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 Heather F. Collins, M.S. and Barbara A. Christianson

The January 15, 2021, deadline for payment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual maintenance fee for pesticide registrations is approaching.  The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 4(i)(1)(A) requires that everyone who holds an active or suspended pesticide registration granted under FIFRA Sections 3 and 24(c) (special local needs) to pay an annual maintenance fee to keep the registration in effect.  The maintenance fee requirement does not apply to supplemental registrations of distributors, which are identified by a three-element registration number.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EPA states that most EPA staff continue to telework and are not in the EPA offices; therefore, EPA will not send maintenance fee information by mail this year.  The instructions, maintenance fee filing form, fee tables, and product listings grouped by company numbers are available to download on EPA’s website.  When completed, the filing submission should be emailed to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  A paper copy should not be sent to EPA.

The fee for 2021 is $4,000 for each registration up to the maximum fees that can be assessed to a single registrant.  Each registrant of a pesticide must pay the annual fee and e-mail the response to EPA by Friday, January 15, 2021.  Registrations for which the fee is not paid will be canceled, by order and without a hearing. As in years past, payment must be made electronically online at www.pay.gov.

For certain qualified small businesses, the first product registration maintenance fee may be reduced by 25 percent, if the applicant meets the following criteria:

  1. The applicant has 500 or fewer employees globally;
  2. During the three-year period prior to the most recent maintenance fee billing cycle, the applicant has average annual gross revenue from all sources that do not exceed $10,000,000; and
  3. The applicant holds a total of five or fewer registrations subject to the maintenance fee.

There also are maintenance fee waivers for products that meet the criteria in two specific categories:  minor agricultural use products and public health pesticides.  The procedure for requesting a fee waiver for individual products is described in the instructions provided by EPA.

More information on the annual maintenance fees is available on EPA’s website.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Barbara A. Christianson

On November 16, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will now provide pesticide registrants with electronic Certificates of Registration, commonly known as “Gold Seal” letters.  A Gold Seal letter from EPA certifies that a product to be exported is registered with EPA and meets all necessary registration requirements.  EPA states that this improved process will allow for the electronic Gold Seal letters to be e-mailed to registrants rather than physically mailed.

Under the new process, a company must submit a written request to EPA, identifying the company name, the EPA Registration Number at issue, and the country to which the product will be exported.  The Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 4) category is M006 and will cover up to five Gold Seal letters for one product with a one-month decision time.  The fee for fiscal year 2020-2021 is $291.  EPA states that because the fee is low and EPA’s timeframe to respond is short, this category is not eligible for small business waivers.  EPA also clarifies that distributor products are not eligible for Gold Seal letters.

Information on how to request a Gold Seal letter, including information on how registrants should present the letters to the U.S. Department of State when authentication is needed for business purposes, is available here

This announcement is a welcome improvement to the existing process, providing a key flexibility during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  EPA expects to transition permanently to this digital process, which it notes allows for faster processing, better tracking, and greater consistency.


 

This week's All Things Chemical™ Podcast will be of interest to readers of the Pesticide Law & Policy Blog®. A brief description of the episode written by Lynn L. Bergeson is below.

This week, I sat down with Jim Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant at B&C and its consulting affiliate, The Acta Group.  As a former Assistant Administrator in what is now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Jim has a keen sense of how EPA prepares for and transitions to changes in Administrations.  As we prepare for the November elections, we thought it would be good to check-in with Jim and get a sense of how our colleagues at EPA are faring.  After reviewing key topics in the pesticide world, Jim walks us through how and when pesticide registrants and others in the commercial value chain can prepare for any forthcoming transition, consequential or otherwise.  Jim discusses whether regulated entities can expect policy changes occasioned by a new Administration, regardless of who wins.  Jim also addresses the implications of changes in the Supreme Court in light of Justice Ginsburg’s death. Jim’s insights in these areas is spot on and timely.

ALL MATERIALS IN THIS PODCAST ARE PROVIDED SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL  AND ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES. THE MATERIALS ARE NOT INTENDED TO CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR THE PROVISION OF LEGAL SERVICES. ALL LEGAL QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ANSWERED DIRECTLY BY A LICENSED ATTORNEY PRACTICING IN THE APPLICABLE AREA OF LAW.

