By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On December 7, 2015, in Case Nos. 14-1036 and 15-5168, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an order denying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for summary affirmance of an order issued by the D.C. District Court dismissing a complaint filed by Plaintiffs-Appellants Center for Biological Diversity, et al. (the Center) for lack of jurisdiction. The Center’s complaint alleged that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by registering pesticides containing the new active ingredient cyantraniliprole without first consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.
EPA’s motion, filed on August 27, 2015, moved for summary affirmance of the district court’s order dismissing the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, stating that “the district court’s determination that exclusive jurisdiction over the Center’s claims lies in the courts of appeals under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA or the Act), Section 16(b), 7 U.S.C. § 136n(b), is so plainly correct that summary affirmance is warranted,” and “FIFRA’s special judicial review procedure applies to this case because the Center challenges EPA’s registration of cyantraniliprole, which is regulated by FIFRA.” The Center argues that the district court has separate jurisdiction under the citizen suit provision of the ESA and/or that jurisdiction lies in the district court because there has been no public hearing under FIFRA Section 16(b).
The order denying the motion states that the “merits of the parties’ positions are not so clear as to warrant summary action.” Opening briefs are due beginning January 19, 2016, and final briefs are due April 8, 2015.
Although the general division of jurisdiction between U.S. district courts under FIFRA Section 16(a) and U.S. courts of appeal under FIFRA Section 16(b) has been construed differently, in general, since the 1986 D.C. Circuit decision Humane Society v. EPA, whether there has been a “public hearing” within the meaning of FIFRA Section 16(b) is determined based on the adequacy of the record for appellate review. Since cyantraniliprole is a new active ingredient, EPA provided notice and an opportunity for comment under FIFRA Section 3(c)(4) before granting the registrations in question, so the record compiled by EPA appears to satisfy this test. The decision of the D.C. Circuit to deny EPA’s motion for summary affirmance may reflect the stringent standard that must be met for such an action, rather than an indication of how the D.C. Circuit will ultimately rule on the merits.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi and Timothy D. Backstrom
On November 24, 2015, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case No. 14-73353, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Respondent; EPA) filed a motion for voluntary vacatur and remand of EPA’s registration, as amended, of Dow AgroSciences LLC’s (Dow) Enlist Duo herbicide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The motion for vacatur is unusual and noteworthy to all pesticide registrants.
This case commenced in October 2014 when the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other environmental groups including the Center for Food Safety (CFS, et al.) (together, Petitioners) filed petitions for review challenging EPA’s decision to register Enlist Duo, a new product designed for use with crops genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate and 2,4,-D. Petitioners argued, in part, that EPA failed to consider the impacts of increased glyphosate use on monarch butterflies, and did not fully assess the potential human health effects from 2,4-D.
EPA’s motion reverses EPA previous position that Dow’s application for Enlist Duo satisfied the requirements for issuance of an unconditional registration under FIFRA Section 3(c)(5). EPA states that it is seeking a voluntary remand to reconsider the Enlist Duo registration in light of new information regarding potential synergistic effects referred to as “synergistic herbicidal weed control” between the two active ingredients 2,4-D and glyphosate contained in Enlist Duo on non-target plants. Specifically, EPA is in the process of evaluating information submitted to it by DAS on November 9, 2015, in response to EPA’s request for all available information related to synergistic effects. EPA asserts that none of this information was submitted to EPA prior to EPA’s issuance of the Enlist Duo registration.
EPA states that the claimed synergism could affect EPA’s “assessment of drift reduction measures for avoiding impacts to non-target organisms, including those listed as endangered.” EPA also states that it “cannot be sure, without a full analysis of the new information, that the current registration does not cause unreasonable effects to the environment, which is a requirement of the registration standard under FIFRA” and that its initial review “indicates that the 30-foot buffer included in the registration may not be adequate.”
DAS has until December 7, 2015, to file its response before the court will consider EPA’s motion to remand the registration. Although it has not completed its assessment, EPA states that if the court vacates the Enlist Duo registration, EPA will issue a cancellation order to regulate the sale, distribution, and use of existing stocks of Enlist Duo pursuant to FIFRA. This case is being considered for the March 2016 oral argument calendar but the exact date of oral argument has not been determined at this time. More information regarding this case is available in our blog items Environmental Groups File Opening Briefs Challenging EPA’s Decision to Register Enlist Duo and Ninth Circuit Denies Requests to Stay Use of Enlist Duo Herbicide During Judicial Review.
