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 R. Burchi and Barbara A. Christianson

On December 2, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it released the registration review schedule for the next four years through fiscal year (FY) 2025. While historically this schedule has been updated once each year, EPA states that going forward it will be updated on a quarterly basis.

The 2007 amendment of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires that EPA review each registered pesticide at least every 15 years. For the 726 pesticide cases that were registered before October 1, 2007, the amendment to FIFRA requires EPA to complete its review by October 1, 2022. This is significant, as it is intended to mark the end of the first 15-year registration review cycle.

Working toward that goal, EPA states that it has completed the following over the past 15 years:

  • Issued more than 550 interim or final decisions;
  • Completed more than 600 proposed interim decisions;
  • Conducted more than 680 human health and ecological draft risk assessments (excluding endangered species assessments);
  • Imposed new risk mitigation requirements for 51 percent of antimicrobial pesticides and 70 percent of conventional pesticides for which EPA issued an interim or final decision; and
  • Canceled some or all uses in 120 cases.

EPA states its updated registration review schedule provides a “roadmap” for the next four years of EPA’s registration review program. EPA’s schedule includes 297 entries describing the registration review “action” (e.g., Draft Risk Assessment, Proposed Interim Decision, Interim Decision, Preliminary Work Plan, Final Work Plan) to be addressed by EPA’s different divisions (e.g., Pesticide Reevaluation Division; Antimicrobials Division, Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division). Throughout its review, EPA makes the information, assessments, and supporting material for each case available to the public at regulations.gov.

Significantly, but not surprisingly, EPA acknowledges that for some pesticides registered before October 1, 2007, it “anticipates that its review will extend beyond” the October 1, 2022, deadline “due to a number of challenges including delays in receiving data from registrants; the demands of responding to COVID-19; and a significant increase in recent years of resources devoted to litigation.” EPA also warns that the schedule is “subject to change based on shifting priorities and is intended to be an estimated timeline.” EPA notes further that data that are not submitted on time may affect EPA’s registration review timeline and that “several cases are not found on the schedule due to uncertainty of when necessary data will be received.”

Complying with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is also part of the registration review process. Since 2007, EPA states that it has completed ESA assessments for certain high-priority pesticides and, in the coming years, plans to assess the effects of many more pesticides on endangered species in registration review. According to EPA, it will release its first ESA pesticides work plan in the coming months, which will outline steps EPA will take to come into compliance with the ESA in ways that are fair and transparent to the agriculture sector.

Information on EPA’s registration review process is available here.


 

By Carla N. Hutton

On November 3, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of the Interior “reaffirm[ed] their commitment to working together and with stakeholders to protect endangered species, provide effective pest control tools, and regulate pesticide use in a fair, transparent, and predictable manner.” According to EPA’s November 3, 2021, press release, on October 15, 2021, all five agencies met as part of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) created under the 2018 Farm Bill to discuss improvements to the consultation process for pesticide registration and registration review under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). EPA states that the group’s first meeting resulted in specific commitments to improve the pesticide consultation process for endangered species and engaging stakeholders, including by capitalizing on the strong interest among stakeholders for a workable process.

According to the press release, the IWG is optimistic about its ability to collaborate on improvements that the Biden Administration can implement. The IWG’s actions focused on improving processes that will contribute to tangible benefits for species conservation and for stakeholders. EPA states that the IWG “is intent to adopt improvements expeditiously and that endure across administrations.” To guide its future work, the IWG has identified the following initial priorities and approaches:

  • Focus on improvements that deliver real world benefits for species conservation, public health, and food production. Examples include:
    • Use pilot projects to begin implementing mitigation measures as part of upcoming pesticide consultations and to demonstrate process improvements;
    • Adopt measures early in the pesticide consultation process to avoid, minimize, and offset the effects of pesticide use on ESA-listed species; and
    • Ensure that mitigation measures are effective and practical to implement;
  • Consider opportunities to engage with stakeholders as an interagency body to complement the stakeholder activities of each agency; and
  • Communicate the IWG’s work to stakeholders in a transparent manner.

