Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi


On May 31, 2019, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) issued its Proposed Re-evaluation Decision PRVD2019-05, Chlorpyrifos and Its Associated End-use Products: Updated Environmental Risk Assessment (Updated Environmental Risk Assessment).  PMRA states that this re-evaluation “considers data and information from pesticide manufacturers, published scientific reports, and other regulatory agencies” and that “Health Canada applies internationally accepted risk assessment methods as well as current risk management approaches and policies.”

PMRA is proposing the cancellation of most uses of chlorpyrifos, including almost all agricultural uses, due to PMRA’s belief that they pose unacceptable risks to the environment.  The proposal would allow a small number of uses to continue if certain label changes are made.  More specifically, PMRA states that its evaluation of available scientific information “has not found acceptable risks to beneficial arthropods, birds, mammals and all aquatic biota in the environment for most current chlorpyrifos uses” but “[g]reenhouse ornamental, outdoor ornamentals (container stock only) for control of Japanese beetle larvae, indoor and outdoor structural, adult and larval mosquito uses of chlorpyrifos have been shown to be acceptable from the environmental perspective.”  The label changes that PMRA states would be required for these uses to continue include the following:  (1) standard environmental hazard statements to inform users of the potential toxic effects to non-target species; and (2) standard environmental advisory statements for prevention of contamination of aquatic systems and to reduce volatilization.

There is a 90-day public consultation period on the proposal, which began on May 31, 2019, during which the public may submit written comments and additional information to PMRA.  PMRA states that the public may submit additional information that could be used to refine risk assessments and that the final re-evaluation decision will take into consideration the comments and information received during the comment period, which could result in revised risk mitigation measures.  The re-evaluation decision document will include the final re-evaluation decision, the reasons for it, and a summary of comments received on the proposed re-evaluation decision with Health Canada’s responses.

More information on chlorpyrifos issues, including California’s recent announcement that it would be initiating cancellation proceedings of chlorpyrifos, can be found on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On May 8, 2019, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will be initiating cancellation proceedings of chlorpyrifos.  In its press release, CalEPA states that the decision to commence cancellation proceedings “follows mounting evidence, including recent findings by the state’s independent Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants, that the pesticide causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations at lower levels of exposure than previously understood.”

DPR’s decision, following years of review in California of chlorpyrifos, is sure to garner significant controversy, comments, and, potentially, litigation.

Background

Chlorpyrifos first entered the comprehensive risk assessment process after being designated by DPR with a “high” priority status in 2011, and some of the DPR documents supporting the current action were issued in 2011.

In December 2015, DPR released a draft risk assessment for public comment.  Since the risk assessment identified potential human exposure to spray drift (via inhalation or deposition) as a concern, DPR entered chlorpyrifos in its formal evaluation process to determine the scientific evidence for listing it as a pesticide Toxic Air Contaminant (TAC) (CA Food & Agric. Code §§ 14021-14027).

DPR’s assessments were intended to evaluate chlorpyrifos as a pesticide TAC as defined in California regulations (Title 3, Section 6864).  The determination of a pesticide TAC is based on whether the air concentrations, either measured or modeled, exceed the reference concentration (RfC) divided by ten.  Under the applicable California statutory provisions, designation of an active ingredient as a TAC is based on an evaluation that assesses the following:

  • The availability and quality of data on health effects;
  • The potency, mode of action, and other relevant biological factors;
  • An estimate of the levels of exposure that may cause or contribute to adverse health effects; and
  • The range of risks to humans resulting from current or anticipated exposure (CA Food & Agric. Code § 14023(a)).

DPR published its draft revised report entitled "Evaluation of Chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant" in December 2017 and an addendum to that report in June 2018.  DPR issued its final TAC evaluation in July 2018.  The July 2018 evaluation concludes that “chlorpyrifos meets the criteria of TAC designation by using either the developmental neurotoxicity endpoint or the [acetylcholinesterase (AChE)] inhibition endpoint, even without the additional 10x uncertainty factor necessary to account for the fact that the developmental neurotoxicity effects occur at a lower level than AChE inhibition.”

DPR’s findings, public comments, and responses to those comments were reviewed by the Scientific Review Panel (SRP) on TACs.  SRP’s findings on chlorpyrifos issued in August 2018 “unanimously concluded that the report, with the revisions requested by the Panel, is based on sound scientific knowledge, and represents a balanced assessment of our current scientific understanding.”