EPA’s request for remand with vacatur rather than a remand without vacatur is a severe action. EPA could have chosen to seek remand without requesting that the registration be vacated, and then demanded prompt revision of the buffer zone that EPA now believes may be inadequate to protect non-target plants from synergistic effects. EPA may have decided to send a message that there will be serious consequences when an applicant fails to submit all of the data in its possession that may be pertinent to EPA’s assessment of the statutory criteria for registration. In any case, Dow reportedly has stated that it does “not expect these issues to result in the long-term cancellation of the Enlist Duo product registration” and that Dow will “continue to prepare for commercial sales of Enlist Duo for the 2016 growing season with enthusiastic grower adoption."
By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On November 12, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final cancellation order for all previously registered pesticide products containing the active ingredient sulfoxaflor, pursuant to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(a)(1). The registrations for the sulfoxaflor products in question were cancelled effective on November 12, 2015, by an order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that vacated the original EPA decision to grant unconditional registrations for sulfoxaflor. More information on the court’s order is available in our blog item Ninth Circuit Vacates EPA's Unconditional Registration for the Neonicotinoid Pesticide Sulfoxaflor Based on Hazard to Bees. The stated purposes of the “cancellation order” issued by EPA are: (1) to allow distribution or sale of existing stocks of cancelled products for the purpose of return to the manufacturer, proper disposal, or lawful export; and (2) to allow existing stocks of cancelled products in the possession of end-users to be used provided such use is consistent in all respects with the previously-approved labeling for the product.
Cancellation of all sulfoxaflor registrations was an automatic consequence of the order vacating the registrations under FIFRA issued by the court on September 10, 2015, which took effect on November 12, 2015, with the formal issuance of the court’s mandate. In response to the court’s decision, EPA stated: “While the Agency had determined that the benefits of sulfoxaflor outweighed that uncertain risk when mitigation measures were applied, EPA will not second-guess the Court's conclusion that the registrations at issue in the case were not supported by substantial evidence.” According to EPA, this unusual mechanism for cancellation created an anomalous situation, where all distribution or sale to remove existing stocks of sulfoxaflor from channels of trade would be unlawful, but all existing stocks of the now unregistered products in the hands of users could be used without even observing the original label directions. The “cancellation order” issued by EPA is intended to address these anomalies. Rather than attempting to issue an order that would preclude all use, EPA stated: “While EPA agrees that there is uncertainty about sulfoxaflor's risks to bees, EPA does not believe use of existing stocks of sulfoxaflor would significantly impact bees.”
In recent years, EPA has begun to characterize existing stocks orders issued under authority of FIFRA Section 6(a)(1) as “cancellation orders.” This allows EPA to enforce the terms of its existing stocks’ determinations under FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(K). The order governing existing stocks of sulfoxaflor illustrates the potential utility of this approach.
The petitioners who obtained an order vacating EPA’s unconditional registration of sulfoxaflor are likely to be unhappy about the decision of EPA to allow some stocks of sulfoxaflor already in the hands of end-users to be used in accordance with label directions they deem inadequate to protect pollinators. On the other hand, EPA has pointed out that the use of unregistered pesticides is not normally regulated at all under FIFRA, so the order issued by EPA allowing some use of existing stocks of sulfoxaflor assures that users are required to follow the existing product labeling until the stocks have been exhausted. EPA also states that disposal of existing stocks already in the hands of end-users would be difficult and costly, and that EPA disfavors imposing “restrictions on existing stocks unless the holders of stocks are notified of the restrictions and are likely to comply with them.”
By J. Brian Xu, M.D., Ph.D., DABT® and Margaret R. Graham
Like so many other regulatory programs in China, pesticide regulations are changing. At the 8th China High-Level Forum on Pesticides, Ying Ji, Chief Agronomist of the Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals, Ministry of Agriculture (ICAMA), stated that the future of pesticide regulation in China will see more emphasis placed on industrial development, registration security, the application of more risk assessment techniques, and will focus more on reducing the burden of procuring registrations for minor use crops. In China, the vast majority of registrations are for major crops and only a few registrations have been issued for minor crops. The Ministry of Agriculture also intends to prepare a "List of Pests and Pesticide Shortage for Minor Crops.”
