By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Margaret R. Graham
On February 22, 2018, the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento, issued a judgment granting petition for writ of mandate and declaratory and injunctive relief (Judgment) to suspend further chemical activities undertaken by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to control or eradicate pests under the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program (the Project) until CDFA has certified a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) that corrects violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) identified in the court’s ruling.
CDFA is charged with promoting and protecting the state’s agricultural industry, and preventing the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases, and noxious weeds. Cal. Food & Agr. Code §§ 4011 401.51 403. CDFA developed the Project to control targeted pests or pathogens, and includes activities such as pest rating (evaluation of a pest’s environmental, agricultural, and biological significance); identification, detection, and delimitation of new pest populations; pest management response (which may include eradication and/or control of new or existing pest populations); and prevention of the movement of pests into and within California.
The present case was brought after CDFA sought to comply with CEQA by preparing a single PEIR that provides a consolidated set of management practices rather than prepare Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) specific to particular pest management activities. Petitioners alleged that CDFA violated CEQA by certifying the PEIR for the Project and in related proceedings that CDFA violated CEQA by subsequently expanding the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program to allow increased use of certain pesticides (Merit 2F and Acelepyrn) for the treatment of Japanese beetles without adequate environmental review.
The numerous CEQA violations identified by the court are set forth in a Consolidated Ruling on Submitted Matters (Consolidated Ruling) issued January 8, 2018, and attached as Exhibit 1 to the Judgment. The Consolidated Ruling discusses the following topics:
- Does the PEIR’s tiering strategy violate CEQA?
- Does CEQA require the Department to issue a Notice of Determination (NOD) anytime is carries out or approves a site-specific activity?
- Does the PEIR contain an adequate project description?
- Does the PEIR contain an adequate description of the baseline environmental setting?
- Does the PEIR fail to adequately analyze environmental impacts?
- Does the PEIR fail to adequately analyze the Project’s cumulative impacts?
- Does the PEIR improperly defer mitigation measures or conceal them as Program Features?
- Does the PEIR fail to adequately consider a range of reasonable alternatives to the Project?
- Did the Department violate CEQA’s notice and consultation requirements?
- Did the Department adequately respond to public comments on the DRAFT PEIR?
- Did the Department properly use addenda to modify the PEIR?
The court found multiple, broad-based issues with the PEIR, including, for example, a decision that the PEIR violates CEQA “because it adopts an unlawful tiering strategy, granting the Department authority to implement a broad range of practices without evaluating the site-specific conditions to determine whether the environmental impacts were covered in the PEIR.” The Consolidated Ruling also discusses particular failures of the PEIR. Additionally, of potential interest is the court’s opinion with regard to whether the PEIR failed to disclose and analyze impacts on sensitive biological resources, which Petitioners argued was based on several grounds: (i) an assumption that spraying “generally” will not occur near sensitive resources and fails to analyze potential impacts from pesticide drift; (ii) a conclusion, without substantial evidence, that the Project will have less-than-significant impacts on sensitive species; (iii) a conclusion, without substantial evidence, that traps and lures will not have significant impacts on non-target species; (iv) the use of improper thresholds of significance for impacts to pollinators and organic farming; and (v) a failure to define, disclose, and analyze impacts on wetlands.
The court did not find issues with the PEIR as it related to CDFA’s spraying assumptions and CDFA’s determinations of potential impacts on sensitive species, pesticide drift, or organic farming. The court likewise rejected Petitioner’s other challenges to the PEIR’s analysis of biological impacts, including the PEIR's analysis of traps/lures and of the species evaluated in the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA).
The court did, however, agree with Petitioners that the PEIR improperly ignored potentially significant impacts to pollinators. The court stated that the PEIR considered impacts to pollinators significant only if (1) the pollinator species impacted were “special status,” or (2) the impacts would result in a secondary change in the physical environment (such as conversion of land from agricultural to non-agricultural use). The PEIR did not consider whether the Project might adversely impact non-special-status pollinators, despite acknowledging that “healthy pollinator populations are critical to protecting the environmental quality and agricultural resources of the state,” and that “Colony Collapse Disorder” and “pollinator decline” are “ongoing ... serious” problems. The court found that CDFA’s “‘voluntary’ actions to benefit pollinator species are not, by themselves, sufficient to justify the lack of analysis and enforceable mitigation measures for the potentially significant impacts to non-special-status pollinators.”