In April 2019, chlorpyrifos was listed in California as a TAC, which triggered a DPR requirement to “develop control measures to protect the health of farm workers and others living and working near where the pesticide is used.”  In its press release announcing the cancellation proceedings, CalEPA states that “DPR has determined, in consultation with CDFA, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), that sufficient additional control measures are not feasible.”

Commentary

DPR’s announcement is the beginning of what DPR estimates could be a two-year cancellation proceeding, although in reality the process may take even longer.  Other actions proposed in conjunction with the cancellation proceeding include:

  • DPR to consult with county agricultural commissioners and local air pollution control districts before filing for cancellation.
  • DPR to support “aggressive” enforcement of existing restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos, including a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones, and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives.
  • DPR and CDFA to convene a cross-sector working group to identify, evaluate, and recommend safer and more practical and sustainable alternative pest management solutions to chlorpyrifos.
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom to propose $5.7 million in new budget funding “to support the transition to safer, more sustainable alternatives.

DPR’s action must also be viewed in conjunction with various federal and state reviews and resulting litigation regarding chlorpyrifos’ continued registration and use.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for example, is conducting its own registration review of chlorpyrifos, and was ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to issue, within 90 days of the April 19, 2019, order, its final decision regarding the continued registration of chlorpyrifos.

Other states are also taking action to ban chlorpyrifos, notably Hawaii, which enacted legislation in 2018 to ban the use of chlorpyrifos in Hawaii by 2022; and New York, whose legislature approved bills in April 2019 to ban chlorpyrifos use in New York by 2021.

Stakeholders should review all these issues closely, as these unprecedented decisions are likely to provide multiple opportunities to comment or otherwise participate to ensure that regulatory requirements are indeed being met for cancellation. 

More information concerning chlorpyrifos is available on our blog.


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom

On April 19, 2019, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order following an en banc rehearing in League of United Latin Am. Citizens (LULAC) v. Wheeler, No. 17-71636.  The February 6, 2019, Ninth Circuit decision to grant a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) request for rehearing effectively vacated an August 9, 2018, decision in LULAC that had ordered EPA to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.  After rehearing, the en banc panel issued a writ of mandamus directing EPA “to issue, no later than 90 days after the filing of this order, a full and fair decision on LULAC’s objections" to an initial EPA order denying a 2007 petition to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  The en banc order states that the court has discretion to construe the Petitioners' opening brief as a request for mandamus relief, even though the Petitioners sought judicial review of EPA's initial denial decision without waiting for EPA to rule on their objections and even though they did not file a petition for mandamus under the applicable procedural rule.  The court then states that “[c]onsidering the history and chronology of this matter and the nature of the claims, we conclude mandamus is appropriate, and we hereby GRANT the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus.”

The court states that “EPA represented that it could issue a final decision with respect to petitioners’ objections within 90 days of an order issued by this court” during oral argument on March 26, 2019.  The en banc ruling, however, does not discuss the jurisdictional issues presented when the Petitioners sought judicial review of EPA's initial denial decision without waiting for EPA to rule on their objections.  Moreover, the ruling does not discuss the substantive dispute concerning EPA's authority to decline to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos based on the current administrative record.

Commentary

The procedural questions presented in the LULAC litigation are unusual and reflect a long and contentious history.  EPA’s April 5, 2017, decision to deny a 2007 petition to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos came after issuance of a prior writ of mandamus that required EPA to take action on the pending petition, an EPA proposal to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos issued in response to the prior writ, and a subsequent decision by EPA during the early days of the Trump administration to reverse course on the proposal and keep the tolerances in place while EPA completed the registration review process.  The Petitioners in LULAC duly filed objections to the initial denial of their tolerance petition, which was a necessary statutory prerequisite to pursuing further judicial review.  In addition, however, they elected to file for judicial review of EPA's initial denial of their tolerance petition on the same day as they filed their objections.  The Petitioners could not yet reasonably seek mandamus at that time because EPA had not been afforded any time yet to respond to their objections.  Instead, the Petitioners argued that requiring them to follow the normal administrative process would be futile.

