. PRN 2017-2:  Guidance for Herbicide Resistance Management Labeling, Education, Training, and Stewardship, which “communicates the agency's approach to address herbicide-resistant weeds.”  It is “germane to end-use herbicide products used in agriculture, including commercial turf and sod farms, ornamental production in the open.”  It also applies to “non-agricultural use sites such as golf courses, aquatic vegetation, rights-of-way and vegetation management along roadways.”

These final PRNs reflect consideration of public comments submitted on the draft PRNs.  Also available in the dockets are EPA’s responses to comments on the draft PRNs:  Response to Comments on PRN 2017-1; and Response to Comments on PRN 2017-2.  EPA states that “PRNs are issued by the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) to inform pesticide registrants and other interested persons about important policies, procedures, and registration-related decisions, and to provide guidance to pesticide registrants and OPP personnel.”

More information on PRNs is available on our blog under key phrase pesticide registration notice


 

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.


 
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