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, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Lisa R. Burchi

On July 1, 2016, in an administrative appeal of the June 1, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Initial Decision and an earlier order denying Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc.’s (BCS/NAI) Motion for Accelerated Decision that held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was authorized to cancel the conditional flubendiamide registrations under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(e) and did not need to provide BCS/NAI the full Section 6(b) cancellation process, the parties in the case filed post-oral argument briefs.  The briefs were ordered by the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB or Board) following oral arguments held on June 22, 2016, by BCS/NAI and EPA.

Additional information regarding this case is available in our blog items EPA ALJ Issues Initial Decision in Bayer Flubendiamide Cancellation Proceeding and EPA ALJ Denies Bayer’s Motion for Accelerated Decision.

The EAB requested that the parties submit post-order briefs responding to questions raised by the Board during oral argument, and the responses filed by the parties demonstrate their divergent views on issues related to this conditional registration and the process by which EPA sought to cancel such registration.

The specific questions asked by the Board and BCS/NAI and EPA’s responses are as follows:

1(a).  What authority does the Board have in a FIFRA section 6(e) proceeding to consider the lawfulness of a condition of registration, given that section 6(e) proceedings are statutorily limited to two issues:  (1) whether a condition of registration has been violated; and (2) whether EPA's determination with respect to disposition of existing stocks is consistent with FIFRA?

BCS/NAI argues that the EAB must resolve questions about the lawfulness of a condition of registration in determining whether the condition has been violated and to ensure that it has jurisdiction over this proceeding.  BCS/NAI states: “For the EAB to determine ‘whether the … conditions have been satisfied within the time provided’ under FIFRA § 6(e)(2), the Board must necessarily first consider whether the conditions are valid.”  BCS/NAI further argues that its “challenge to the lawfulness of the voluntary cancellation provisions is a challenge to the ALJ’s and EAB’s subject matter jurisdiction over this proceeding, the resolution of which is part of the Board’s inherent authority.”  BCS/NAI argues that the EAB should find that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to administer this dispute and remand to the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP).

EPA, in contrast, stated that EAB “lacks the authority to rule on an issue clearly beyond the well-defined and narrow scope of section 6(e).”  If the EAB disagrees with EPA’s position, EPA states that for all the reasons it set forth in its previous motions, “the challenged condition was clearly lawful.”

1(b).  If the Board does possess the authority in a section 6(e) proceeding to consider the lawfulness of a condition of registration, may a third party also challenge the lawfulness of either that condition or any other aspect of the registration?

BCS/NAI argued that the Board’s authority to consider the lawfulness of a condition of registration does not give third parties broad rights to challenge the lawfulness of the condition or all aspects of the registration.  On this point EPA seemingly agrees, stating “While EPA would want to do a more thorough study of relevant case law and legislative history before answering this question definitively, EPA has significant doubts that any third party could challenge any condition of registration in a FIFRA section 6(e) proceeding.”

1(c).  Finally, if the Board were to conclude that the voluntary cancellation condition in the flubendiamide registrations is unlawful, what effect would such a holding have on the registration itself?

BCS/NAI argues that striking the voluntary cancellation provisions would not invalidate the registrations.  Instead, “If the Board concludes that the voluntary cancellation provisions are unlawful, they can be stricken from the registrations and the registrations may continue without consequence other than ensuring that EPA cannot pursue an unlawful process.”  BCS/NAI states that if EPA still wishes to proceed with cancellation, it must do so under FIFRA Sections 6(b) and (c).

EPA takes the position that if the EAB “decides it has the authority under section 6(e) to review the lawfulness of the cancellation condition, and finds it unlawful, the EAB should void the flubendiamide registrations.”  Specifically, EPA states: “If the condition is found to be unlawful, the whole registration must be voided because it has never been found to meet the standard for registration under FIFRA without the cancellation condition.  Although the EAB can rule on the legality of EPA’s actions that are within the scope of this proceeding, the authority to issue a registration on different terms is reserved to OPP.”

2.  FIFRA section 6(e) provides that any hearing on a notice of intent to cancel issued under section 6(e) shall be conducted under FIFRA section 6(d). An order issued after a section 6(d) hearing "shall be based only on substantial evidence of record of such hearing." 7 U.S.C. § 136d(d).  What standard of proof does this provision require? In answering this question, take into account that FIFRA section 16 requires that a substantial evidence standard be applied by a court in reviewing EPA decisions following a hearing, and the Supreme Court's decision in Steadman v. SEC, 450 U.S. 91 (1981).