©2020 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.  All Rights Reserved


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, Heather F. Collins, M.S., and Barbara A. Christianson

On August 24, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the issuance of a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 18 emergency exemption to the state of Texas permitting it to allow American Airlines and Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine to use a new product that is believed to inactivate coronaviruses like the SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces for up to seven days.  EPA states that after carefully reviewing the available data and information, it “determined that the product helps to address the current national emergency.”  According to EPA, the product is “expected to provide longer-lasting protection in public spaces, increasing consumer confidence in resuming normal air travel and other activities.”

FIFRA Section 18 authorizes EPA to exempt federal or state agencies from any provision of FIFRA in the event that emergency conditions require such an exemption.  EPA regulations (40 C.F.R. Part 166) specify when state or federal government agencies will be permitted to use unregistered pesticides in response to an emergency.  EPA’s regulations provide that an emergency exists when:

  • There is an “urgent, non-routine” situation requiring the use of a pesticide to control a new pest not previously prevalent in the United States, to control significant risks to health, the environment, beneficial organisms, or endangered species, or to prevent specified types of economic loss; and
  • There is no registered pesticide or economically or environmentally feasible alternate method of control available.

40 C.F.R. § 166.3.

The exemptions granted can be very specific and time-limited; EPA has developed a database so companies can search (by chemical, site, pest, applicant, or date range) to determine if an emergency exemption has been issued and its expiration date.

In this case, EPA approved the Section 18 emergency exemption request for SurfaceWise2 -- a product manufactured by Allied BioScience -- a surface coating that Allied BioScience states inactivates viruses and bacteria within two hours of application and continues to work against them for up to seven days, between regular cleanings.  EPA’s approval will allow Texas to permit American Airlines airport facilities and planes at specific locations and two Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine Clinics to use SurfaceWise2 under certain conditions.  The approved Section 18 emergency requests are effective for one year. As new data emerge, EPA may alter the terms of the product’s emergency uses.

Over the coming months, Allied BioScience will pursue a non-emergency approval under FIFRA Section 3 by submitting additional data to meet EPA’s registration requirements as an antiviral and antibacterial surface coating.  If the full registration process is completed, the product would become available for purchase by members of the public.  SurfaceWise2 is not yet available to the general public because Allied Biosciences has not yet submitted the necessary data to qualify for registration under Section 3 of FIFRA.

Commentary

EPA states that it has not received any other Section 18 applications for products with residual efficacy against coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2, but that is likely to change following this approval and ongoing activities by companies seeking options for products to use against SARS-CoV-2.  EPA states it will consider any such requests submitted related to the COVID-19 public health emergency, and also anticipates posting information for companies or individuals who are interested in pursuing a FIFRA Section 3 registration for antiviral surface coatings in the coming weeks.

States or federal agencies interested in pursuing a Section 18 emergency exemption request for products that claim residual efficacy against viruses should be prepared to include efficacy data demonstrating that the product is durable and effective against viruses for up to the periods of time after application.  It will be essential to ensure that these data will be deemed sufficient by EPA to determine efficacy and durability, which may require discussion with EPA.  EPA will review the results of these studies to ensure that surface coatings remain effective under the anticipated proposed conditions of use.

Additional information on Section 18 emergency exemption requests and Sars-CoV-2 is available here.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Heather F. Collins, M.S., and Barbara A. Christianson

On July 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it approved amended labels for 13 products based on laboratory testing that shows the products are effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These products, and two previously announced products (see our July 7, 2020, blog), are the only products for which EPA has reviewed laboratory testing data and approved label claims specifically against SARS-CoV-2. 

In January 2020, at the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 public health emergency, EPA activated its Emerging Viral Pathogens guidance (Guidance).  EPA published this Guidance in August 2016, to set forth procedures for EPA to respond to the potential need for products to combat emerging viral pathogens that are not on EPA-registered disinfectant labels.  The Guidance allows product registrants to make limited off-label claims of their product’s efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, provided in part that there are efficacy data that have already been reviewed by EPA that demonstrate their products are effective against harder-to-kill viruses than SARS-CoV-2. 