The immediate effect of this decision is the inability for CDFA to continue “chemical activities … to control or eradicate pests under the [Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management] Program except as authorized under CEQA independent of the PEIR.” Should this decision stand, registrants and stakeholders should be interested in whether and how CDFA modifies the PEIR to support its pest control and management activities.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala
On February 26, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of California issued a memorandum and order on the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction (Order) to “enjoin the listing of glyphosate under Proposition 65 (Prop 65) and the application of its attendant warning requirement pending a final judgment in this case and set a schedule for expedited final resolution of the case.” The Order (1) grants plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the warning requirement of California Health & Safety Code § 25249.6 as to glyphosate; and (2) denies the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from listing glyphosate as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer under California Health & Safety Code § 25249.8. Specifically, the Order states: “pending final resolution of this action, defendants … are hereby ENJOINED from enforcing as against plaintiffs … California Health & Safety Code § 25249.6’s requirement that any person in the course of doing business provide a clear and reasonable warning before exposing any individual to glyphosate.” Although this is only a preliminary injunction while the case continues further resolution, it is extremely significant that, for now, glyphosate will continue to be listed on California’s Prop 65 list as a “chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer,” but products containing glyphosate will not be required to comply with the warning requirement.
Plaintiffs’ memorandum supporting its motion for preliminary injunction states that Prop 65’s requirement for products containing glyphosate to include a warning that glyphosate is “known to the State of California to cause cancer” is unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and, if allowed to go into effect, will cause Plaintiffs’ “reputational, competitive, and economic harms for which they cannot be compensated.” Plaintiffs state that the “legal merit of their First Amendment claim is indisputable and obvious on the face of the attached documents without any need for discovery, and thus the claim is appropriate for expedited judicial resolution.” California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the agency responsible for implementing Prop 65, listed glyphosate as a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer on July 7, 2017, and the attendant warning requirement would have taken effect on July 7, 2018.
In support of denying the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from listing glyphosate under Prop 65, the court states that plaintiffs “have not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the listing of glyphosate violates the First Amendment, because the listing is government speech, not private speech … [and it] is only the upcoming July 2018 deadline for providing the [Prop 65] warning that compels private speech.” The court noted further that Plaintiffs “have not shown a likelihood of irreparable harm should the court fail to enjoin the listing of glyphosate, because any harm that plaintiffs might suffer is caused by the warning requirements of [Prop 65], rather than the listing itself.” Accordingly, the court denied a preliminary injunction based on plaintiffs’ claim that the glyphosate listing violates the First Amendment.
On the other hand, in support of granting the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the application of the attendant warning requirement, the court stated:
- On the evidence before the court, the required warning for glyphosate does not appear to be factually accurate and uncontroversial because it conveys the message that glyphosate’s carcinogenicity is an undisputed fact, when almost all other regulators have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.
The court also stated that the required warnings are “false and misleading” and that plaintiffs “have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim, are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities and public interest favor an injunction, the court will grant plaintiffs’ request to enjoin [Prop 65]’s warning requirement for glyphosate.”
This case, while not the end of the story, is a very significant development both for glyphosate specifically and perhaps for Prop 65 warning requirements generally. Industry should follow this case closely given the implications for glyphosate and potentially other Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)-regulated pesticides and chemicals generally. Some in industry have long been concerned that Prop 65 warning requirements contradict conclusions supported by the data and reached by other agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This decision is a huge preliminary win for those with these concerns and, depending on the ultimate outcome of the case, could provide a precedent for additional challenges related to other substances. The potential reach of the case beyond glyphosate, however, will likely be dictated heavily by the facts of each case.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell
On January 3, 2018, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued Notice 2018-01: Expanding Use of Pesticide Products Under Reevaluation. Under Notice 2018-01, effective immediately, DPR will not act upon an Application for Pesticide Registration or an Application to Amend a Pesticide Product if it determines the registration or acceptance would potentially “expand use” of an active ingredient or pesticide product currently under reevaluation until the conclusion of the reevaluation.
