By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On August 7, 2019, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Pesticide Action Network North America, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other petitioners (Petitioners) filed a new petition in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking judicial review of United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) orders denying their request that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos. On August 8, 2019, New York, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia (States) also filed a new petition for judicial review concerning the refusal of EPA to ban chlorpyrifos. The Petitioners and the States seek judicial review of the July 18, 2019, final order by EPA dismissing all objections to the initial decision by EPA to retain tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos, and of EPA’s March 29, 2017, order that initially denied a 2007 petition to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.
The Petitioners and the States also seek consolidation of their newly filed petitions for judicial review with currently pending chlorpyrifos litigation in LULAC, et al. v. Wheeler, et al. As part of rehearing in the LULAC case, the Ninth Circuit vacated a prior decision that ordered EPA to cancel chlorpyrifos registrations, and instead issued a writ of mandamus requiring EPA to respond to objections to the 2017 denial order within 90 days. EPA then issued the July 18, 2019, order denying all objections, along with a motion on July 19, 2019, to dismiss the LULAC case as moot. EPA seeks dismissal of LULAC because it contends that the 2017 initial order was never itself reviewable, and EPA has now done everything that the writ of mandamus required. The Petitioners oppose the motion to dismiss because it would require the Court to take a position on a jurisdictional issue which they contend was not decided during rehearing. The Petitioners and the States also argue that dismissal would be unnecessary and inefficient, requiring the challenging parties to reconstitute the record for review compiled in LULAC.
Petitioners also note that the Ninth Circuit retained jurisdiction when it issued mandamus in LULAC, and they request that their combined challenge to the EPA decision to retain the existing tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos be heard by the Court en banc as well.
The latest petitions for judicial review of EPA’s 2019 decision to retain all tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos pending registration review were anticipated by all parties, and all parties agree that the procedural requisites for a judicial determination concerning the legality of EPA’s final decision to deny the 2007 administrative petition have now been satisfied. The Petitioners and the States will likely argue that prior scientific determinations by EPA, including EPA analysis of epidemiology studies that purport to establish a link between exposure to chlorpyrifos and adverse neurodevelopmental effects in children, require that EPA proceed to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos, while EPA will likely argue that difficult scientific issues concerning chlorpyrifos remain unresolved and should be addressed by EPA as part of the pending registration review for chlorpyrifos.
In addition to the dispute about combining the new petitions for review with the LULAC case, an interesting element of the latest filing by the Petitioners is that they attempt to bootstrap en banc review of the 2019 order in which EPA finally denied the administrative petition to revoke tolerances and cancel registrations for chlorpyrifos. En banc review for an initial hearing (as opposed to en banc rehearing in a previously decided case) is allowed by the applicable appellate rules, but such review is disfavored and would be highly unusual. Petitioners argue that it is warranted here because the en banc panel in the rehearing in the LULAC case reserved jurisdiction. Given the motion by EPA to dismiss the LULAC case as moot, it can be presumed that EPA is likely to oppose this vicarious argument for en banc judicial review. EPA can argue that the only reason the en banc panel retained jurisdiction was to assure that EPA would timely comply with the writ of mandamus that required EPA to rule on the objections within 90 days.
For further information on the long history of litigation concerning the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, please review our prior blog entries.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala
On July 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Decision Memorandum that it has registered new uses and restored previously registered uses for sulfoxaflor. EPA has approved the use of sulfoxaflor on alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte, tree plantations, and restored the uses on citrus cotton, cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, some gourds), soybeans, and strawberries. EPA states that substantial data show that when sulfoxaflor is used according to the label, it poses no significant risk to human health and poses a lower risk to non-target wildlife, including pollinators, than other registered alternative products. EPA’s registration decision is available at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889-0570.
EPA’s decision follows an opinion issued on September 10, 2015, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacating EPA’s 2013 unconditional registration for the pesticide sulfoxaflor, and remanding the matter to EPA to obtain further studies and data regarding the effects of sulfoxaflor on bees and bee colonies. That decision is discussed in our blog item available here. In response to that decision, EPA also issued a cancellation order that included provisions for the disposition of existing stocks of sulfoxaflor products.
After the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA reevaluated the data and on October 14, 2016, approved sulfoxaflor end-use registrations for limited uses that did not include crops that attract bees. EPA also has been granting emergency exemptions for sulfoxaflor since 2012, with the most recent emergency exemptions granted on June 17, 2019, for the use of sulfoxaflor to control tarnished plant bugs on cotton in 12 states, and to control sugarcane aphids on sorghum in 14 states.