Since activating its Guidance for the first time, EPA has reviewed amendments for already EPA-registered surface disinfectants on an expedited basis and developed a list -- List N -- of products that meet its criteria under the Guidance for use against SARS-CoV-2.  List N currently includes 469 products and is updated weekly.  In many cases, EPA states that it was able to approve claims in as little as 14 days.

The 13 products approved include 12 unique products from the manufacturer Lonza and one additional Lysol product from Reckitt Benckiser.  The 13 products approved are:

  • Lonza Formulation S-21 (EPA Reg. No. 6836-75);
  • Lonza Formulation S-18 (EPA Reg. No. 6836-77);
  • Lonza Formulation R-82 (EPA Reg. No. 6836-78);
  • Lonza Formulation S-18F (EPA Reg. No. 6836-136);
  • Lonza Formulation R-82F (EPA Reg. No. 6836-139);
  • Lonza Formulation S-21F (EPA Reg. No. 6836-140);
  • Lonza Formulation DC-103 (EPA Reg. No. 6836-152);
  • Lonzaguard RCS-256 (EPA Reg. No. 6836-346);
  • Lonzaguard RCS-128 (EPA Reg. No. 6836-347);
  • Lonzaguard RCS-128 PLUS (EPA Reg. No. 6836-348);
  • Lonzaguard RCS-256 PLUS (EPA Reg. No. 6836-349);
  • Lonzaguard R-82G (EPA Reg. No. 6836-381); and
  • Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes (All Scents) (EPA Reg. No. 777-114).

Additional information is available here.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Heather F. Collins, M.S., and Barbara A. Christianson

On July 7, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of new guidance (Guidance) for registrants of products on or eligible for inclusion on List N, EPA’s list of disinfectant products that EPA has concluded meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  This new guidance provides expedited procedures for those registrants that wish to add electrostatic application methods to their disinfectant product labels.  The Guidance outlines information that EPA asks registrants to submit to obtain expedited review of their proposed addition of this application method to their labels.

EPA notes that electrostatic spraying has drawn increased interest through the current public health emergency posed by COVID-19 because of the need to disinfect large indoor spaces, such as schools, offices, businesses, and other large areas, or areas with many surfaces.  Unlike conventional spraying methods, electrostatic sprayers apply a positive charge to liquid disinfectants as they pass through the nozzle.  The positively charged disinfectant is attracted to negatively charged surfaces, which allows for efficient coating of hard, nonporous surfaces.

EPA’s Guidance addresses adding electrostatic spray application methods to both new and currently registered disinfectant products that are on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2, or that would qualify for List N, and require review under the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 4). 

EPA states that it will expedite the following registration applications:

  • Requests to amend currently registered products, including products on List N, that require review of data under PRIA 4:
    • Current EPA-registered products approved for spray use application methods, already on List N, and the application is supported by the following data and revised label language: 
      • Confirmatory efficacy data conducted with an electrostatic sprayer to bridge from the existing approved claims to application by electrostatic sprayers;
      • A wetness test consistent with MLB SOP MB-31 and a video to demonstrate that the surface remains wet for the duration of the contact time; and
      • The following amendments made to the product label for electrostatic spray use directions:
        • Spray droplet particle size (regardless of the ability to change nozzles that impact particle size) should be limited to a volume median diameter (VMD) ≥40 µm1.
        • Include the contact time and minimum and maximum spray distance from the application equipment to the treated surface that is supported by the efficacy data, and instructions to reapply if the surface dries before the contact time is achieved.
        • Place the electrostatic spray function in the ON position for electrostatic spray models that have the functionality to toggle ON/OFF.
        • Specify that bystanders and pets must not be in the room during application.
      • The following personal protective equipment (PPE) should be specified on the product label as part of the electrostatic spray use directions:
        • For chemicals that have low vapor pressures (less than 1. x 10-4 mm Hg), use N95 filtering face piece respirators or half face respirators with N95 filters.
        • For high vapor pressure chemicals (greater than 1. x 10-4 mm Hg), such as hydrogen peroxide, use half face respirators with chemical specific cartridges and N95 filters.
        • Other PPE, including gloves, clothing, and eye protection is applicable as specified on the approved product label consistent with the acute toxicity profile of the product.
    • Current EPA-registered products approved for spray use application methods for inclusion on List N:
      • For a request to amend currently registered products for inclusion on List N and to specify electrostatic spray as an approved method of application, follow the directions in EPA’s previously announced expedited review of certain PRIA 4 submissions for products intended for use against SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, follow the directions in the “Request to add a virucidal claim to a product that requires EPA to review efficacy data (including both newly submitted data and citations to existing data)” section and include the additional information specified above for electrostatic sprayers as part of the submission. Submission of new efficacy data to add claims to an already EPA-registered product along with the information specified for electrostatic sprayers can be submitted together as a PRIA 4 A570 action for expected expedited review.
      • The submission should include a PRIA 4 fee payment in the amount of $4,023, or small business fee waiver request with the appropriate fee for a PRIA 4 A570 action. EPA states that it will make every effort to complete the review and make a regulatory decision one to two months faster than the standard four-month time frame under PRIA 4.
    • Current EPA-registered products not approved for spray use application methods or for which modified PPE label language is desired for inclusion on List N:
      • If the currently registered product labeling for the active ingredient is not approved for spray use application methods and/or the registrant wants to conduct and submit data to modify the default PPE label language specified above, these data should be submitted as a PRIA 4 code A572 and include the efficacy data, directions for use for electrostatic sprayers, and other documents specified above. EPA states it will make every effort to complete the review and make a regulatory decision one to two months faster than the standard nine-month time frame under PRIA 4.
      • In addition, include the receipt of a PRIA 4 fee payment in the amount of $13,888 for an A572 action, or small business fee waiver request with the appropriate fee for a PRIA 4 A540 action or PRIA 4 A572 action.
  • Requests to add electrostatic spray use directions to a new product that requires the review of data under PRIA 4:

EPA’s Guidance builds on EPA’s previously announced expedited review of certain submissions for products intended for use against SARS-CoV-2.

This guidance is important for many disinfectant products.  Affected registrants or potential registrants should review it carefully. 


 

This week's All Things Chemical™ Podcast will be of interest to readers of the Pesticide Law & Policy Blog®. A brief description of the episode written by Lynn L. Bergeson is below.

This week I sat down with James Aidala, B&C’s Senior Government Affairs Consultant, to catch up on what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) is up to and to get a sense of what we might expect to develop over the remainder of the year.  As a former Assistant Administrator of what is now the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Jim’s thoughts and analyses are always spot on.

We discuss leadership within OPP, which is transitioning.  Not surprisingly, who holds the position of Office Director is always of great interest to the agricultural and biocidal chemical communities.

We also touch upon a number of high-profile pesticide science policy debates about substances, some of which have been raging literally for years.  These substances include dicamba, glyphosate, and chlorpyrifos.  The legal and scientific administrative and judicial reviews under way in the United States and internationally are fascinating, precedent setting, and closely watched.

Our conversation also includes a bit about the commercial agricultural chemical community.  Industry consolidation and international trade issues continue to challenge the commercial landscape, and they make keeping up with these issues all the more important.

ALL MATERIALS IN THIS PODCAST ARE PROVIDED SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL  AND ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES. THE MATERIALS ARE NOT INTENDED TO CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR THE PROVISION OF LEGAL SERVICES. ALL LEGAL QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ANSWERED DIRECTLY BY A LICENSED ATTORNEY PRACTICING IN THE APPLICABLE AREA OF LAW.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Barbara A. Christianson

On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it approved amended labels for two products, Lysol Disinfectant Spray (EPA Reg. No. 777-99) and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist (EPA Reg. No. 777-127), based on laboratory testing that shows the products are effective against SARS-CoV-2.  These are the first products for which EPA has reviewed laboratory testing data and approved label claims against SARS-CoV-2. 

In January 2020, at the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 public health emergency, EPA activated its Emerging Viral Pathogens guidance (Guidance),  This Guidance was developed in April 2016 to set forth procedures for EPA to respond to the potential need for products to combat emerging viral pathogens that are not on EPA-registered disinfectant labels.  The Guidance allows product registrants to make limited claims of their product’s efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, provided in part that there are efficacy data that have already been reviewed by EPA and demonstrate their products are effective against harder-to-kill viruses than SARS-CoV-2. 