By Timothy D. Backstrom, Lisa M. Campbell, and James V. Aidala
In an opinion issued on September 10, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unconditional registration for the pesticide sulfoxaflor and remanded the matter to EPA to obtain further studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor on bees and bee colonies. Sulfoxaflor is a new insecticide in the class of insecticides referred to as neonicotinoids, but its mechanism of action is distinct from other neonicotinoids. The Petitioners in this case were various trade organizations representing commercial beekeepers, as well as some individual beekeepers. The registrant Dow AgroSciences LLC (Dow) intervened in the action.
EPA granted an unconditional registration for sulfoxaflor on May 6, 2013, subject to a variety of risk mitigation measures, including a lower application rate, longer intervals between applications, and certain crop-specific label restrictions. EPA had previously proposed to issue a conditional registration for sulfoxaflor in January 2013, citing pollinator data gaps that could be addressed by requiring Dow to conduct and submit further studies. Under that proposal, use of sulfoxaflor would have been allowed at a reduced application rate during the time needed to complete data development. The court found that the subsequent decision by EPA to register unconditionally sulfoxaflor was not supported by substantial evidence, as required by Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 16(b), both because EPA failed to adhere to its own scientific methodology and because the rationale that EPA provided for granting an unconditional registration could not be reconciled with the analysis upon which EPA based its prior proposal to register conditionally sulfoxaflor.
EPA evaluated the potential risk to bees and bee colonies from sulfoxaflor use utilizing the Pollinator Risk Assessment Framework, a scientific risk assessment methodology developed after consultations between EPA, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the State of California, and presented by EPA to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel in 2012. The court found that the rationale provided for EPA’s unconditional registration decision could not be reconciled with findings that EPA itself made using this methodology or with the rationale EPA provided for its prior proposal to issue a conditional registration. EPA had decided it was necessary to proceed to Tier 2 of the pollinator risk assessment after reviewing risk quotients and residue data in Tier 1 of the assessment. EPA found the available data for Tier 2 to be insufficient to allow indefinite use of sulfoxaflor, even at a reduced application rate. The court could not reconcile this finding with the subsequent decision to grant an unconditional registration, even with the specified mitigation measures. The court found that “given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it.” The court stated that “EPA has no real idea whether sulfoxaflor will cause unreasonable adverse effects on bees, as prohibited by FIFRA.”
EPA argued that with a reduced application rate, the risk quotients and residue analysis in Tier 1 was “close enough” to sufficient to avoid the specified quantitative trigger for a Tier 2 analysis, thereby rendering any deficiencies in the available Tier 2 data irrelevant. The court effectively stated in response that close enough is not good enough, citing another recent Ninth Circuit decision in which a risk concern that is triggered by a margin of exposure less than or equal to 1000 was held to be triggered when the margin was exactly 1000. Thus, this court once again placed EPA on notice that it must follow its own methodology with precision, and that EPA cannot justify deviations from its own methodology by simply stating that it is exercising expert judgment.
This is an unusual case because the registration of a new pesticidal active ingredient has been vacated on substantive as opposed to procedural grounds. The court’s rationale reflects a lack of judicial deference to what EPA typically refers to as the scientific “weight of the evidence.” While the term itself does not appear in the opinion, the court is insisting that EPA must follow its standard methodology without allowing for any deviations based on professional judgment. Although in this instance the court has supported the position of opponents of pesticide use, judicial reluctance to accept scientific “weight of the evidence” conclusions could also make it harder for EPA to impose additional restrictions when new but inconclusive evidence appears.
This case could cause EPA to be more explicit in adding procedures to its standard analytic methodologies that allow deviations from the methodology based on professional judgment. The case could also cause EPA to reconsider its recent reluctance to avoid issuing conditional registrations and its preference for unconditional registrations for new active ingredients. In any case, decisions that afford EPA less discretion to use “weight of the evidence” reasoning when basing scientific conclusions on less than conclusive data or studies could have an impact on a number of EPA practices and policies involving interpretation of scientific data.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Sheryl L. Dolan, and Margaret R. Graham
On September 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the debut of a new electronic system for pesticide applications, the Pesticide Submission Portal. According to EPA, this debut is the first step in a phased approach that ultimately will allow EPA to accept all pesticide applications electronically -- a move that will help modernize the pesticide registration process, increase operational efficiencies, and reduce paper waste. EPA will continue to accept paper, CD and DVD applications, but encourages applicants to take advantage of what EPA states is the new, more efficient option.