In the July 12, 2019, decision adding new uses, restoring previous uses, and removing certain application restrictions, EPA states an unconditional registration under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(c)(5) for new uses of sulfoxaflor is backed by substantial data, including numerous pollinator studies submitted by the registrant, Dow AgroSciences (DAS). With specific regard to sulfoxaflor’s impact on bees, EPA states the following:
Since the vacatur in 2015, DAS has submitted numerous additional pollinator studies. The pollinator data requirements listed in 40 CFR 158.630 have all been submitted or waived. EPA’s risk assessment process for pollinators has evolved since those data requirements were promulgated and now EPA generally assesses risks to bees using a three-tier process based on a more robust data set as described in two guidance documents: “Guidance for Assessing the Risks of Pesticides to Bees” (USEPA 2014) and “Guidance on Exposure and Effects Testing for Assessing Risks to Bees” (USEPA 2016). For sulfoxaflor, all Tier I data have been submitted. Three additional Tier II semi-field (tunnel) studies and two colony feeding studies have been submitted. Pollen and nectar residue data have been submitted for multiple crops. The submitted data covers all of the requested use patterns. For those crops that did not have data specific to pollen and nectar residues, data was extrapolated as appropriate from other crops. All regulatory data requirements for assessing pollinators have now been addressed and the EPA has adequate data to demonstrate that there will be no unreasonable adverse effects to honey bees resulting from the expanded registration of sulfoxaflor.
EPA’s decision also removes previously imposed application restrictions:
- Removed the prohibition of use on crops grown for seed because EPA believes pollinator protection restrictions, including low use rates, will be in place regardless of whether the crop is grown for seed or for commodity harvest;
- Removed the restriction to post-bloom application for bee-attractive crops only when there is low risk or limited potential for exposure to bees;
- Removed the 12-foot buffer requirement because EPA believes the spray drift mitigation requirements on labels are adequate to limit drift; and
- Removed the 2016 restriction against tank mixing because EPA states data show that there is no additional risk when sulfoxaflor is tank mixed with other compounds.
EPA’s decision includes the following crop specific restrictions:
- Citrus: Only one application is allowed per year between 3 days before bloom and until after petal fall.
- Ornamentals: Only one application is allowed during bloom, and that bloom must not exceed a rate of 0.071 lb ai/acre.
- Pome Fruit, Stone Fruit, Tree Nuts and Pistachio: No application is allowed any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.
- Small Fruit Vine Climbing and Low Growing Berry, Tree Plantations: No application is allowed any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.
EPA found that the FIFRA standard for registration is met for the registration of sulfoxaflor on the uses approved, and that the benefits of these uses outweigh the risks, but also set specific label requirements including restrictions to minimize potential exposure to bees:
- Worker Protection: “Applicators and other handlers must wear: Long-sleeved shirt and long pants, shoes plus socks, protective eyewear” and “Do not enter or allow worker entry into treated areas during the restricted entry interval (REI) of” 24 hours (for Transform WG label) and 12 hours (for Closer SC label).
- Environmental Hazards Statement: “This product is highly toxic to bees and other pollinating insects exposed to direct treatment or to residues in/on blooming crops or weeds. Protect pollinating insects by following label directions intended to minimize drift and reduce pesticide risk to these organisms.”
- The RT25 (how long foliar residues of sulfoxaflor exhibit toxicity to honey bees): “The RT25 for this product is less than or equal to 3 hours.”
- Directions for Use: “Notifying known beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Also, limiting application to times when managed bees and native pollinators are least active, e.g. 2 hours prior to sunset or when the temperature is below 50°F at the site of application will minimize risk to bees.”
This new decision by EPA may finally be the culmination of a long and convoluted process to register sulfoxaflor. The litigation that resulted in vacatur of the initial registrations began in 2013. At the time the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in 2015, vacatur was viewed by many observers as a novel and radical response to an EPA decision to register a new pesticide. Since that time, registrants and users of newly approved active ingredients have encountered more aggressive litigation in which vacatur is often cited as a possible remedy. This has created more uncertainty and concern about product availability, even after EPA approves an eagerly anticipated new product to meet a pressing pest control need. In the case of sulfoxaflor, EPA has clearly determined that the data submitted by DAS demonstrate that any risks to pollinators presented by sulfoxaflor will be less than the risks presented by currently registered insecticides sulfoxaflor is likely to replace. This determination concerning relative risk based on review of additional data should address the deficiencies in the EPA rationale found by the Court when it vacated the 2013 sulfoxaflor registrations.