BCS/NAI argues that the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof applies to orders issued by the EAB after a Section 6(e) hearing.  EPA’s position is that a hearing to address the scope of FIFRA Section 6(e) must be conducted in accordance with FIFRA Section 6(d), which states that an order issued after such a hearing “shall be based only on substantial evidence of record of such hearing.”  

3.  What "conclusions" are covered by the requirement in the flubendiamide conditional registration that EPA "shall engage in dialogue about the data and the Agency's conclusions?" Does EPA's determination on the toxic endpoint level constitute a "conclusion" within the meaning of the registration?

BCS/NAI argues that EPA was required “to not only engage in general dialogue about the data, but also to disclose and engage in dialogue about the Agency’s final decisions and judgments about the data and whether they support continued registration,” including EPA’s unreasonable adverse effects determination and decisions on toxicological endpoints.  Specifically, BCS/NAI states: “It makes sense that a condition requiring good-faith dialogue before demanding cancellation based on an unreasonable adverse effects determination would include dialogue about the final determination. In this case, EPA precluded any opportunity for such dialogue by issuing its determination on the same day as its cancellation demand.”

EPA argues in the first instance that, as the ALJ determined, BCS/NAI did not timely raise the sufficiency of dialogue issue.  If EAB considers this issue timely, EPA provides a summary of EPA’s risk assessment process and argues that “the endpoint selection was one of many components that support the conclusions in the risk assessment, but the endpoint selections were not themselves identified as conclusions in the flubendiamide risk assessments.”

4.  Appellants argue on appeal that EPA presented "new conclusions in the January 29, 2016 Decision and supporting documents that were not discussed with Registrants." Appeal Brief of Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc. at 22. If there were new conclusions presented in these documents, what were they, and where in the record are these conclusions detailed?

BCS/NAI argues that EPA presented at least three new conclusions in the January 29, 2016, documents that were not discussed with registrants: (1) EPA disclosed for the first time on January 29, 2016 its determination that “continued use of flubendiamide as currently registered … will result in unreasonable adverse effects to the environment;” (2) “Second, throughout the Decision Memorandum, EPA refers to its conclusions that exposure concentrations based on EPA’s theoretical modeling exceed or will exceed ‘Agency LOCs [levels of concern]’ within certain time periods based on unspecified toxicological endpoints”; and (3) “Third, and perhaps most critically, the Decision Memorandum and supporting documents contain buried within them EPA’s decision to adopt the 0.28 ppb sediment pore water endpoint from the spiked water study, which had been superseded by an endpoint from the scientifically more relevant and sound spiked sediment study, as the sole basis for its cancellation determination.”

EPA rejects Appellants’ argument that there were any new conclusions in its January 29, 2016, decision and supporting documents.  EPA continues to contend that the toxicity endpoint is not a “conclusion” or “new,” instead arguing that risk assessment documents indicate EPA has been relying on the .28 ppb concentration since 2008.

5.  EPA relied upon a toxic endpoint level from the Des-iodo Spiked Water 28-Day Study (MRID 46817023), among other evidence, in its January 29, 2016 unreasonable adverse effects determination for flubendiamide.  What does the record show as to whether Appellants were notified of EPA's intent to use this toxic endpoint level prior to January 29, 2016?

BCS/NAI argued that EPA deliberately thwarted dialogue on the use of the 0.28 ppb endpoint and did not disclose its final decision until January 29, 2016.  While acknowledging that the 0.28 ppb sediment pore water endpoint was calculated back in 2008, BCS/NAI notes that they submitted a spiked sediment study in 2010 based on comments from EPA for its preference for such a study, and that EPA reviewed the spiked sediment study in July 2011 and concluded that it supported a TWA pore water sediment endpoint of 19.5 ppb.  After that, BCS/NAI states:

  • [T]he record shows that OPP chose not to notify Registrants at a putative final meeting on December 15, 2015 that it had decided to revert to the 0.28 ppb endpoint; briefed the Assistant Administrator on the case for cancellation using analysis employing that endpoint the very next day; precluded meaningful discussion of the use of the lower endpoint by denying the Agency had made that decision at the January 6, 2016 meeting and presenting the lower endpoint as one endpoint among a “suite” of available endpoints; and deliberately obscured its reliance on the unsound endpoint in its final decision documents issued on the same day as the cancellation demand -- which do not even mention the choice, let alone provide the scientific basis for it.

EPA, in contrast, states that the record shows that EPA “openly and consistently treated the chronic toxicity endpoint from the Des-iodo Spiked Water 28-Day Study (MRID 46817023) as the appropriate regulatory endpoint, and neither withheld information regarding the endpoint, or changed its endpoint selection at any time between 2008 and the issuance of the [Notice of Intent to Cancel].”