Although the Ninth Circuit's decision after en banc rehearing may appear to a procedural victory for EPA, it can also be seen as a solution to the quandary created by the Petitioners' actions and the first court decision.  The Ninth Circuit as a whole was apparently not comfortable with the decision by the first panel that the Petitioners should be allowed to obtain review of a non-final order because waiting for final and reviewable EPA action would be a futility.  Nevertheless, by issuing a new writ of mandamus, the court seems to be sending a clear signal that it will not countenance further delays in EPA’s taking final action on the petition to revoke the chlorpyrifos tolerances.  In the relatively brief time remaining before the court deadline for final action, EPA confronts a significant challenge of ensuring all relevant data have been adequately and appropriately considered, particularly given the many controversies concerning the data that EPA used to support its initial decision to revoke the tolerances. 

More information on the protracted litigation concerning chlorpyrifos is available on our blog under key words chlorpyrifos and ninth circuit.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On February 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order granting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s (collectively EPA or Respondents) September 24, 2018, petition for an en banc rehearing concerning the Ninth Circuit’s August 9, 2018, decision that vacated an EPA order maintaining chlorpyrifos registrations and remanded the case to EPA with directions to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days. 

The Ninth Circuit’s order granting the Respondent’s petition that the case be re-heard en banc does not provide an explanation for its decision.  The Ninth Circuit evidently found the arguments offered by Respondents and other interested parties that filed amicus curiae briefs more persuasive than Petitioners’ brief (including the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)), who argued against submission of certain amicus curiae briefs and also that, with limited exception, Respondent’s petition for rehearing lacked merit and should be denied. 

The en banc oral argument will be held March 26, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. (PST).

Arguments for Rehearing

Prior to the February 6, 2019, order, on October 15, 2018, three amicus curiae briefs were filed in support of EPA’s petition by CropLife America (CLA), Agribusiness Council of Indiana (Agribusiness), and Dow Agrosciences LLC (DAS).  Despite Petitioners’ objection to the motions of Agribusiness and CLA for leave to file amicus curiae briefs in support of Respondent’s petition for rehearing, on November 13, 2018, the Ninth Circuit granted the motions for leave to file amicus curiae briefs.

EPA’s petition for rehearing made multiple arguments as to why an en banc and panel rehearing should be granted, including the Panel’s lack of jurisdiction, the Panel’s order conflicting with applicable Supreme Court precedent, and specific modifications to be addressed to the order to comply with Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requirements.  More information regarding EPA’s petition is available in our blog item “EPA Petitions for En Banc and Panel Rehearing in Ninth Circuit Chlorpyrifos Case.”

The amicus curiae briefs supported EPA’s arguments and also made arguments supporting rehearing in addition to those previously set forth by EPA.  CLA’s brief focused on the fact that the Panel’s decision disregarded FIFRA’s cancellation process, stating: “if EPA ultimately were to determine that any chlorpyrifos registration would need to be cancelled, such an action could not be accomplished in the way the panel majority prescribed:  by circumventing the procedures Congress required to ensure that pesticide cancellation decisions are not made unless and until these harms and the best science available are properly vetted.”  DAS’ brief addressed in detail the Panel’s violation of administrative law in dictating how EPA must act (i.e., cancel the chlorpyrifos registrations) and the potential violation of FIFRA by EPA if forced to comply with the Panel’s order regarding the timing for cancelling such registrations.  The amicus curiae briefs also sought to provide information on the practical consequences that chlorpyrifos registrants and users would face if the panel opinion is not revised.  For example, DAS discussed its proprietary interest in protecting its registrations and defending its product, while Agribusiness in its brief provided some background on the use and benefits of chlorpyrifos, the lack of viable alternatives, and the ramifications of the order on insect pest resistance and the ability to combat new invasive pests. 

Petitioners’ response to the petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc argued that there was no basis for rehearing.  Petitioners noted that en banc review is “disfavored” and appropriate in limited “extraordinary circumstances” and in the face of “an irreconcilable conflict between the holdings of controlling prior decisions of this court.”  Petitioners argued that the Panel decision was in accord with precedent and that a request for rehearing “would only result in further delay.”  Petitioners did concede on two points:  (1) modifying the order to direct EPA to cancel the registrations under the FIFRA cancellation process, which necessitates more time than the 60 days set forth in the order; and (2) clarifying that the order is limited to cancelling registrations that can result in residues on food. 

EPA, chlorpyrifos registrants and users, and industry generally should be encouraged by the decision to grant an en banc rehearing in this case, but the outcome is far from certain.  Given the issues at stake, registrants should monitor this hearing closely.