The following types of applications will now be accepted through the Pesticide Submission Portal:
- New pesticide active ingredients;
- New pesticide products containing already-registered pesticide active ingredients;
- Amendments to registered pesticide products;
- Experimental use permits;
- Inert ingredient requests;
- Petitions for food or feed tolerance, and
- Distributor products.
The Portal is accessed through EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) Network and requires user registration. For registrants currently submitting CDs or DVDs using the e-Dossier downloadable tool or their own builder tools using EPA’s XML guidance, they may use the Portal and forego the courier costs to send to EPA.
For electronic submissions, applicants do not need to submit multiple copies of any pieces of their application, as the requirement for multiple copies of data and five copies of draft labeling only applies to paper submissions. Additional benefits of using the Portal include a status indicator that allows registrants to track the movement of their submissions and automatically generated MRID numbers.
Additional information on the Portal, including a user guide and updated XML guidance, is available on EPA’s Electronic Submission for Pesticide Applications page.
Applicants will need to invest some time and resources up-front to register with CDX and become familiar with the electronic submission requirements. With that investment, however, EPA’s secure portal should make the submission process more efficient for applicants. Additionally, as EPA now scans all paper submissions upon receipt, electronic submissions should increase efficiencies and reduce the opportunity for error during EPA’s front-end processing -- always a good thing.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and James V. Aidala
On August 11, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied a motion for a stay pending review filed on December 18, 2014, by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as well as a subsequent stay motion filed on February 6, 2015, by the Center for Food Safety and other petitioners (Case Nos. 14-73353 and 14-73359, consolidated). Both motions requested that the court stay an October 15, 2014, decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to register Enlist Duo herbicide (a combination of glyphosate and 2,4,-D) for use on corn and soybeans in six Midwestern states.
NRDC and CFS, et al. (Petitioners), filed these stay motions in a case consolidating petitions for review challenging EPA’s decision to register Enlist Duo. The registrant of Enlist Duo (Dow AgroSciences) has intervened in the consolidated case. The Petitioners argue that EPA failed to consider the impacts of increased glyphosate use on monarch butterflies, and did not fully assess the potential human health effects from 2,4-D. In response, both EPA and Dow AgroSciences argue that approval of Enlist Duo will not lead to increased use of glyphosate, and that EPA fully considered all of the human health effects of 2,4-D before granting the registration.
The motions for a stay filed by the Petitioners were effectively motions for preliminary injunctive relief, an extraordinary remedy requiring that those seeking such relief show that they are likely to succeed on the merits, that there is likely to be irreparable harm, that the balance of equities tips sharply in their favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest. In denying the stay motions, the court cited Winter v. NRDC, 555 U.S. 7 (2008). In the Winter case, the Supreme Court held that irreparable injury must be likely and that a mere possibility of irreparable injury will not suffice in awarding injunctive relief. Although the court did not opine further on its rationale for denying the Petitioners’ stay motions, it may be inferred that the court determined that the Petitioners had not satisfied the rigorous prerequisites for injunctive relief.
While this decision avoids an immediate disruption in the marketing of pesticides, the potential for disruption to the registration remains until the court challenge has been resolved. As Enlist is a new product designed for use with crops genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate and 2,4,-D, any disruption now would be especially impactful to the registrant and customers of the product. Further, it could also have a chilling effect on efforts to introduce similar new or pending products if growers perceive too great a risk of uncertainty for this or similar pesticides.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and James V. Aidala
In an opinion issued on August 10, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted a writ of mandamus requested by Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council (Petitioners) to require that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) act in response to a 2007 administrative petition to cancel the registrations of all pesticides containing chlorpyrifos. A writ of mandamus to compel administrative action is an extraordinary remedy and is generally reserved for instances of egregious delay. The same court had previously declined to grant mandamus to the same Petitioners in 2013, but has now concluded that mandamus is the only way to end a “cycle of incomplete responses, missed deadlines, and unreasonable delay.”