DPR states that it commences a reevaluation of an existing registered pesticide when it finds, based on an investigation of all reported episodes and information received, that a significant adverse impact to human health or the environment has occurred or is likely to occur. DPR states that the policy set forth in Notice 2018-1 is needed for pesticides under reevaluation because until DPR reviews existing data for substances under reevaluation, determines whether additional data to satisfy reevaluation data requirements must be submitted, and then receives and assesses additional data applicable to the reevaluation that can mitigate the concern that prompted the initiation of the reevaluation, DPR “is not in a position to determine that an expanded use will not cause a ‘significant adverse environmental impact,’ as required under its certified regulatory program (3 CCR section 6254).” Once the reevaluation process is completed, DPR states that it will then be in a position, in light of its reevaluation determination, to consider applications for product registration or amendment.
Scope of Notice 2018-1
DPR is currently reevaluating certain pesticide products containing the following active ingredients:
- Copper-based antifouling paints (copper oxide, copper hydroxide, and cuprous thiocyanate);
- Diazinon; and
- Nitroguanidine neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and dinotefuran).
This notice applies to new pesticide products that include these active ingredients, including supplemental distributor registrations (subregistrations) and amendments to currently registered pesticide products, when “expanding use” of the active ingredient relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation.
Specifically, DPR states in Notice 2018-1 that it interprets the following types of actions, related to a new or amended product containing the active ingredient under reevaluation, as examples of “expanding use”:
- A proposed new pesticide product, including any Special Local Needs registration or Experimental Use Permit, with a label bearing uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation. This includes any product label that is identical or substantially similar to a currently registered product in California.
- Amendment of a currently registered product to add or modify uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation, even if such use is already on other currently registered pesticide products in California. Examples of such changes include:
- New or modified uses (e.g., new crops, pests, or use sites);
- New or modified use patterns (e.g., adding aerial, aquatic, soil applications, or outdoor use);
- Significant formulation changes (unless prompted by the reevaluation);
- Increased application rates or total use amount allowed (e.g., acreage or frequency of application); and
- Other label additions or changes that may increase pesticide exposure in a manner that is relevant to the basis for the reevaluation.
This notice does not preclude expanded use of a product if the expansion is not consistent with uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation. As an example, DPR states that an application containing an active ingredient that is under reevaluation over concerns regarding exposure to wildlife would not be precluded under this notice as an expanded use is if the product is labeled solely for indoor use, with no potential wildlife exposure.
DPR also acknowledges that a pest management or public health need could arise during a reevaluation that would support the issuance of an Emergency Exemption request under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In those cases, with regard to the potential applicability of Notice 2018-1, DPR states that it “will assess the request by relying on currently available information and risk mitigation strategies.”
DPR’s reevaluation process can take years to complete, so not only are pending affected submissions for products containing the active ingredients at issue effectively frozen, but future submissions for active ingredients newly entering the reevaluation process could be halted potentially for lengthy periods of time, despite the fact that DPR may ultimately determine that any identified “expanded uses” do not cause a significant adverse environmental impact. It is an initiative that many in industry are monitoring closely.
More information on other California DPR-related issues is available on our blog under key phrase California DPR.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Heather F. Collins, M.S.
On Friday, November 3, 2017, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued guidance (California Notice 2017-13) that DPR indicates is intended to align DPR policy with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance on secondary container labeling for pesticides. DPR’s guidance states that secondary containers are used by the pesticide industry as part of the process of applying pesticides and “cannot be sold or distributed.” The guidance further notes that secondary containers are “most commonly used in institutional settings for concentrated antimicrobials that are diluted prior to use or to hold pesticides filled from a larger container to be used and stored prior to application.”