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom and Lisa M. Campbell 

On September 24, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit), respondents U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler (collectively EPA) petitioned for an en banc and panel rehearing concerning the Ninth Circuit’s August 9, 2018, decision that granted judicial review of EPA’s initial order denying an administrative petition by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos, and that specifically directed EPA to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.  More information regarding the August 9 decision is available in our blog item “Ninth Circuit Directs EPA to Revoke all Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for Chlorpyrifos.”

EPA’s petition for rehearing sets forth three discrete procedural arguments as to why rehearing should be granted.  The first argument is that the panel erred because “an initial decision denying an administrative petition under 21 U.S.C. § 346a(d)(4)(A)(iii) is simply not within the jurisdiction of this Court to review ….”  EPA contends that the decision to grant judicial review of the initial EPA order, without waiting for EPA to respond to objections or to issue a final order, conflicts with the applicable precedent in both the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Second Circuit).

EPA’s second argument is that, even if the initial EPA order is deemed to be reviewable, the panel’s decision directing EPA to take specific actions on remand “exceeded the remedial authority granted the courts by Congress” and conflicts with applicable Supreme Court precedent.  EPA identifies some other actions that EPA could hypothetically have decided to take on remand, including denying the administrative petition based on a finding that the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) safety standard is met, reducing the affected tolerances, or revoking only certain tolerances.  EPA argues that the court was not empowered to direct EPA to take specific actions, but should have instead remanded the matter to EPA “for further consideration in light of the panel’s holding that EPA may not ‘decline to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances [without] mak[ing] a finding of reasonable certainty that the tolerances were safe.’”

EPA’s third argument is that, in the event a broader rehearing is not granted, a rehearing by the panel should nonetheless be convened to modify the relief ordered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  EPA argues that revocation of the chlorpyrifos tolerances would not lead automatically to cancellation of all chlorpyrifos registrations, because there are also some non-food uses for chlorpyrifos.  EPA states that “FIFRA incorporates the safety standard of the FFDCA only with respect to food-use pesticides …” (emphasis in original).  EPA also notes that EPA lacks authority to comply with the court’s order to cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations within 60 days, because EPA must follow the statutory procedure for cancellation under FIFRA Section 6(b), which requires EPA to forward a proposed cancellation first to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), and to afford the affected registrants and other adversely affected persons an opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing to contest the proposed cancellation.  EPA states that the panel should provide at least a limited rehearing, because it granted relief without the benefit of any prior briefing on remedy in which these significant problems would have been identified.

Commentary

Although parties to appellate litigation often seek rehearing or rehearing en banc, federal agencies represented by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are considerably more selective about the circumstances in which they will file a petition for rehearing.  There are some compelling arguments supported by precedent that judicial review is not available under the FFDCA for the type of initial order concerning which the petitioners in this case sought review.  Moreover, EPA has identified some practical factors which make it literally impossible for EPA both to adhere to mandatory statutory procedures under FIFRA and to comply with the terms of the court’s order.  For this reason, even if a broader rehearing is not granted concerning the jurisdictional question or the authority of the court to order EPA to take specific actions, a narrower rehearing before the appellate panel may be ordered, which would allow the parties an opportunity for further briefing on remedy and permit the court to modify its order.

More information on chlorpyrifos issues, including further proceedings in this case, is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom and Lisa M. Campbell

On September 19, 2018, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) proposed a regulation to designate chlorpyrifos as a toxic air contaminant (TAC).  DPR states that this proposal is being presented “after an extensive period of scientific and public review.”  The proposed rule is based on a final evaluation issued in July 2018, in which DPR’s Human Health Assessment (HHA) Branch determined that chlorpyrifos meets the quantitative criteria for designation as a TAC.  To make that determination, DPR utilized an inhalation reference concentration (RfC) based on new animal studies with chlorpyrifos that reported neurodevelopmental effects at exposure levels well below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition.  More information on DPR’s final TAC evaluation is available in our blog item "California DPR Releases Final Toxic Air Contaminant Evaluation for Chlorpyrifos."  In August 2018, DPR posted the Scientific Review Panel on TAC’s findings on chlorpyrifos and the Director’s Proposed Determination Concerning Chlorpyrifos as a TAC.