After the Petitioners commenced the current case, EPA issued a preliminary decision indicating that it intended to deny the petition to cancel chlorpyrifos, and told the court that it would take final action after reviewing public comments by the summer of 2015. In a status report subsequently filed in response to a June 10, 2015, order by the court, EPA changed course and stated that unresolved concerns about the risk associated with chlorpyrifos levels in some drinking water might warrant a rulemaking to revoke all existing chlorpyrifos tolerances. EPA stated that it intended to commence such a rulemaking in April, 2016, unless the registrants of chlorpyrifos products agree to make labeling changes to mitigate the risk from residues in drinking water. The Petitioners were not satisfied with this amorphous response by EPA, and the court has now agreed.
The writ of mandamus directs EPA to issue a proposed or final rule to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances, or a full and final response to the administrative petition to cancel chlorpyrifos, no later than October 31, 2015. If EPA elects to issue a proposed revocation rule, EPA must inform the court by October 31, 2015, of the timeline for finalizing the proposed rule. Meeting this specific directive from the court will be very challenging. EPA must determine quickly whether the registrants of chlorpyrifos products will agree to label changes that EPA considers sufficient to mitigate drinking water risks. Such label changes could hypothetically obviate the need for a tolerance revocation rule and provide a basis for a final decision by EPA to deny the petition to ban chlorpyrifos. Otherwise, EPA will need to substantially accelerate its stated timetable for issuing a proposed rule to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances.
In brief, this commitment by EPA will accelerate discussions with the registrant and user groups in an attempt to resolve the issues identified in EPA’s assessment. It appears that this will compress a process which has typically taken many months into a much tighter time frame, to comply with the court’s order. That obviously was among the goals of the plaintiffs in the case; it remains to be seen how doing so will affect the EPA’s ability to evaluate the risks and benefits of the pesticide as fully as it typically has done in the past.
By Lisa M. Campbell
On July 01, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice announcing the availability of and requesting public comment on a proposed guidance document called the Antimicrobial Pesticide Use Site Index (USI).
In 2014, EPA issued a final rule amending the regulations setting forth the data requirements that support an application to register a pesticide product. The final rule contains the data requirements specifically applicable to antimicrobial pesticides, which were codified in 40 C.F.R. Part 158, subpart W. The final rule lists 12 antimicrobial use patterns in 40 C.F.R. § 158.2201. The data requirements applicable to a pesticide product depend in part on the product’s use pattern. The general use patterns are broad designations and are used as columns in the antimicrobial data requirements tables to identify which data requirements might be pertinent to the particular pesticide use site.
EPA has developed the USI to assist antimicrobial pesticide applicants and registrants and EPA staff to identify the use pattern that applies to a pesticide product, and thus the data requirements that must be met to register the product. EPA states that the USI serves as a compilation of the specific use sites that are commonly listed on antimicrobial labels and links these commonly listed use sites with the twelve general use patterns.
The posting of this proposed guidance document for public comment is intended to satisfy a condition of the March 2, 2015, settlement agreement between EPA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) that followed ACC’s July 2013 initiation of a legal challenge to the data requirements regulation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Comments are due by July 31, 2015.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On May 19, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it issued a conditional registration for a nanosilver-containing antimicrobial pesticide product named “NSPW-L30SS,” or “Nanosilva.” This is the second nanosilver registration issued by EPA and reflects the Agency’s growing expertise in addressing, processing, and approving nanopesticide registration applications. According to EPA, the product will be used as a non-food-contact preservative to protect plastics and textiles from odor- and stain-causing bacteria, fungi, mold, and mildew. Items to be treated include household items, electronics, sports gear, hospital equipment, bathroom fixtures, and accessories. EPA based its decision “on its evaluation of the hazard of nanosilver after reviewing exposure data and other information on nanosilver from the applicant, as well as data from the scientific literature.” EPA states that these data show that treated plastics and textiles release “exceedingly small amounts of silver.” Based on this evaluation, EPA “determined that NSPW-L30SS will not cause unreasonable adverse effects on people, including children, or the environment and that it would be beneficial because it will introduce less silver into the environment than competing products.” EPA notes that it is requiring the company “to generate additional data to refine the Agency’s exposure estimates.” According to EPA, it will post a response to comments received on its 2013 proposed registration decision document, as well as the current decision document, in the rulemaking docket.