Registrants may elect to provide users with labels for secondary containers. DPR’s new guidance states: “Secondary container labels are not required to be submitted to U.S. EPA or DPR.” Under the new DPR policy, however, effective immediately, if a registrant submits a secondary container label to DPR, “it must bear the same signal word as the concentrate label or no signal word.” DPR states that it will accept a secondary container label with a lesser signal word, precautionary statements, and alternate directions for use for the diluted product only if acute toxicity data are submitted or are currently on file to support these lesser statements.
DPR’s new guidance also incorporates EPA guidance on what a secondary label should contain. (EPA does not require secondary containers to be labeled, but notes that the applicator remains responsible for following the requirements on the pesticide product’s labeling, and complying with other relevant requirements in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and other statutes.) Although registrants are not required to submit secondary container labels to EPA for review, EPA recommends that the applicator identify the material in the secondary container in the event of a spill to ensure that adequate information regarding the pesticide can be obtained in case of a medical or environmental emergency. EPA recommends that such labels include the following information:
- Product name;
- EPA registration number;
- Name and percentage of active ingredient of the concentrated product or if known, the percentage of active ingredient in the end-use dilution;
- If the product in the secondary container is diluted, it should be followed by the phrase: “The product in this container is diluted as directed on the pesticide product label”;
- The same signal word as the registered concentrate container label;
- The same precautionary statements as the registered concentrate container label unless the registrant has acute toxicity data supporting lesser precautionary statements for the diluted product and alternate directions for the diluted product are indicated on the concentrate container label; and
- The statement: “Follow the directions for use on the pesticide label when applying this product.”
DPR states: “If currently registered products have secondary container labels on file with DPR that do not meet the above criteria, registrants should submit revised labels to DPR as an amendment.”
Each submission must include:
- California Application to Amend Pesticide Product (DPR-REG-035);
- $25 application fee (payable to: Cashier, Department of Pesticide Regulation);
- A copy of the most current EPA stamp-accepted label;
- Six copies of the concentrate container label; and
- Six copies of the secondary container label.
- If the precautionary statement on the secondary container label bears lesser precautionary statements, the submission must be accompanied by acute toxicity data or a reference to data on file with DPR.
As an alternative to submitting revised labels, registrants have the option of requesting that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary container label previously submitted. Registrants may submit their request in writing on company letterhead to their assigned Regulatory Scientist. If a secondary container label is inconsistent with the DPR-approved label, DPR will consider the product misbranded, and DPR notes that misbranded products are subject to enforcement action.
Registrants that have previously submitted secondary labels to DPR should review the label in comparison to the DPR-approved concentrate container label and the requirements in this notice. All inconsistencies must be corrected via amendment submission to DPR or by making a request that DPR rescind acceptance of the current stamp-accepted secondary label so that the product is not considered misbranded and therefore subject to enforcement action.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On September 19, 2017, California’s Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District reversed a trial court decision denying a petition by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) challenging the approval by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) of amended labeling for two previously registered pesticides containing the active ingredient dinotefuran, a neonicotinoid: Dinotefuran 20SG, manufactured by Mistui Chemicals Agro, Inc.; and Venom Insecticide, manufactured by Valent U.S.A. Corporation. PANNA’s petition alleged that DPR “violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by approving the label amendments without sufficient environmental review.” The amended labeling for these two neonicotinoid products added some new registered uses and also increased the allowable application rates for certain existing uses.
The court’s construction of CEQA was a critical element in its decision. Since the DPR regulatory program has been certified pursuant to CEQA, the court agreed that DPR can utilize its standard program documents for pesticide registration actions in lieu of the documents typically prepared under CEQA. The court disagreed, however, with DPR’s assertion that “its regulatory program ‘is exempt from the substantive portions of CEQA.’” The court found the DPR’s record supporting the dinoteferan registration actions to be deficient because DPR could not demonstrate that it properly considered certain factors specified in CEQA. In essence, the court concluded that certain CEQA requirements that DPR construed as procedural in nature were actually substantive standards that DPR must meet and adequately document in its administrative record.