Since activating its Guidance for the first time, EPA has reviewed amendments for already EPA-registered surface disinfectants on an expedited basis and developed a list -- List N -- of products that meet its criteria under the Guidance for use against SARS-CoV-2.  List N currently includes 431 products and is updated weekly.  In many cases, EPA states that it was able to approve claims in as little as 14 days.

This week, EPA updated the entries for the two Lysol products on List N to indicate they have now been tested directly against SARS-CoV-2.  This is significant since they are the first List N products for which EPA has reviewed laboratory testing data specifically against SARS-CoV-2, and not listed based on EPA’s determination that a product can be used against SARS-CoV-2 because of the product’s effectiveness against a harder-to-kill virus. 

EPA states that it expects to approve such claims for additional List N products in the coming weeks.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 2, 2020, that it has registered NSPW Nanosilver (a new nanosilver formulation) to suppress odor-causing bacteria and algae, fungus, mold, and mildew that can cause deterioration or staining in textiles.  Textiles that may be treated with NSPW Nanosilver include fabrics, sportswear, footwear, linens, and awnings.  NSPW Nanosilver is the active ingredient in the pesticide product POLYGUARD-NSPW MASTER BATCH (Polyguard).  The NSPW Nanosilver in Polyguard will be embedded within beads or pellets of a polymeric material in a “master batch,” and these beads of pellets will then be incorporated into treated textiles through a closed-loop manufacturing process.  EPA states that once the beads or pellets containing NSPW Nanosilver are introduced into this manufacturing process, no beads or pellets can escape into the environment.  EPA also states that the available data indicate that the leach rate of nanosilver from NSPW Nanosilver-treated textiles is below the limit of detection.

The same type of nanosilver was the active ingredient in another product that EPA previously conditionally registered under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7)(C) in 2015.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision vacating that conditional registration because the court concluded that the mandatory public interest finding by EPA was not adequately supported by the administrative record.  According to EPA, the new registration for NSPW Nanosilver involves a modified use pattern that will limit exposures compared to the product that received the previously vacated conditional registration.  Based on additional data that the applicant has submitted to support the use pattern as modified, EPA has prepared an updated risk assessment for NSPW Nanosilver and has determined based on that risk assessment that the product as modified meets the standard for an unconditional registration under FIFRA Section 3(c)(5).  Materials supporting this action will be posted in Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0043.

Commentary

Registering any new metallic silver product that satisfies the EPA criteria for classification as nanosilver for use as an antimicrobial pesticide presents special challenges, because EPA has adopted a policy that it will construe each new nanosilver product as a new pesticidal active ingredient.  The predecessor to NSPW Nanosilver (Nanosilva) was granted a conditional registration, a procedure that EPA uses when there are data gaps that must be filled before EPA is ready to make the determinations that would support issuance of an unconditional registration.  EPA may only issue a conditional registration for a product containing a new pesticidal active ingredient when EPA makes a determination that “use of the pesticide is in the public interest,” and the Ninth Circuit Court determined that EPA did not compile an administrative record adequate to support that finding.

Colloidal metallic silver products that meet the definition of nanosilver were first synthesized in the late 19th century.  Some industry stakeholders question whether the differences between different pesticide products that satisfy the EPA definition of nanosilver are sufficiently great to treat each new product as a new active ingredient, but it is also clear that the size and shape of the particles in these products do vary.  In this instance, EPA has determined that the supporting data for the application allow EPA to issue an unconditional registration.  Accordingly, the legal issue on which the Ninth Circuit based its prior decision to vacate the conditional registration for Nanosilva is not pertinent to the current registration decision.  Given the challenge to the prior registration decision, it will be important to monitor any opposition to the newly issued registration.