DPR is providing a 45-day public comment period (until November 9, 2018) on the proposed regulation to list chlorpyrifos as a TAC.  Written comments may be submitted to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  In addition, DPR is holding a hearing to receive oral comments on this issue on November 8, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. (PT) at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, 1001 I Street, in Sacramento, California.  DPR states that it anticipates that the proposed regulation to list chlorpyrifos as a TAC will be effective in 2019.  Even though DPR is proposing to list chlorpyrifos as a TAC, DPR states that “possible mitigation measures to protect human health and the environment will be considered through a subsequent process involving consultation with other state and local agencies including the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).”

Commentary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) previously issued a determination that the default 10X safety factor for infants and children established by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) should be retained for chlorpyrifos.  This determination was based primarily on epidemiology studies that purported to show adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in humans at exposure levels below the threshold for AChE inhibition, but the methodology used in these epidemiology studies has been harshly criticized by the pesticide industry.  In contrast, the DPR TAC proposal is predicated on a determination that new animal studies with chlorpyrifos report neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for AChE inhibition, and DPR views the epidemiology studies utilized by EPA to make its FQPA determination as providing corroboration for the animal data.  At this juncture, it is not clear how EPA will characterize the new animal data concerning chlorpyrifos.  In any case, questions are likely to remain concerning EPA’s use of data concerning chorpyrifos to establish the FQPA safety factor for other organophosphate (OP) pesticides.

More information on chlorpyrifos issues and California DPR regulations is available on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On August 9, 2018, the majority of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an opinion in the latest chlorpyrifos case (League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) v. Wheeler, No. 17-71636) granting the petition for review of a 2017 order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that denied an administrative petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos; vacating the 2017 order; and remanding the matter back to EPA with explicit directions to EPA to “revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.”  A separate dissent stated that the court should have dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.  Please see our blog item “EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos” for more information on EPA’s denial of the petition in 2017.

EPA argued in its brief that the court lacks jurisdiction to review the 2017 order denying the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos because Section 408(g)(2)(C) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires EPA to rule on administrative objections to its denial of the petition to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos before judicial review is available under FFDCA Section 408(h)(1).The majority opinion rejected this argument, stating that FFDCA Section 408(h)(1) “does not ‘clearly state’ that obtaining a section (g)(2)(C) order in response to administrative objections is a jurisdictional requirement.” Rather than a jurisdictional limitation, the majority construed the objections process in FFDCA as a non-jurisdictional “claims-processing rule.”In contrast, the dissenting judge agreed with EPA’s argument that the court lacks jurisdiction to review this matter until after EPA responds to the objections to the 2017 order.

After concluding that the objections process is not jurisdictional in character, the majority next considered whether the petitioners should nonetheless be required to exhaust their administrative remedies by waiting until EPA responds to their objections before obtaining judicial review.Although FFDCA Section 408(g)(2)(C) requires EPA to rule on the objections “as soon as practicable,” EPA had taken no action for 13 months after the objections were filed.The majority concluded that the exhaustion requirement should be waived “in light of the strong individual interests against requiring exhaustion and weak institutional interests in favor of it.”

EPA did not specifically address the substantive merits of the 2017 order in its brief, and the majority found that EPA has consequently “forfeited any merits-based argument.”The 2017 order was issued in the context of an administrative record in which EPA has repeatedly determined that the FFDCA standard for maintenance of chlorpyrifos tolerances (“a reasonable certainty that no harm will result from aggregate exposure to the pesticide”) could not be met because of the risk of neurodevelopmental effects. The standard for registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) incorporates this same FFDCA standard. Although the 2017 order stated that “the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects is unresolved,” it did nothing to alter these prior EPA determinations. The majority noted that EPA’s assertion that “significant uncertainty” remains regarding the health effects of chlorpyrifos being directly at odds with the “reasonably certainty” standard and “therefore mandates revoking the tolerance under [FFDCA Section 408(b)(2)(A)(i)].” The majority concluded that the possibility that future evidence may contradict EPA’s current determinations cannot justify continued inaction, and that the failure of EPA to proceed with the revocation of the tolerances and the cancellation of the registrations for chlorpyrifos “has now placed the agency in direct contravention of the FFDCA and FIFRA.”