The court’s analysis of the two registration approvals focused on the potential effect of these actions on honeybees. The court found that the administrative record compiled by DPR did not demonstrate that DPR meaningfully addressed potential alternatives to the registration amendments, and that DPR must consider alternatives even when it makes a finding that approved changes would have no significant environmental impact. The court also found that DPR did not demonstrate that it properly assessed the “baseline” existing conditions prior to approval of the amendments, or the cumulative effects of these existing conditions and the new actions on honeybees. The court additionally found that DPR should have recirculated its decision for further comment because the explanation of its decision was inadequate to allow meaningful public comment. The court stated that “in light of the Department’s pending neonicotinoid reevaluation, its initial public reports for Venom Insecticide and Dinotefuran 20SG were both so inadequate and conclusory that public comment on the draft was effectively meaningless.” Based on all of these factors, the court remanded the matter to the trial court with instructions to direct DPR to rescind the two approvals.
That the court focused the basis for its decision on its finding that DPR failed to compile a record adequate to show that it met the substantive standards for decision established by CEQA is of concern to many industry stakeholders. The court stated it was “perplexed” by how DPR could determine that the label amendments to allow new uses and use rates would have no significant impact on honeybees, when DPR is still engaged in a reevaluation of the effect of all neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators. In particular, the court was not persuaded that DPR made any meaningful evaluation of cumulative impacts because DPR only observed in “conclusory fashion” that “the uses are already present on the labels of a number of currently registered neonicotinoid containing products.” This finding is of significant concern to registrants and will be monitored closely.
More information on neonicotinoids is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On May, 24, 2017, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued guidance regarding its Notice 2015-13 to applicants registering pesticide impregnated materials bearing pesticide claims to be sold and distributed into or within California, per Notice 2015-13, issued December 11, 2015. Each retailer (or authorized representative) of an affected product must submit an Application for Pesticide Registration (DPR-REG-030) to DPR by July 1, 2017.
The guidance includes information on the registration requirements, as well as:
More details on the requirements are available in our blog items California Issues Notice Requiring Registration for Products Made From Pesticide Impregnated Materials and Bearing Pesticide Claims and California DPR Extends Filing Date to Register Pesticide Impregnated Products.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On February 22, 2017, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced it was extending the filing date for applications to register products made from pesticide impregnated materials bearing pesticide claims from March 1, 2017, to July 1, 2017. Specifically, each retailer (or authorized representative) of an affected product must submit an Application for Pesticide Registration (DPR-REG-030) to DPR by July 1, 2017. DPR’s California Notice 2015-13 issued on December 11, 2015, informed pesticide product registrants and stakeholders of DPR’s intention to register products made with pesticide impregnated materials and bearing pesticide claims.
The February 22 notice also states the following in terms of the requirements:
- Each company with products made from pesticide impregnated material and sold under their own company name into or within California is required to register the product(s) as a pesticide;
- The product must bear a federally approved pesticide label; DPR will assign a separate California-only registration number for purposes of tracking sales and use of the products in California;
- Each company will need to obtain at least one registration for each use category of product sold (e.g., the apparel use category includes wearable items such as jackets, shirts, hats, socks, pants, and shorts; the non-apparel use category includes non-wearable items such as bedding, tents, seat covers, chopping blocks, shower curtains, and mouse pads); and
- If items are impregnated with different pesticides or different percentages of the same pesticide, separate registrations will be required.
The requirements set forth in this notice do not apply to products that satisfy the requirements to be a treated article, including the requirement that any claims be related to protection of the article/substance itself. The notice applies instead to those pesticide impregnated materials that include pesticidal claims that are not limited to protection of the material. More information on the December 2015 notice is available in our blog item California Issues Notice Requiring Registration for Products Made From Pesticide Impregnated Materials and Bearing Pesticide Claims.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell
On December 11, 2015, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued California Notice 2015-13 that will require each person/company with products made from pesticide impregnated material that are sold into or within California under their own company name to register their product(s) as a pesticide. Examples of pesticide impregnated materials affected by this Notice include apparel (e.g., jackets, shirts, hats, socks, pants, shorts) and non-apparel (e.g., bedding, tents, seat covers, chopping blocks, shower curtains, mouse pads) that make pesticidal claims.