 

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

On June 8, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the issuance of an existing stocks order under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(a)(1) governing further sale, distribution, and use of existing stocks of three reduced volatility dicamba products (XtendiMax®, EngeniaTM, and FeXapanTM) with conditional registrations that were vacated by the June 3, 2020, decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in National Family Farm Coalition v. EPA.  EPA explained its action by stating that the existing stocks order would provide “clarity to farmers” in light of the Court decision.  Because EPA believes that vacatur made those stocks of the three dicamba products that were already in channels of trade unregistered pesticides, and the Court’s decision did not specifically address or establish any regimen to govern these unregistered existing stocks, EPA concluded that issuance of an existing stocks order was a practical necessity.  The existing stocks order includes provisions that:  (1) prohibit all sale and distribution of existing stocks of the three vacated dicamba products by the registrants, and by persons other than commercial applicators except for disposal of the products or returning the products to the registrants or their contract agents, (2) allow commercial applicators to use existing stocks of the vacated dicamba products in their possession in a manner consistent with existing labeling until July 31, 2020, and (3) prohibit end users from using existing stocks of the vacated dicamba products in their possession except in a manner consistent with existing labeling and from using such stocks in any manner after July 31, 2020.

Need for an Existing Stocks Order

To understand EPA’s position concerning the need for an existing stocks order for the three dicamba products with registrations vacated by the Ninth Circuit decision, it is important to review the legal status of those existing stocks after issuance of the decision.  In the absence of further EPA action, all stocks of the three dicamba products subject to the vacatur order that were already in channels of trade became unregistered pesticides.  Under FIFRA, as unregistered pesticides, these products could not be distributed or sold, which would prohibit stock of the unregistered products from being returned to the registrants or disposed, absent further EPA action.  Stocks of the three products that were labeled for uses other than soybeans and cotton (the uses extended by the conditional registration decision vacated by the Court) also became unregistered and thus also could not be distributed or sold absent further action by EPA.  Without further action by EPA, stocks of the three products already in the hands of end users could be lawfully used without any kind of restriction because although FIFRA Section 3(a) prohibits sale or distribution of unregistered pesticides, FIFRA does not include any provision prohibiting or limiting use of unregistered pesticides.  Thus, the Court’s vacatur action created a situation in which EPA needed to act expeditiously to establish a rational regimen governing existing stocks of the three dicamba products.  EPA was able to issue an order creating such a regimen because EPA construes the vacatur of the product registrations by Court action as a type of cancellation, which is how EPA has construed vacatur orders in the past.  FIFRA Section 6(a)(1) expressly authorizes EPA to issue orders governing sale, distribution, and use of canceled pesticides.

EPA Policy for Existing Stocks Orders

EPA adopted a policy in 1991 (56 Fed. Reg. 29362) outlining six factors it generally considers in adopting existing stocks orders for canceled pesticides under FIFRA Section 6(a)(1):  (1) the quantity of existing stocks at each level in channels of trade, (2) the risks resulting from use of existing stocks, (3) the benefits resulting from use of existing stocks, (4) financial expenditures users and others have already spent on existing stocks, (5) the risks and costs of disposal or alternative disposition of existing stocks, and (6) the practicality of implementing restrictions on the distribution, sale, or use of existing stocks.  EPA applied this policy to the current situation and determined that “[e]ach of the six factors weighs heavily in support of allowing end users to use existing stocks of these dicamba products that are in their possession.”  Since use of these unregistered pesticides is not otherwise prohibited by FIFRA as discussed above, EPA adopted prohibitions of use of the products not in accordance with the current labeling and of any use after July 31, 2020.  The only action taken by EPA to authorize further use of the three products involved stocks held by commercial applicators, which EPA allowed the commercial applicators to use according to the current labeling until July 31, 2020.

EPA Administrator Wheeler stated, “At the height of the growing season, the Court’s decision has threatened the livelihood of our nation’s farmers and the global food supply. Today’s cancellation and existing stocks order is consistent with EPA’s standard practice following registration invalidation, and is designed to advance compliance, ensure regulatory certainty and to prevent the misuse of existing stocks.”

Three days after EPA issued the dicamba existing stocks order, on June 11, 2020, the Petitioners in the National Family Farm Coalition case submitted a motion requesting that the Court provide emergency relief “to enforce its vacatur” decision and that the Court hold EPA and Administrator Wheeler in contempt.  According to the Petitioners, EPA’s entire rationale for issuing an existing stocks order is based on false premises.  In the Petitioners’ view, existing stocks of the three dicamba products are not “unregistered” because the vacatur order only invalidated certain newly authorized uses, and the existing stocks should not be deemed to be “cancelled” either, although the conditional registration decision for the products has been vacated.  In their motion, the Petitioners also assert that EPA is wrong because, “When read in context, FIFRA clearly prohibits the use of unregistered pesticides.”  In addition to their request that the Court take emergency action to enforce its decision and hold EPA in contempt, the Petitioners also requested that the Court adjudicate their Endangered Species Act (ESA) claims, an action that would require that the Court recall the mandate and issue another decision on the ESA claims it previously declined to reach.