Interestingly, the current EPA decision may raise a similar issue concerning the sufficiency of EPA’s rationale concerning the effects of sulfoxaflor on endangered species. EPA states the following in its Decision Memorandum:
EPA has not made an effects determination for sulfoxaflor. EPA is currently focusing most of its resources for assessing impacts to listed species on its registration review program for currently registered pesticides. EPA believes that, as a general matter, older pesticides present a greater degree of risk to listed species than most new chemistries, including sulfoxaflor, and that it is therefore environmentally preferable in most circumstances for EPA to assess the impacts of existing pesticides sooner in the process than newer pesticides that are designed to compete with more risky alternatives. EPA believes that is especially true for sulfoxaflor, where the alternatives include organophosphates, neonicotinoids and pyrethroids. As a result, EPA does not believe the environment or the public would be best served by delaying the registration of new uses for sulfoxaflor to complete consultation. Focusing the limited resources of EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on completing a consultation on the effects of sulfoxaflor would by necessity come at the expense of putting more resources into evaluating – and consequently regulating, where appropriate – what EPA believes to be more toxic compounds, that, among other things, pose greater risk, to endangered species than does sulfoxaflor.
While it is clearly sensible for EPA and the Services to prioritize the limited resources available to make and to consult concerning effects determinations for endangered species by addressing existing pesticide classes that are likely to present the greatest risk before products with new chemistries that are intended to be more selective, it remains to be seen whether reviewing courts will be inclined to accept this type of rationale. In particular, it will be interesting to see whether the sufficiency of this approach to endangered species determinations becomes an issue in any future litigation regarding sulfoxaflor or other newly registered active ingredients.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
On July 18, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pre-publication version of a Federal Register notice announcing a final order denying the Pesticide Action Network North America’s (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) 2007 Petition requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos (Order). This Order constitutes final Agency action denying all of the Petitioners’ objections to EPA’s previous refusal to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos. This Order also constitutes final administrative action concerning all parts of the 2007 Petition that were not previously addressed by EPA. Given the previous extensive chlorpyrifos litigation, this latest action by EPA will likely lead to further litigation challenging EPA’s decision to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
The FIFRA registrations and related tolerances for chlorpyrifos have a complicated regulatory and legal history, as discussed in previous blogs available here.
EPA’s new Order denies objections made by PANNA and NRDC under the FFDCA to EPA’s March 29, 2017, order denying the request by PANNA and NRDC that EPA revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos and cancel all chlorpyrifos product registrations. In the Order, EPA begins by summarizing its prior responses to the 2007 Petition, in which EPA denied each of ten claims raised in support of the Petitioners’ request that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations. The ten claims are:
- EPA has ignored genetic evidence of vulnerable populations.
- EPA has delayed a decision regarding endocrine disrupting effects.
- EPA has ignored data regarding cancer risks.
- EPA’s 2006 cumulative risk assessment (CRA) for the organophosphates misrepresented risks and failed to apply the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X safety factor.
- EPA over-relied on registrant data.
- EPA has failed to address properly the exporting hazard in foreign countries from chlorpyrifos.
- EPA has failed to incorporate quantitatively data demonstrating long-lasting effects from early life exposure to chlorpyrifos in children.
- EPA has disregarded data demonstrating that there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure during pre-birth and early life stages.
- EPA has failed to cite or incorporate quantitatively studies and clinical reports suggesting potential adverse effects below 10 percent cholinesterase inhibition.
- EPA has failed to incorporate inhalation routes of exposure.
EPA’s Order next focuses on the June 2017 objections to the March 29, 2017, Denial Order that were filed by several public interest groups and states. The three main objections, and EPA’s response, are as follows:
- Claims Regarding the Legal Standard for Reviewing Petitions to Revoke: Objectors assert that EPA’s Denial Order applied the wrong legal standard. Objectors assert that neither “scientific uncertainty” nor the October 2022 deadline for registration review under FIFRA Section 3(g), nor the widespread agricultural use of chlorpyrifos, provide a basis for denying petitions to revoke. Objectors claim that EPA has unlawfully left chlorpyrifos tolerances in place without making the safety finding required by the FFDCA.