EPA states that “[e]ffective endangered species protection cannot be accomplished solely by federal agencies,” but also requires “open and continuous engagement with stakeholders on practical solutions to harmonizing species conservation with pesticide use.” To that end, the IWG plans to hold its first stakeholder listening session in early 2022 and will provide details on the proposed session before the end of 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

On March 5, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that “in support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making evidence-based decisions to protect human health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking an important step by proposing the cancellation of the registration of pentachlorophenol.” Pentachlorophenol, a well-recognized wood preservative in use for decades, is registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). According to EPA, it is used primarily on utility poles.

EPA states that after completing a risk assessment, it determined that pentachlorophenol poses significant human health risks to workers. To address this issue, EPA proposes to cancel all uses of pentachlorophenol through the FIFRA registration review process. EPA will accept public comments on the proposed interim decision (PID) for 60 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0653. Comments are due May 4, 2021. 86 Fed. Reg. 12940. At this time, the PID has not yet been posted in the docket. After considering any comments concerning the PID, EPA will issue an interim decision, which would make final the cancellation of pentachlorophenol.

EPA notes that this proposed action would align the United States with the United Nation’s (UN) Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which has banned the use of pentachlorophenol. According to EPA, it worked with industry stakeholders “to identify a number of viable, safer alternatives such as copper naphthenate and DCOIT, along with well-established wood preservatives such as chromated arsenicals and creosote.” EPA’s March 5, 2021, Federal Register notice also announces the availability of PIDs for creosote and chromated arsenicals and dichromic acid, disodium salt, dehydrate.

Commentary

That EPA is seeking to eliminate pentachlorophenol is by no means surprising and its demise has been in the works for a while. Its commercial use is already banned in many countries. The Biden Administration was expected to propose cancellation, and wasted little time in doing so. The real debate will be in the terms that EPA eventually settles upon with regard to phase-out and continued use of stockpiled material. The elimination of this product paves the way for a more robust commercial future for the existing pentachlorophenol replacements, and likely soon to be emerging replacements that are efficacious and more sustainable.


 

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

On December 7, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued for comment the Proposed Interim Decision (PID) for chlorpyrifos.  85 Fed. Reg. 78849.  EPA announced it is proposing new risk mitigation measures to address potential human and environmental risks identified in EPA’s September 2020 draft risk assessments.  The PID proposes the following measures:

  • Label amendments limiting application to address potential drinking water risks of concern.
  • Additional personal protection equipment and application restrictions to address potential occupational handler risks of concern.
  • Spray drift mitigation, in combination with the use limitations and application restrictions identified to address drinking water and occupational risks, to reduce exposure to non-target organisms.

EPA states that the PID presents proposed mitigation with the 10-fold (10x) Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) safety factor, reflecting the uncertainties around doses that may cause pre- and post-natal neurodevelopmental effects.  Under FQPA, EPA evaluates new and existing pesticides to ensure they can be used with a reasonable certainty of no harm to infants, children, and adults.  EPA is required to consider the special susceptibility of children to pesticides by using an additional 10x safety factor unless adequate data are available to support a different factor.  EPA additionally included a FQPA factor of 1x to reflect the range of potential risk estimates of chlorpyrifos, as illustrated in the September 2020 draft risk assessments.

Comments on both the September 2020 draft risk assessments and the PID are due on or before February 5, 2021.  EPA states that by holding the comment period for both actions at the same time, the public has access to more information and can provide more informed, robust comments.  Comments can be submitted at EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850.

EPA announced that it will also consider the input and recommendations from the September 2020 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting once it releases its report in December 2020.  Depending on the SAP’s conclusions, EPA may further revise the human health risk assessment. 

Commentary

The inclusion of both 1x and 10x calculations for the appropriate FQPA safety factor is unusual.  EPA states the final decision on the appropriate FQPA safety factor is partly dependent on any recommendations expected from the SAP meeting, which reviewed the “use of new approach methodologies (NAMs) to derive extrapolation factors and evaluate developmental neurotoxicity for human health risk assessment.”  This is part of a larger and longer evaluation of whether test methods that avoid using test animals can reliably substitute for current test guideline requirements, that is, whether it is appropriate to rely on in vitro test protocols to substitute for current in vivo testing protocols.

EPA’s articulation at this point in time of mitigation needed if the FQPA 10x safety factor is retained may indicate a prediction about the SAP’s likely recommendations.  It will be important to monitor developments on this issue closely.