6.  FIFRA section 6(f) mandates that voluntary cancellation requests may not be acted upon by EPA until a notice-and-comment procedure has been completed. If Appellants had requested voluntary cancellation of the flubendiamide registrations under section 6(f), could they have challenged EPA's unreasonable adverse effects determination during the notice-and-comment period?

BCS/NAI argued that if registrants had requested voluntary cancellation under Section 6(f), they could not have effectively challenged EPA’s unreasonable adverse effects determination during the notice-and-comment period.  BCS/NAI argues that “in exchange for the opportunity to submit public comments criticizing the lack of scientific support for EPA’s unreasonable adverse effects determination, Registrants would have had to cancel products that they believe should properly remain registered, forgo their statutory rights to a cancellation decision that is subject to interagency review by the Secretary of Agriculture and scientific peer review by the Scientific Advisory Panel and that can be challenged in an administrative proceeding, and, in doing so, potentially jeopardize their ability to seek and obtain judicial review of that decision.”  BCS/NAI states further: “No registrant should be forced to sacrifice its statutory and due process rights in order to raise scientific concerns that EPA is free to ignore. Nor should registrants be held to have lost their rights to challenge the conditions by failing to pursue such an unfavorable path, particularly when the conditions of registration at issue themselves point to the right to invoke and seek relief through the § 6(e) process.”

EPA’s position is that “comments submitted during the section 6(f) comment period would become part of the Agency’s records and, to the extent relevant to EPA’s cancellation decision, could be expected to be part of the administrative record if someone appealed EPA’s decision to approve or deny the voluntary cancellation request to the federal courts.”

7.  Is the doctrine of laches legally applicable to this proceeding? If so, explain how the record supports this conclusion.

A claim can be barred by laches when “the delay in filing the claim (1) is unreasonable and inexcusable and (2) materially prejudices the defendant.” BCS/NAI argued that the doctrine of laches does not apply here, as there was no unreasonable delay by registrants, and there is no prejudice to EPA.  BCS/NAI states that they were justified in not pursuing any of the purported options for an earlier challenge that EPA’s claims were available.  Instead, BCS/NAI chose “to generate the required data and satisfy the substantive conditions of registration, trusting that if the data did not show evidence of accumulation to levels of concern (which they did not), EPA would follow the science and the terms of the PAL and grant unconditional flubendiamide registrations.” 

While EPA agrees that if the proceeding is limited to the scope set forth by Section 6(e), the laches doctrine would not be applicable.  EPA also argues that “if EPA were to determine that the appropriateness of the cancellation condition is an appropriate issue for resolution,” then laches would apply.  To support its position, EPA states that there is “substantial evidence in the record” that BCS/NAI waited almost eight years to challenge the condition of their registration that is now at issue.  EPA further argues that it would be prejudiced because key negotiators of the cancellation condition and the initial registrations are no longer available and “this lack of available witness testimony could materially prejudice the Agency.”

Commentary

The questions posed by the EAB, and the respective responses by BCS/NAI and EPA, indicate fundamental differences regarding the facts and application of the law to this case.  Although the resolution of this case has potential implications for current and future registrations, EPA has acknowledged the unique circumstances of this case, and indicates that it is unlikely that a conditional registration like that issued for flubendiamide will be issued again.

EPA states: “the structure of the flubendiamide cancellation condition was unprecedented, and the flubendiamide experience shows that a condition requiring a registrant to request cancellation pursuant to section 6(f) is significantly less reliable than a condition that would allow a registration to simply expire.  EPA is unlikely to grant in the future a registration with conditions that depend on a registrant requesting cancellation pursuant to section 6(f).”  The statement by EPA that it is more likely in the future to impose a condition that would allow affected registrations “to simply expire” leaves unresolved the question of the rights a registrant would have to contest cancellation based on such an expiration date. 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On July 18, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that PuriCore Inc. (PuriCore), paid a $550,000 penalty for the unauthorized distribution of two of its pesticide products, ProduceFresh and FloraFresh, that were used in supermarkets nationwide.  Along with the penalty, EPA issued a stop-sale order to PuriCore prohibiting the sale of ProduceFresh.  PuriCore’s unauthorized distribution and sale of pesticide products violates the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

ProduceFresh is used as part of a crisping process in the produce section of stores, and FloraFresh is used in floral departments.  EPA states that PuriCore had submitted an application to EPA to register ProduceFresh as a pesticide, however, EPA has not completed its review of the risks associated with the product.  FloraFresh was registered as a pesticide as of February 12, 2016, but PuriCore had been distributing FloraFresh to supermarkets for at a least a year prior to it being registered.