- EPA Response: In its Order, EPA denies the objections related to Petitioners’ claims regarding neurodevelopmental toxicity, stating that the objections and the underlying Petition are not supported by valid, complete, and reliable evidence sufficient to meet the Petitioners’ burden under the FFDCA, as set forth in EPA’s implementing regulations. Specifically, EPA states that Objectors have not met their regulatory burden to provide “reasonable grounds” for revocation, including an assertion of facts to justify the modification or revocation of the tolerance (40 C.F.R. § 180.32(b)) or the initial evidentiary burden for persons seeking revocation to come forward with sufficient evidence to show that pesticide tolerances to be modified or revoked are not safe. After summarizing its review of available epidemiologic data, including feedback from the 2012 and 2016 FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meetings, EPA states that “the epidemiologic studies are central to the Petitioner’s claims regarding neurodevelopmental effects, yet the Petitioners and Objectors rely only on summaries in publications to present their case. Petitioners have not presented the raw data from the epidemiology studies for consideration of their claims.” EPA “concludes that the information yet presented by Petitioners is not sufficiently valid, complete, and reliable to support abandoning the use of AChE inhibition as the critical effect for regulatory purposes under the FFDCA section 408” and also that Petitioners have “failed to meet their initial burden of providing sufficiently valid, complete, and reliable evidence that neurodevelopmental effects may be occurring at levels below EPA’s current regulatory standard and no information submitted with the objections addresses this shortcoming of the Petition.”
- Objections Asserting that EPA Has Found Chlorpyrifos to Be Unsafe: Objectors assert that EPA has previously found that chlorpyrifos tolerances are unsafe and has not disavowed those findings. Specifically, they claim that EPA has found that chlorpyrifos results in unsafe drinking water exposures and results in adverse neurodevelopmental effects to children and that EPA must therefore revoke the tolerances.
- EPA Response: EPA denies making any regulatory findings that chlorpyrifos tolerances are not safe, stating that its statements in its 2015 proposed tolerance revocation was not a final action. EPA states: “Proposed rules are just that -- proposals; they do not bind federal agencies. Indeed, EPA made clear it was issuing the proposal because of the court order, without having resolved many of the issues critical to EPA’s FFDCA determination and without having fully considered comments previously submitted to the Agency.” Regarding those objections related to drinking water, EPA states that since the Petition did not identify drinking water exposure as a basis for seeking tolerance revocation, the Objectors cannot now raise that concern as a basis for challenging EPA’s denial of the Petition. EPA also states: “The mere fact that EPA is considering the potential impact of chlorpyrifos exposures in drinking water in the Agency’s FIFRA section 3(g) registration review does not somehow provide Petitioners and Objectors with a vehicle for introducing that topic in the objections process on the Petition denial.” EPA instead will continue its FIFRA Section 3(g) registration review and complete its evaluation of drinking water exposures to chlorpyrifos, and address these issues in its upcoming registration review decision.
- Objections Asserting that the Denial Order Failed to Respond to Significant Concerns Raised in Comments: Objectors argue that EPA’s Denial Order committed a procedural error by failing to address significant concerns raised in the comments on EPA’s 2014 risk assessment and 2015 proposed revocation that EPA’s assessment fails to protect children. In particular, the Objectors focus on concerns raised in comments asserting that (1) EPA’s use of 10 percemt cholinesterase as a regulatory standard is not protective for effects to children’s developing brains; (2) EPA has not properly accounted for effects from inhalation of chlorpyrifos from spray drift and volatilization; and (3) EPA inappropriately used the Corteva physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model to reduce inter- and intra-species safety factors because the model is ethically and scientifically deficient.
- EPA Response: EPA denies the objections claiming procedural error, stating it “has no obligation to respond to rulemaking comments in denying the Petition or responding to objections, both of which are adjudicatory actions that are not part of the rulemaking process. EPA also restated its prior response to the Petition that the “objections fail to meet burden of presenting evidence sufficiently valid, complete and reliable to demonstrate that chlorpyrifos results in neurodevelopmental effects that render its tolerances not safe.” EPA further “believes it is lawful and appropriate for it to consider federally enforceable chlorpyrifos product labeling restrictions in assessing the extent of bystander risk from spray drift under both the FFDCA and FIFRA.”
This latest EPA assessment appears to be more finely crafted than the earlier March 2017 response to the tolerance revocation Petition. EPA explains that it does not consider the epidemiology studies cited by the Petitioners to be persuasive sufficiently to change EPA’s fundamental approach to assessing chlorpyrifos risks. EPA notes that its current risk assessment utilizes the default 10X safety factor for infants and children specified by the FQPA, so any argument that it has not utilized this safety factor is moot. At the same time, EPA maintains that the epidemiology studies do not justify changing EPA’s point of departure for risk assessment, which remains the threshold for 10 percent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition. EPA states that there are significant problems with using the epidemiology studies for risk assessment, including lack of access to the underlying data, the absence of any known mechanism for neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for AChE inhibition, and a lack of scientific consensus on a method for choosing an alternate point of departure based on the epidemiology studies. This interpretation of the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos will remain controversial and these studies will continue to be cited by those who seek to eliminate chlorpyrifos use.