Commentary

The court’s direct instruction requiring EPA to proceed promptly with revocation of all tolerances and cancellations of all registrations for chlorpyrifos represents an unusually aggressive judicial intervention in the administrative process.Nevertheless, this outcome must be viewed in the context of an eleven year history beginning with an administrative petition that requested the same relief, followed by a writ of mandamus in 2015 from the same court requiring EPA to make a prompt decision on the petition.Although substantial controversy remains concerning the correct interpretation of epidemiology studies with chlorpyrifos, it appears that the court believes that EPA has not taken any action that would support a change in EPA’s prior conclusion that these studies constitute evidence of potential neurodevelopmental effects in children at chlorpyrifos exposure levels below the threshold for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. Had EPA’s 2017 denial of the administrative petition been accompanied by an amended risk assessment for chlorpyrifos which articulated a changed conclusion, the court may have been less likely to substitute its judgment for that of EPA.The court seemed to find that because the scientific assessments in the current administrative record could not support the “reasonable certainty” standard in the FFDCA, the conclusion it reached on the merits was unavoidable.

Please see our blog item “Oral Argument Held in Case Challenging EPA’s Denial of Petition to Revoke Chlorpyrifos Tolerances” for information on the oral argument that took place on July 9, 2018, and the briefing in this case.  Further information on the case proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

In July 2018, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), Human Health Assessment (HHA) Branch, issued its final toxic air contaminant (TAC) evaluation of chlorpyrifos.  This final TAC evaluation updates the December 2017 draft evaluation of chlorpyrifos as a TAC for the Scientific Review Panel (SRP) which updated the August 2017 draft and was reviewed by the SRP on TACs, and incorporates certain changes based on SRP recommendations.  As part of their review of the December 2017 draft, the SRP recommended “additional and detailed review of developmental neurotoxicity studies, in particular recent in vivo animal studies as well as a more in depth analysis of human effects of chlorpyrifos” and “that DPR reevaluate the critical endpoints, the associated [(uncertainty factors (UF)], and the resulting [reference concentrations (RfC)] and [reference doses (RfD)] for each endpoint.”

DPR determines that a pesticide is a TAC for a non-cancer adverse effect if the projected air concentrations associated with use of the pesticide are more than one tenth of the inhalation RfC established based on animal toxicity and epidemiology data.  In the draft TAC evaluation for chlorpyrifos, DPR utilized the threshold for red blood cell acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition in humans and a target margin of exposure (MOE) of 100, including a factor of 10 intended to account for potential neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for RBC AChE inhibition.  In the final TAC evaluation for chlorpyrifos, DPR increased the MOE for AChE inhibition to 300, based on deficiencies in the human inhalation parameters used to model the threshold for AChE inhibition.

In addition, the final TAC evaluation establishes a new No Observed Effect Level (NOEL) for neurodevelopmental effects in animal studies with chlorpyrifos reported at exposure levels well below the threshold for AChE inhibition.  Based on this NOEL, DPR has derived a new inhalation RfC for neurodevelopmental effects, using a standard MOE of 100 consisting of 10X for interspecies sensitivity and 10X for intraspecies variability.  This new inhalation RfC based on neurodevelopmental effects in animal studies is about one-half the revised inhalation RfC based on the threshold for AChE inhibition.  Because the modeled spray drift air concentrations for chlorpyrifos are more than one tenth of this new inhalation RfC, DPR concludes “that chlorpyrifos meets the criteria to be listed as a TAC pursuant to the law of California.”

Commentary

In the final TAC evaluation for chlorpyrifos, DPR concluded that there is sufficient evidence from animal studies to establish a new NOEL for neurodevelopmental effects, which is well below the level that has been shown to cause AChE inhibition in the same animals.  Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has previously issued a determination that the default 10X safety factor for infants and children established by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) should be retained for chlorpyrifos, this determination was based on epidemiology studies that purported to show adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in humans at exposure levels below the threshold for AChE inhibition.  The methodology used in these epidemiology studies has been harshly criticized by the pesticide industry.  DPR views these epidemiology studies as providing corroboration, but the new DPR risk assessment is predicated instead on DPR’s view that animal studies with chlorpyrifos report neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for AChE inhibition.  The DPR risk assessment based on these animal studies uses a standard MOE of 100.  How EPA may or may not view DPR’s conclusion is not known.  In light of the August 9, 2018, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) directing EPA to proceed with revocation of all tolerances and cancellation of all registrations for chlorpyrifos, the effect of the DPR conclusion on EPA actions is not clear.  Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, because the mechanism by which chlorpyrifos would cause such neurodevelopmental effects is unknown and is below the level that causes AChE inhibition, any presumption by EPA that other organophosphate (OP) pesticides may cause the same type of effects will likely be vigorously disputed by industry on scientific grounds.  