 

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

On October 28, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of its progress report in meeting its performance measures and goals for pesticide reregistration during fiscal year (FY) 2018 (2018 Report).  85 Fed. Reg. 68327.  Section 4(l) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires EPA to publish information about EPA’s annual achievements in this area.  The 2018 Report discusses the completion of tolerance reassessment and describes the status of various regulatory activities associated with reregistration.  The 2018 Report also provides the total number of products reregistered and products registered under the “fast-track” provisions of FIFRA.  The report is available at EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0125.  Comments can be submitted on or before December 28, 2020.

EPA’s completed product reregistration actions totaled 177, short of EPA’s goal of 400 actions.  The table below details the actions completed in FY 2018.

Table 1.  Product Reregistration Actions Completed in FY 2018 (as of September 30, 2018)

Actions FY 2018
Product reregistration actions 19
Product amendment actions 33
Product cancellation actions 125
Product suspension actions 0
Total actions 177

 

 

 

 

 

 

EPA also states that 4,193 products had product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2018, compared to 4,370 products with product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2017, and 4,621 products with product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2016.  Regarding changes in the universe of products in product reregistration, EPA states: “an increase or decrease can be due to fluctuations in numbers of products associated with product-specific Data Call-Ins (PDCIs).”

The number of applications for registration requiring expedited processing (i.e., “fast-track” applications) that EPA considered and approved has been more consistent in recent years, with 2,422, 2,574, and 2,303 in 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively.


 

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

On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) against EcoShield LLC (EcoShield) for selling a clip-on badge product called the Eco AirDoctor Portable that claims to sanitize the air of pathogens.  EPA states that the product was being sold and distributed in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) because it is an unregistered pesticide making false disinfectant claims.  The SSURO against EcoShield is another in a series of enforcement actions EPA has taken against products that EPA believes are making claims in violation of FIFRA during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Some of these actions include the Amazon and eBay SSURO and the prevention of importation of the unregistered “Virus Shut Out” pesticide product.  (See our blogs here and here for more information on these two actions.)

Under FIFRA, products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered with EPA.  EPA will not register a disinfectant until it has been determined that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the label directions.  In this case, Eco AirDoctor Portable was marketed as a “personal air sanitizer” that users hang from shirts or backpacks.  The product claims to release chlorine dioxide gas to sanitize the air of pathogens.  EcoShield also claimed on its website and social media that the product is a “safe and effective germ-killing agent” and, EPA claims, implies protection against SARS-CoV-2.  EPA also expressed concerns regarding prolonged exposure to and inhalation of chlorine dioxide gas, which EPA states can adversely affect the health of users.

To find EPA-registered disinfectant products that are qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, please search EPA’s List N, which currently contains 473 products, including products that went through the expedited review process for emerging viral pathogens.

Additional information on EPA enforcement actions on unregistered products is available here.


 

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 April 6, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of its progress report in meeting its performance measures and goals for pesticide reregistration during fiscal year 2017 (2017 Report).  Section 4(l) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires EPA to publish information about EPA’s annual achievements in this area.  The 2017 Report discusses the completion of tolerance reassessment and describe the status of various regulatory activities associated with reregistration.  The 2017 Report also provides the total number of products reregistered and products registered under the “fast-track” provisions of FIFRA.  The report is available at EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0125.  Comments can be submitted on or before June 5, 2020.

EPA’s completed product registration actions totaled 255, short of EPA’s goal of 600 actions.  The table below details the actions completed in FY 2017.

Table 1.—Product Reregistration Actions Completed in FY 2017 (as of September 30, 2017)

Actions FY 2017
Product reregistration actions 14
Product amendment actions 113
Product cancellation actions 128
Product suspension actions 0
Total actions 255

EPA also states that there were 4,370 products had product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2017, compared to 4,621 products with product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2016, and 5,133 products with product reregistration decisions pending at the end of FY 2015.  Regarding changes in the universe of products in product reregistration, EPA states: “an increase or decrease can be due to fluctuations in numbers of products associated with product-specific Data Call-Ins (PDCIs).”

The number of applications for registration requiring expedited processing (i.e., “fast track” applications) that EPA considered and approved has been more consistent in recent years, with 2,223, 2,422, and 2,574 in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively.