EPA has also taken a position that the burden is on the Petitioners to support a petition to revoke tolerances with reliable data. What is less clear is “how much” evidence EPA considers sufficient to meet the threshold for tolerance revocation. Meanwhile, EPA will defer its assessment of possible neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos below the threshold for AChE inhibition pending completion of the registration review for chlorpyrifos. The deadline for EPA to complete registration review is October 1, 2022, although EPA states that it intends to expedite this process and to issue a proposed registration review decision by October 2020.
EPA also has included in its decision an intriguing discussion of some new animal studies for chlorpyrifos that purport to show low-level neurodevelopmental effects from chlorpyrifos. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation relied substantially on these new studies when it designated chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant. If these new chlorpyrifos studies are deemed credible, they could supplant efforts to use the chlorpyrifos epidemiology data in risk assessments and allow EPA to establish a new point of departure for chlorpyrifos that is not based on AChE inhibition. Rather than disregarding these new data, which were not submitted in support of the tolerance revocation Petition, EPA says affirmatively that it intends to review them in the pending registration review.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Barbara Christianson
On June 26, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was extending the comment deadline on its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision (PID) for glyphosate acid and its various salt forms. 84 Fed. Reg. 30112. EPA states that it is extending the comment deadline “after receiving public comments requesting additional time to review the Glyphosate Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision and supporting materials.”
The deadline to submit comments was extended from July 5, 2019, to September 3, 2019. The public can submit comments on EPA’s proposed decision at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On May 30, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order in National Family Farm Coalition v. EPA, No. 17-70810 (filed Mar. 21, 2017) regarding the scope of its review of a petition challenging a 2017 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Notice of Pesticide Registration. This 2017 order addresses Dow AgroSciences LLC’s Enlist Duo product. The Petitioners include the National Family Farm Coalition and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The May 30, 2019, order addresses whether the court could review two prior EPA orders, one issued in 2014 and one in 2015, regarding the registration of Enlist Duo. Those 2014 and 2015 EPA orders had also been challenged in court, and subsequently remanded to EPA to consider additional information. Following EPA’s consideration of this additional information, EPA increased the allowed use sites for the Enlist Duo registration to include cotton and increased the number of states authorized to use Enlist Duo from 15 to 34 states.
The Ninth Circuit’s May 30, 2019, order finds that the 2017 order “reissues the original Enlist Duo registration and amendment addressed in the 2014 and 2015 orders, thus making the full registration of Enlist Duo for GE corn, soybean and cotton for use in 34 states subject to [its] review.” The court based its decision on the language of EPA’s 2017 order and EPA’s Final Registration Decision. The court found persuasive, for example, that EPA’s 2017 order states that it “supercedes” EPA’s 2014 order, which the court stated is “consistent with our determination that the 2014 order previously remanded to EPA has now been finalized.” Since EPA identified its 2017 order as final and had characterized its 2014 and 2015 orders as having an incomplete record, the court stated that it will “review the 2017 order on the combined records of the 2014, 2015 and 2017 orders, all of which is incorporated into the 2017 order’s record.”
The court further noted that EPA’s “2017 order also purports to extend the 2014 registration’s (and that of the 2015 amendment) initial 2020 expiration date by two years.” Since the court found that nothing “suggests that this term is specific to the new uses on GE cotton in 34 states or GE corn and soybean in the additional 19 states,” the court stated that the 2017 EPA order could not have been limited to adding only these post-2015 uses as EPA had asserted.