Please see our blog item Ninth Circuit Directs EPA to Revoke all Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for Chlorpyrifos for more information on the Ninth Circuit’s August 9, 2018, decision.


 

By Timothy D. Backstrom

On July 9, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) held oral argument in League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) v. Pruitt, a case brought to challenge the decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny a 2007 petition by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  The 2007 petition requested that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances granted under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and all chlorpyrifos registrations granted under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  After a series of delays and court decisions concerning EPA action on the 2007 petition, the Ninth Circuit issued a writ of mandamus in In re PANNA v. EPA requiring that EPA take action to grant or to deny the petition no later than March 31, 2017.   Although EPA proposed in November 2015 to partially grant the 2007 petition and to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances based on concerns about neurodevelopmental effects in children, EPA ultimately decided to deny the entire PANNA and NRDC tolerance revocation petition in a decision dated March 29, 2017.  More information on EPA’s March 29, 2017, decision is available in our blog item “EPA Denies Petition to Ban Chlorpyrifos.”

After the March 29, 2017 denial decision, the Ninth Circuit denied a motion for further mandamus relief in the PANNA case.  The court stated that, once EPA denies a tolerance revocation petition under FFDCA, “[f]iling objections and awaiting their resolution by the EPA Administrator is a prerequisite to obtaining judicial review of EPA’s final response to the petition.”  The petitioners in the current LULAC case filed administrative objections to EPA’s denial decision on June 5, 2017, but, on the same date, they also brought a new action seeking immediate judicial review.  Five States and the District of Columbia subsequently intervened in the new case.  EPA filed a motion to dismiss the LULAC case for lack of jurisdiction on August 21, 2017, but the court denied that motion, without prejudice to EPA renewing its jurisdictional arguments during briefing on the merits.

Background to Tolerance Petition Decision

EPA’s risk assessments concerning the potential neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos have been the subject of scientific controversy for a number of years.  In decisions that were the subject of significant criticism and controversy, EPA scientists construed the associations reported in certain epidemiological studies of exposure to chlorpyrifos as evidence that chlorpyrifos may cause neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels that are less than the threshold for induction of acetylcholinesterase inhibition.  In November, 2016, EPA issued an updated risk assessment for chlorpyrifos and all organophosphate (OP) pesticides based on the same epidemiology studies, which included a determination that EPA would retain the default 10X safety factor established by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) for chlorpyrifos and for all OP pesticides.  Pesticide industry representatives have raised concerns about the design and conduct of the chlorpyrifos epidemiology studies, the scientific plausibility of the proposed association of neurodevelopmental effects with low level chlorpyrifos exposure, and the rationale for extending the FQPA determination to OP pesticides other than chlorpyrifos.

Prior to the change in administration in 2017, it appeared that EPA would proceed with its 2015 proposal to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances based on the 2016 updated risk assessment.  Instead, on March 29, 2017, EPA decided to deny the 2007 petition and to defer its ultimate scientific decision concerning the neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos until after EPA completes the currently pending registration review process for chlorpyrifos.

Briefs in the LULAC Case

In their briefs, the petitioners and the intervenors in the LULAC case have objected to further delay in EPA’s scientific decision concerning the neurodevelopmental risks presented by chlorpyrifos, as well as to the procedures specified by FFDCA that would require that they await resolution of their objections before seeking judicial review.  From their perspective, EPA has already determined repeatedly that continued chlorpyrifos exposure is unsafe for infants and children, and EPA is therefore required to proceed with immediate revocation of all chlorpyrifos tolerances.

In their briefs, the petitioners and the intervenors argued that the procedures required by FFDCA are not jurisdictional, and that the court therefore has discretion to waive exhaustion of these procedures.  They also argued that exhaustion should be waived in this instance because allowing EPA time to rule on their objections would ultimately be futile, and because further delay would perpetuate EPA’s purported disregard of the FFDCA safety standard.  Further, they argued that, if immediate review is not available under FFDCA, it should be available under FIFRA because EPA also denied a request to cancel the FIFRA registrations for chlorpyrifos.  Finally, the petitioners requested during briefing that the court issue “a writ of mandamus directing EPA to decide LULAC’s objections within 60 days.”