The requirements will be effective November 1, 2016.
DPR currently registers a number of pesticide impregnated textiles bearing pesticidal claims. DPR notes that while these products have been registered either by the manufacturer of the pesticide impregnated material or by the company impregnating the bolts of fabric or clothing, individual companies selling items made from pesticide impregnated textiles were not required to register the materials. Instead, such companies were required only to obtain a pesticide broker’s license from DPR. Under DPR’s new policy, “obtaining a broker’s license will no longer be sufficient for companies selling products under their own company label” (emphasis in original). DPR states it is making this change to “facilitate tracking the use of these products in California and aid in the understanding of potential impacts on water quality and human health.”
With regard to registration requirements for pesticide impregnated products, DPR states that the number of registrations required will depend on several factors, including whether there are different pesticide active ingredients, different percentages of active ingredients, different types of fabrics, and/or different product uses. DPR states that if the product contains the same type and percentage of active ingredient, one registration can be used to cover various types of pesticide impregnated apparel or non-apparel product use categories, but such determination will be made on a case-by-case basis. As an example of products requiring separate registrations, DPR states: “If, for example, a person/company sells apparel impregnated with 0.52% of the active ingredient permethrin and other apparel impregnated with 0.48% of the active ingredient permethrin, two separate apparel registrations will be required because they contain different percentages of active ingredient. The same holds true for a category of non-apparel products.”
This Notice is a significant change in policy, and will impose potentially complicated and costly registration requirements on companies that sell pesticide impregnated material under their own company name but are not necessary familiar with pesticide registration requirements. The number of new registrations that could be required could be substantial considering the number of factors DPR has specified that could trigger separate registrations.
Importantly, DPR clarifies that this Notice is not intended to change its general policy exempting from registration those products that satisfy the requirements to be a treated article. DPR notes that for treated articles, the pesticide, and any related claims, must be related to protection of the article/substance itself. These products are thus distinguishable from pesticide impregnated materials that include pesticidal claims that are not limited to protection of the material.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell
On June 16, 2015, the California Superior Court for the County of Almeda denied the petition of the Pesticide Action Network North America, et al. (PANNA) for a writ of mandate to direct the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to set aside and vacate its final decisions approving amended registrations of Dinotefuran 20SG manufactured by Mitsui Chemicals Agro and Venom manufactured by Valent USA.
The active ingredient in both products at issue, dinotefuran, is a neonicotinoid pesticide that has been subject to additional reviews and labeling requirements with regard to its impact on pollinating bees on the federal and state level. PANNA argued, in part, that under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), DPR should not have approved the amended labels because it had not developed an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) describing the potential environmental impacts, analyzing direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts, and analyzing alternatives.
The court held as a matter of law that “to give effect to CEQA’s current policy goals as developed since 1979 in the Public Resources Code, in the CEQA Guidelines and in case law, that the court must read the DPR’s regulations as requiring that the DPR apply current CEQA analysis in deciding whether to register pesticides.” That does not, however, require DPR to comply with all of CEQA’s documentation requirements; instead, DPR’s environmental documentation is required to “address only those significant adverse environmental effects that can reasonably be expected to occur, directly or indirectly, from implementing the proposal.”
With regard to the standard of review, the court found that DPR’s decision is in the nature of an EIR, which required the court to review the adequacy of the decision for substantial evidence, and not, as PANNA had argued, the functional equivalent of a negative declaration that would have triggered a “fair argument” review standard. The court then found there was substantial evidence in the administrative record supporting DPR’s decision that the proposed mitigation measures will eliminate any significant environmental impact. The court held that the record supported DPR’s assertion that the product labels provide necessary environmental protections, noting, for example, that EPA’s conclusion that the federal labeling is adequate to protect bees is substantial evidence to support DPR’s “identical conclusion.” The court further held that DPR was not required to consider the feasibility of alternatives.