Following this determination, the Ninth Circuit stated that “submission of this case is deferred” pending additional briefing to address “all challenges to the initial registration (2014 order) and the original amendment (2015 order), as that registration and amendment has been reissued in the 2017 order -- including challenges to all supporting documentation” and “what relief [it] should provide if Petitioners’ claims are successful, ‘in whole or in part.’” The timing for such briefing is as follows:
- Counsel for each Petitioner is directed to file a supplemental brief of 7,000 words or less within 60 days of the date of the order (by July 30, 2019);
- Counsel for Respondent and Intervenor are directed to file a responsive brief of 7,000 words or less within 60 days from the date of filing of Petitioners’ briefs; and
- Petitioners may each file reply briefs not to exceed 3,500 words within 30 days from the date of the filing of Respondent’s brief.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala
On May 6, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was releasing its Proposed Interim Registration Review Decision (PID) for glyphosate acid and its various salt forms. 84 Fed. Reg. 19782. In the PID, EPA states that it “did not identify any human health risks from exposure to any use of glyphosate” but did identify “potential risk to mammals and birds” within the application area or areas near the application area and “potential risk to terrestrial and aquatic plants from off-site spray drift, consistent with glyphosate’s use as a herbicide.” Even with these potential risks, the PID states that “EPA concludes that the benefits outweigh the potential ecological risks when glyphosate is used according to label directions” and proposes certain risk mitigation strategies, including:
- “To reduce off-site spray drift to non-target organisms, the EPA is proposing certain spray drift management measures” with specific spray drift mitigation language to be included on all glyphosate product labels for products applied by liquid spray application;
- “To preserve glyphosate as a viable tool for growers and combat weed resistance, the EPA is … proposing that herbicide resistance management language be added to all glyphosate labels” and to require measures “for the pesticide registrants to provide growers and users with detailed information and recommendations to slow the development and spread of herbicide resistant weeds”;
- Inclusion on labels of a non-target organism advisory statement to alert users of potential impact to non-target organisms; and
- “EPA is also proposing certain labeling clean-up/consistency efforts to bring all glyphosate labels up to modern standards.”
EPA states that these measures were discussed with glyphosate registrants, who do not oppose the proposed risk mitigation measures outlined in the PID.
The public can submit comments on EPA’s proposed decision at www.regulations.gov in Docket Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361. Public comments are due by July 5, 2019. In addition to the PID, EPA is also posting to the glyphosate docket EPA’s response to comments on glyphosate’s usage and benefits (dated April 18, 2019), EPA’s response to comments on the human health risk assessment (dated April 23, 2018), and EPA’s response to comments on the preliminary ecological risk assessment (dated November 21, 2018).
This PID was issued shortly after the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s announcement on April 8, 2019, of the opening of a docket on the draft toxicological profile for glyphosate. 84 Fed. Reg. 13922. ATSDR seeks comments and additional information or reports on studies about the health effects of glyphosate for review and potential inclusion in the profile. Comments are due by July 8, 2019.
EPA’s PID and related documents, along with ATSDR’s draft profile and the peer review which will follow, can be expected to become part of the larger debate about the potential risks of glyphosate. In 2017, EPA evaluated the carcinogenic risk of glyphosate, and released its draft human health and ecological risk assessments. See our December 19, 2017, blog item "EPA Releases Draft Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments for Glyphosate for Public Comment" for more information.
EPA’s PID is interesting not only for the conclusions EPA reached following its review of data submitted by registrants in response to a data call-in (DCI) and following the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel’s (SAP) meeting to consider and review scientific issues related to EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate, but for the issues that remain to be addressed. Notably, EPA states that it has not considered the petition filed on September 27, 2018, to reduce glyphosate’s tolerance because the petition was filed after the comment period for the human health and ecological risk assessments closed. Instead, EPA plans to post the petition in the glyphosate docket and address the petition concurrently with the development of the Interim Registration Review Decision.
In addition, EPA has not in the PID or related documents addressed issues regarding its Endangered Species Act (ESA) assessment or its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) activities. EPA states it intends to complete an assessment of risk to ESA-listed species prior to completing its final registration review decision for glyphosate, and that it also will make an EDSP determination under Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) Section 408(p) before completing its registration review. EPA also notes that it continues to evaluate risks to pollinators, and that if it determines “that additional pollinator exposure and effects data are necessary to help make a final registration review decision for glyphosate, then the EPA will issue a DCI to obtain these data.” Although there are significant areas that remain to be resolved, EPA issued the PID “so that it can (1) move forward with aspects of the registration review case that are complete and (2) implement interim risk mitigation.”
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Heather F. Collins, M.S.
On May 3, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was making final a single correction to the data requirements for antimicrobial pesticide products codified in 40 C.F.R. Part 158, subpart W. 84 Fed. Reg. 18993. The correction clarifies that the 200 parts per billion (ppb) level described in the antimicrobial pesticides data requirements regulations (40 C.F.R. § 158.2230(d)) “is based on total estimated daily dietary intake for an individual and not on the amount of residue present on a single food,” as EPA states was incorrectly implied by the previous regulatory text. EPA initially proposed this change on August 18, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 39399) because it agreed to do so in a settlement agreement with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) after ACC filed a petition for review of the 2013 final rule titled “Data Requirements for Antimicrobial Pesticides” (78 Fed. Reg. 26936 (May 8, 2013)) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Specifically, EPA agreed to make this correction to “make the language consistent” with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) policy set forth in FDA’s “Guidance for Industry, Preparation of Food Contact Notifications for Food Contact Substances: Toxicology Recommendations. Final Guidance. April 2002.” EPA states that the change is intended to “enhance understanding of the data required to support an antimicrobial pesticide registration and does not alter the burden or costs associated with these previously promulgated requirements” and that it is not establishing “any new data requirements or any other revisions (substantive or otherwise) to existing requirements.” The final rule will become effective on July 2, 2019.