In its brief, EPA argued that the petitioners lack any jurisdiction to bring the current case because the detailed procedures specified in the FFDCA are jurisdictional in nature, and exhaustion of these procedures therefore cannot be waived by a reviewing court.  EPA also argued that, even if the court could waive the exhaustion requirement, the petitioners have raised the same issues in their objections as they raised in their briefs, and there is no basis for the court to presume that allowing EPA to address these issues would be futile.  Moreover, EPA argued that FFDCA Section 346a(h)(5) expressly precludes separate judicial review under FIFRA of EPA’s decision concerning the 2007 petition.  Finally, EPA contended in its brief that the petitioners’ request for a writ of mandamus must be denied because the petitioners did not follow the procedure for making such a request in Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 21(a).

Commentary

During the oral arguments on July 9, 2018, two of the three judges on the Ninth Circuit panel reportedly expressed frustration concerning the prospect for years of further delay before EPA makes its ultimate decision concerning chlorpyrifos.  Although it is not clear how the court would overcome the formidable jurisdictional barriers to immediate judicial review, it appears that some sort of judicial decision or order compelling EPA to take more immediate action on chlorpyrifos is a possibility. More information regarding these proceedings is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.


 

by James V. Aidala

Time is running out on the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA), and it could die a natural death on January 19, 2018, absent Congressional action.  Congress enacted PRIA in 2003 and in so doing established a fee schedule for pesticide registration and amendment applications and critically important specified decision time periods within which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must make a regulatory decision.  PRIA has been reauthorized twice, and was scheduled to expire at the end of the 2017 federal fiscal year, on September 30, 2017.  A short term funding measure saved the day, but it expires on January 19.

As was the case for PRIA and its prior reauthorizations, a coalition of registrants, labor, and environmental advocates were working with Congress relatively smoothly to pass what will be “PRIA 4” before the expiration date.  In May 2017, however, EPA announced that as part of its regulatory review efforts, there would be delays in implementing recent regulations making changes to worker protection standard (WPS) regulations and requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) certification and training (C&T) programs run by the states -- all Obama initiatives.  Some farm advocacy groups, the American Farm Bureau in particular, raised concerns about a few elements of the WPS regulations, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) also raised concerns about some elements of the WPS and C&T programs.  More information regarding the status of the WPS and C&T rulemakings is available in our blog item “EPA Signals New Rulemakings On Worker Protection Standard and Certification of Pesticide Applicators.”

When EPA announced plans to review and possibly change these regulations, farmworker advocacy groups withdrew their support for the draft PRIA legislation.  Along with concerns about possible regulatory changes and delays, environmental groups also expressed concerns with the Administration’s decisions allowing the continued use of chlorpyrifos as part of a petition response announced in March 2017.  The tumult fractured the PRIA coalition and a group of Democratic Senators supporting the environmental and labor advocates’ position blocked the PRIA legislation preventing changes to the current WPS regulations, and separately introduced legislation that would effectively end the use of chlorpyrifos (S. 1624).

The PRIA reauthorization has already been approved by the House of Representatives, but now there is a sufficient number of Senate Democrats to block movement of the legislation.  As a result, there is currently an impasse, with discussions reportedly ongoing but with no clear path towards resolution.

As the deadline nears, it is expected that a temporary PRIA renewal will be part of any additional short extension, with a less certain outlook about the chances of being included in any comprehensive, year-long legislation to fund government operations.  The expectation is that some kind of resolution will be found, but the specific parameters of any solution have not yet been identified.

PRIA has also included the authorization for the “maintenance fee” provisions first included in the 1988 amendments to FIFRA, designed as general support for the EPA pesticide program budget.  Taken together, PRIA reauthorization has become a major contributor to the program budget.

Should PRIA not be reauthorized, then the current law allows for a phase-down of the current submissions which include PRIA fees and are subject to decision deadlines.  The larger issue would be the potential for the elimination of approximately 200 positions from the pesticide program workforce, which is about one-third of the current staff (and is in line with the share of program costs supported by fees).

Stay tuned -- we will monitor this important topic.  More information on PRIA issues is available on our blog under key word PRIA.


 
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