 

By Kelly N. Garson and Carla N. Hutton

On January 27, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a notification for Project Number OA&E-FY20-0095, announcing that it will begin fieldwork to audit EPA’s adherence to pesticide registration risk assessment regulations, policies, and procedures.  In a memorandum addressed to EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), OIG stated that its objective is to evaluate EPA’s ability to address human health and environmental risks prior to pesticide product registration.  OIG will conduct the audit from EPA headquarters.  According to the memorandum, the anticipated benefits of this audit include determining whether EPA has adequate controls to address human health and environmental risks prior to pesticide product registration.

OIG is an independent office created by the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended.  Though located within EPA, Congress funds OIG separately to ensure independence as it conducts activities such as audits and investigations to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of EPA’s operations and programs.  Following the audit, OIG will prepare a report that may include recommendations for corrective actions OCSPP should take based upon OIG’s findings.  More information on OIG’s previous reports and audit system is available on OIG’s website.  Recent OIG reports regarding the implementation of FIFRA include:


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom

On February 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of an interim registration review decision for glyphosate.  EPA previously issued a proposed interim registration review decision (PID) for glyphosate for comment in April 2019.  At the time EPA issued the glyphosate PID for comment, EPA also issued a draft human health risk assessment and a preliminary ecological risk assessment for glyphosate.  After reviewing the comments received concerning these assessments, EPA has not made any revisions to either assessment.  EPA has determined that there are no dietary, residential, bystander, or occupational human health risks of concern associated with glyphosate use.   EPA has also determined that there are some potential risks to plants, birds, mammals, and invertebrates from glyphosate use, but that these can be appropriately mitigated by label changes requiring enforceable spray drift management measures and adding a warning concerning the potential hazards to non-target organisms.  EPA also has proposed some new measures to manage the development and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.  EPA has generally retained the proposed labeling changes identified in the PID, except for some modest adjustments to the proposed language concerning droplet size restrictions and swath displacement restrictions for aerial applications, and removal of spray drift advisory language for airblast application.

Despite considerable publicity recently concerning purported carcinogenic risks for glyphosate, including allegations that human exposure to glyphosate can be linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, EPA has determined that glyphosate is not likely to be a human carcinogen and has steadfastly adhered to this basic conclusion.  EPA made this determination for glyphosate after convening a meeting of the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate in 2016.

The general purposes of the PID process are to allow EPA to move forward with aspects of the registration review process that are essentially complete, and to adopt interim risk mitigation measures, even though some of the actions required prior to a final registration review decision are not yet complete.  As in the case of most recent PIDs, EPA states that it has not yet made a complete determination concerning potential effects or any required consultation for glyphosate under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), nor has it made a determination for glyphosate under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).  In addition, EPA is considering a pending petition to prohibit preharvest use of glyphosate on oats, and to reduce the tolerance for glyphosate in oats, that was filed in 2018 by the Environmental Working Group and others.  This petition is predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate.  Finally, EPA is still evaluating the question of whether additional data will be needed to evaluate properly the potential effects of glyphosate use on pollinators.  

More information on glyphosate and EPA’s interim registration review decision is available here.

Commentary

EPA's interim registration review decision for glyphosate is predicated on EPA's prior determination that the best available scientific data do not substantiate the claims that glyphosate may be a human carcinogen.  As discussed above, the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate was thoroughly evaluated by the FIFRA SAP in 2016.  EPA's determination after that review that glyphosate is not a carcinogen has also been supported by other pesticide regulatory authorities.  Nonetheless, EPA's view conflicts with a cancer classification decision for glyphosate by the World Health Organization (WHO), and with some recent tort case decisions that were based on the premise that there is a credible linkage between glyphosate exposure and human cancer.  EPA recently announced that it would not permit or approve any cancer warning statements for inclusion in glyphosate labeling (including any statements that may be required pursuant to California's Prop 65) because EPA believes that such statements are false or misleading and would therefore cause the pesticides to be "misbranded."

It appears probable there will be continued litigation based on the purported carcinogenicity of glyphosate, along with various proposals to ban or restrict glyphosate use.  The pending petition to restrict use of glyphosate on oats that was filed by EWG, et al., is expressly predicated on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate, so it appears probable that this petition will ultimately be denied by EPA.  Nonetheless, unless WHO decides to reverse or modify its classification determination, or the courts determine that the recent tort awards for glyphosate users cannot be scientifically substantiated, the battles over the claimed carcinogenicity of glyphosate may persist for years.

More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog under keyword glyphosate.


 
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