By James V. Aidala and Susan M. Kirsch
On April 23, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was making available its Interpretive Statement addressing whether the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program applies to releases of a pollutant from a point source to groundwater (Interpretive Statement) for comment. 84 Fed. Reg. 16810. EPA is issuing the Interpretative statement to “provide clarity on [EPA’s] interpretation of the [CWA] given the mixed record of prior [EPA] statements and a split in the federal circuit courts regarding this issue.” EPA’s Interpretive Statement states that it “sets forth [its] interpretation of the [CWA NPDES] permit program’s applicability to releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater that subsequently migrate or are conveyed by groundwater to jurisdictional surface waters” and “EPA concludes that the [CWA] is best read as excluding all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from NPDES program coverage and liability under Section 301 of the CWA, regardless of a hydrologic connection between the groundwater and a jurisdictional surface water.” EPA also released a fact sheet on its Interpretive Statement, available online.
The April 23 Federal Register notice states that the Interpretative Statement reflects EPA’s consideration of the public comments received in response to its February 20, 2018, Federal Register notice (83 Fed. Reg. 7126) which requested comment on EPA’s previous statements regarding whether pollutant discharges from point sources that reach jurisdictional surface waters via groundwater or other subsurface flow that has a direct hydrologic connection to the jurisdictional surface water may be subject to CWA regulation. EPA received over 50,000 comments from a wide range of stakeholders, many of which affirmed that additional clarity from EPA was necessary. EPA reached its conclusion based on the comments received and on “a holistic analysis of the [CWA], its text, structure, and legislative history.” EPA also references numerous policy considerations that support excluding groundwater discharges from NPDES permitting, including existing state and federal authorities and statutes that play a role in regulating groundwater quality (e.g., Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) program).
EPA is soliciting public comments on the Interpretive Statement, specifically regarding what may be needed to provide further clarity and regulatory certainty on this issue. Comments are due by June 7, 2019.
EPA’s Interpretive Statement comes at a critical time when the U.S. Supreme Court is set to address the question of “[w]hether the [CWA] requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater” (see SCOTUSblog) in its review of the Ninth Circuit decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (Maui). A petition for U.S. Supreme Court review is also pending on the Fourth Circuit decision in Kinder Morgan Energy Partners v. Upstate Forever (Kinder Morgan), which held similarly to Maui that “a discharge that passes from a point source through ground water to navigable waters may support a claim under the CWA.” A pair of September 2018 Sixth Circuit decisions (Kentucky Waterways Alliance v. Kentucky Utilities Co. and Tennessee Clean Water Network v. TVA) expressly disagreed with the holdings in Maui and Kinder Morgan -- resulting in a “circuit split.” Although the facts in Maui (wastewater injected into UIC wells) and Kinder Morgan (gas spilled from underground pipeline) may not involve activities common in agriculture and pesticide applications, the new judicial “tests” created in these decisions could dramatically expand the scope of the NPDES universe in ways that could potentially implicate agricultural/pesticide practices. For example, in Maui, the Ninth Circuit held that Maui County’s discharges from UIC wells to groundwater should require CWA discharge permits because the pollutants from the UIC wells that reached a navigable water were “fairly traceable” and levels reaching the navigable water were “more than de minimis.” The Ninth Circuit’s Maui holding could be stretched broadly to support the assertion that pesticides and fertilizers applied to agricultural lands that migrate through groundwater and eventually reach a CWA jurisdictional water could be subject to NPDES permitting. Agriculture and pesticide stakeholders may wish to closely monitor developments around groundwater discharge issues at EPA and the U.S. Supreme Court.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Sheryl Lindros Dolan, and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On March 25, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted Draft Guidance for Plant Regulator Label Claims, Including Plant Biostimulants in Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2018-0258. EPA issued the notice of availability in the Federal Register on March 27, 2019. 84 Fed. Reg. 11538. Comments on the draft guidance are due by May 28, 2019.