Since the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) preempts a state from imposing label requirements that are different from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved label, the court noted that DPR’s decision was either to register the products consistent with EPA’s approved labels or not register the products for use in California. Although DPR’s failure to conduct a risk-benefit analysis was not argued before the court, the decision, by way of dicta, noted that the “record suggests that the DPR conducted a de facto risk-benefit analysis and did not actually conclude that the labeling on the Insecticides would mitigate all adverse affect on bees.” Instead, the court suggests DPR’s risk-benefit analysis was based on the fact that under FIFRA, the only alternative would be to deny the registrations and that would be infeasible considering economic, social, or other considerations.
The decision is a significant judgment regarding DPR’s ability to make decisions regarding label amendments and the court’s ability to review such decisions. It appears likely an appeal will be filed. It is also important to note that DPR’s reevaluation of neonicotinoids is still pending -- DPR is required under AB 1789 (codified at Food and Agricultural Code Section 12838(a)) to issue a determination before July 1, 2018, regarding the neonicotinoid registrations and to adopt any control measures determined to be necessary to protect pollinator health.
By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala
On May 8, 2015, in El Comite Para El Bienestar De Earlimart v. EPA, a Panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review filed by several groups that the court describes as “community organizations” who challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2012 approval of California State Implementation Plan (SIP) elements under the Clean Air Act (CAA), including its related approval of certain fumigant regulations. This challenge was previously discussed in our blog post "Ninth Circuit to Consider Civil Rights Issue in Review of California SIP".
Of particular interest in the case is the contention before the court that “EPA failed to secure necessary assurances from California that its proposed rules would not violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by exposing Latino schoolchildren to a disparate impact from pesticide use.” The court rejected this and other contentions by the community groups.
The court’s findings with regard to the alleged Civil Rights violation state a standard that appears to defer greatly to EPA and its review of the record. More specifically, the court found with regard to the claimed Civil Rights Act violation that “EPA explained that this evidence failed to draw any connection between the proposed rules and a potential disparate impact,” and that EPA “fulfilled its duty to provide a reasoned judgment because its determination was cogently explained and supported by the record.”
By way of background with regard to the Civil Rights Act claim, the petitioners argued that EPA’s determination that California provided assurances that no federal or state law prohibits the SIP approval was arbitrary and capricious because EPA failed to consider evidence claimed to support a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. This claim rested on an EPA finding of a Title VI violation in connection with an earlier administrative complaint, referred to as the Angelita C. complaint, which was filed with the EPA Office of Civil Rights in 1999. There, Latino parents and schoolchildren alleged that schools with high percentages of Latino children were disparately affected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) renewal of the registration for methyl bromide, a fumigant pesticide. EPA concluded in that action that there was support for “a preliminary finding of a prima facie Title VI violation,” and EPA and DPR entered a settlement agreement in 2011.
Petitioner argued that EPA’s findings in Angelita C., and evidence that it claimed to demonstrate that pesticide use had not gone down since EPA completed its original review, supported the claimed Title VI violations that are the subject of the Ninth Circuit petition, and further that EPA did not do enough to determine that California had satisfied its burden to provide assurances of compliance with federal law. The Ninth Circuit decision states in this regard that the petitioner “effectively contends the EPA should have evaluated California’s assurances the same way the EPA would have to deal with a pending Title VI complaint setting forth allegations of a current violation.”
The court states: “El Comite’s argument fails because it misconstrues the EPA’s burden regarding the ‘necessary assurances’ requirement. The EPA has a duty to provide a reasoned judgment as to whether the state has provided ‘necessary assurances,’ but what assurances are ‘necessary’ is left to the EPA’s discretion.” The court further found: “El Comite provided no proof of a current or ongoing violation. It merely provided evidence of the earlier violation, and pointed to continued pesticide use since that time. The EPA explained that this evidence failed to draw any connection between the proposed rules and a potential disparate impact. The EPA fulfilled its duty to provide a reasoned judgment because its determination was cogently explained and supported by the record.”
The decision in this case is of significant interest to many who have been observing the emerging trends regarding environmental justice issues arising in connection with pesticide applications. This concern may grow larger as EPA continues and expands its evaluations of the potential bystander risks from pesticide use, potentially leading to additional restrictions for certain pesticides in the future.