On June 12, 2020, the Court issued an order requiring EPA to file its response to the motion by 5:00 p.m. PDT on June 16, 2020, and the Petitioners to file any reply by 5:00 p.m. PDT on June 18, 2020.

In another development, BASF Corporation and E.I. DuPont de Nemours each filed separate “emergency motions” to intervene in the case on June 12, 2020.  Each company asserts that it was not afforded notice that the Court might take adverse action concerning the registration for its dicamba product until after the decision vacating that registration was issued by the Court.  At this juncture, the Court has not yet indicated whether it will consider these emergency intervention motions or whether it would be willing to allow any further briefing on the merits of the case.

Additional information on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision is available on our blog.

Commentary

The Court’s June 3, 2020, decision stated, “We are aware of the practical effects of our decision,” but it is not clear from the discussion that follows whether the Court fully considered the chaotic effects of issuing a vacatur decision that did not specifically address the fate of existing stocks of the dicamba products with vacated registrations.  On May 21, 2020, EPA asked for leave to file information on its plans to issue a cancellation order governing existing stocks of products with vacated registrations, but the Court declined to allow that filing.  In any case, it should not have been surprising that EPA would construe its vacatur order as a form of cancellation, because that is what EPA did when the Ninth Circuit previously issued a vacatur order for sulfoxaflor products in 2015.

The Petitioners’ motion rejecting the basic legal premises underlying the EPA existing stocks order reflects a novel view of pesticide registration that is difficult to reconcile with the plain language and established constructions of FIFRA.  Under FIFRA, EPA issues registrations for specific pesticide products, which may be labeled only for those uses that EPA has previously determined meet applicable requirements.  Under FIFRA Section 6(b), EPA can decide that particular uses no longer meet the standard for registration and must be removed from an existing product label, but the only means by which EPA can effectuate that determination is by taking action to cancel any product for which the registrant does not agree to make the necessary changes.  The Court vacated EPA’s conditional registration decision that authorized three registered dicamba products to be labeled for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton but did not direct or establish any process for EPA to consider amending the product labeling or restoring the prior registrations.  Under these facts, EPA has concluded that under FIFRA, existing stocks that are labeled for those uses became unregistered pesticide products because the labeling no longer conforms to the product registrations as they have been altered by the Court.  In the absence of an existing stocks order, stocks of the affected products labeled for the disallowed uses could not be lawfully distributed for any purpose, including voluntary recall by the registrant, disposal, or relabeling to remove the disallowed uses.

Despite the assertions by the Petitioners that FIFRA prohibits use of unregistered pesticides, FIFRA has not been construed in this manner.  While it a violation of FIFRA to distribute or sell any pesticide product with labeling that does not conform to a valid registration, FIFRA does not include any similar prohibition on use of an unregistered pesticide.   Thus, in the absence of an existing stocks order, stocks of the three dicamba products with vacated registrations that are already in the hands of end users could be lawfully used without restriction.  This notion is reflected in the provisions addressing end users in the order.  No provision in the order authorizes end users who have the three dicamba products in their possession to do anything.  Rather, the order prohibits end users from using the three products except in compliance with the existing labeling and from using the products at all after July 31, 2020.

Of course, it is not surprising that EPA applied its established criteria for existing stocks orders in the manner that it did.  Representatives of affected growers argued that prohibiting all use of the products in the middle of the 2020 growing season would lead to billions of dollars in damages, at a time when the entire agricultural economy has already been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to arguing that an existing stocks order was necessary to establish a practical regimen governing distribution and use of those stocks of the three dicamba products in channels of trade when the Court’s decision was issued, EPA will likely argue that the Circuit Court lacks jurisdiction to review the existing stocks order.


 
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