EPA states that the draft guidance is intended to “provide guidance on identifying product label claims that are considered to be plant regulator claims” by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and thereby distinguish claims that would not subject plant biostimulants (PBS) to regulation under FIFRA as plant regulators. While EPA has not yet promulgated a regulatory definition for a PBS, the draft guidance describes a PBS as “a naturally-occurring substance or microbe that is used either by itself or in combination with other naturally-occurring substances or microbes for the purpose of stimulating natural processes in plants or in the soil in order to, among other things, improve nutrient and/or water use efficiency by plants, help plants tolerate abiotic stress, or improve the physical, chemical, and/or biological characteristics of the soil as a medium for plant growth.” EPA is seeking comment on the draft guidance itself, as well as on whether it should develop a definition for PBSs. EPA states that there is currently no statutory definition for PBSs under FIFRA and that development of a definition for PBSs would require rulemaking. The guidance also notes that the 2018 Farm Bill, enacted on December 20, 2018, does provide a statutory definition for PBSs, which is: “a substance or micro-organism that, when applied to seeds, plants, or the rhizosphere, stimulates natural processes to enhance or benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, or crop quality and yield.”
In developing the draft guidance, EPA states that it “considered whether a PBS product, as understood by EPA, physiologically influences the growth and development of plants in such a way as to be considered plant regulators under FIFRA thereby triggering regulation as a pesticide” and that “a key consideration is what claims are being made on product labels.” Further, as FIFRA Section 2(v) both defines plant regulator and explains which substances are excluded from the definition, “many PBS products and substances may be excluded or exempt from regulation under FIFRA depending upon their intended uses as plant nutrients (e.g., fertilizers), plant inoculants, soil amendments, and vitamin-hormone products.”
The draft guidance provides several examples of both product label claims that are considered plant regulator claims and claims that that are not considered plant regulator claims. The examples are described in the Tables below.
- “Product label claims generally considered ‘non-pesticidal’ (i.e. non-plant regulator claims),” including: “plant nutrition-based claims” (Table 1a); “plant inoculant-based claims” (Table 1b); and “soil amendment-based claims” (Table 1c):
- “Generic product label claims for products not covered by the exclusions in the FIFRA Section 2(v) definition of a plant regulator,” including “examples of generic product label claims generally considered by the Agency to be ‘non-pesticidal’” (Table 2):
- “Plant regulator product label claims that are consistent with the FIFRA Section 2(v) plant regulator definition” including “examples of label claims that are considered … to be plant growth regulator claims that trigger regulation under FIFRA as a pesticide” (Table 3):
- “EPA-registered, naturally-occurring, plant regulator active ingredients having modes of action and associated product label claims that are consistent with the FIFRA definition of a plant regulator” (Table 4):
By James V. Aidala and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.
On March 21, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was updating its Residual Time to 25% Bee Mortality (RT25) Data Table with information it has collected since the table was first published in 2014. EPA states that the “RT25 data help farmers and beekeepers know about how long a specific pesticide may remain toxic to bees and other insect pollinators following foliar application to crops,” and the new data “reflect the results of studies the agency has analyzed as part of [its] routine pesticide regulatory activities.” One example that EPA provides regarding how this new data will work is that farmers can now “choose pesticides that quickly lose their toxicity to bees,” and that applying the products in the evening “helps ensure that by morning the pests have been dealt with and blooming crops are safe for bees.”
EPA states that RT25 values are a function of a number of factors including application rate, physical-chemical properties, dissipation, crop, and pesticide formulation. The values provided were compiled from registrant-submitted data submitted to fulfill the data requirement for Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Toxicity of Residues on Foliage study (OCSPP Guideline 850.3030). EPA states that the honey bee toxicity of residues on foliage study “is a laboratory test designed to determine the length of time over which field weathered foliar residues remain toxic to honey bees, or other species of terrestrial insects” and, depending on the chemical tested, “either the technical grade active ingredient or a specific formulation was tested using either the honey bee, alfalfa leaf cutting bee, or alkali bee.” The data table lists the test material, the species tested, and the plant species on which residues were aged.
EPA plans to update the table annually as it collects additional data going forward. More information on EPA’s actions intended to protect pollinators is available on EPA’s website.
In addition to providing the residual toxicity values, the table also illustrates the wide range of toxicity values among the various pesticides. RT25 times for the different active ingredients can range between a few and over 500 hours to reach the RT25 threshold. Even different formulations using the same active ingredient can have a significant difference in toxicity values. This illustrates the importance of reading the specific label instructions for a pesticide, even one that might be generally familiar to the user.
EPA’s publication of this information online also imposes a duty for EPA to continually update the table, especially to capture any changes in the information appearing in an earlier listing of the data. If, upon further review or later data submissions there are changes to the table for a product, EPA will need to alert users to potentially important changes in the information. Again, this illustrates the need for reading the label for each pesticide at the time of application, since some important information may have changed.