The recent enforcement action offers a use reminder to FIFRA stakeholders not to market products before they are registered by EPA relevant state agencies.  More information on FIFRA requirements and pesticide registration issues can be found on our FIFRA FAQs webpage, as well as this blog -- keywords FIFRA and registration.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
 
On July 5, 2016, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a brief opinion denying a petition for review of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order in which EPA declined to “immediately adopt interim prohibitions on the use of toxic drift-prone pesticides … near homes, schools, parks, and daycare centers or wherever children congregate.”  Petitioners Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), United Farm Workers, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PANNA, et al.) filed an administrative petition in 2009 asking EPA to conduct pesticide-specific drift assessments and to impose interim buffer zones to protect children from pesticide drift.
 
The Circuit Court agreed with EPA’s contention that the petitioners do not have jurisdiction to review the reregistration and tolerance determinations previously made by EPA pursuant to the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), because such challenges are now time barred.  EPA agreed with the petitioners that it should consider potential risks from spray drift as part of the registration review under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  The petitioners argued that EPA had thereby acknowledged legal error when it previously reregistered food-use pesticides, but EPA has vigorously contested that premise.  In 2014, EPA issued a proposal describing the methodology for assessing risk from pesticide drift that EPA will use prospectively in making registration review decisions.
 
The petitioners requested that EPA adopt interim relief by imposing uniform buffer zones for all pesticides that are registered for application by ground sprayers, broadcast, or aerial application, and that may cause certain human health effects.  EPA rejected this request for across-the-board buffer zones as unscientific and inefficient and likely to result in a misallocation of EPA resources.  The Circuit Court concluded that “substantial evidence” supports EPA’s decision to deny this interim relief, stating that “[t]he record suggests that the risk of exposure to pesticide draft depends on a number of factors, including pesticide toxicity, the method of application, the size of pesticide droplets, and weather conditions,” and “adequately supports EPA’s conclusion that the imposition of uniform buffer zones is not the most ‘scientifically appropriate’ method for mitigating the risk of exposure to pesticide drift.”


Commentary


The Circuit Court has clearly recognized that uniform buffer zones like those sought by the petitioners would not be “scientifically appropriate.”  While this decision is both welcome by industry and constructive, the evaluation of potential exposure and risk from pesticide drift during the registration review process for individual pesticides will likely remain controversial.

More information on EPA’s spray drift policy is available in our memorandum Spray Drift and Volatilization: Issues to Navigate Carefully as EPA Develops Registration Review Decisions.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson, Lisa M. Campbell, and Lisa R. Burchi

On June 29, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Court) issued an opinion dismissing the complaint and denying the motion for summary judgment of the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility (CEH, et al.), and granting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for summary judgment. 

Background

This case stems from a petition filed in 2006 requesting EPA to initiate a rulemaking to require the labeling of 371 inert ingredients in pesticides.  EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) in 2009, but did not proceed further with a rulemaking.  CEH, et al. filed a second lawsuit in March 2014, alleging that EPA’s failure to complete the rulemaking process started by the ANPR violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  In May 2014, EPA responded by amending its response to the 2006 petition to explain that it had decided to pursue an approach different from requiring mandatory disclosure on the pesticide label of a hazardous inert ingredient.  EPA announced that it would instead pursue a “‘combination of regulatory and focused non-regulatory actions that do not rely on rulemaking’ including potentially:  (1) removing over ninety chemicals from the list of inert ingredients approved for pesticide use; (2) evaluating the effect of the 371 inert ingredients on food crops; (3) directing pesticide registrants to modify their registrations by replacing hazardous inert ingredients with less hazardous ones; and (4) seeking to expand the existing voluntary disclosure program.”  The Court granted EPA’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in the March 2014 lawsuit, “finding that there was no further relief that [the Court] could offer to plaintiffs and that the action was moot.”

CEH, et al.’s complaint in the case at issue challenges EPA’s May 2014 denial of its rulemaking petition, alleging that under FIFRA and APA, EPA’s decision to deny the rulemaking petition was “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to [FIFRA].”  CEH, et al. requested the court to “set aside the denial and to remand the decision to the EPA to consider ‘the evidence weighing in favor of disclosure of inert pesticide ingredients.’”  Background on the complaint is available in our blog item NGOs File Suit Regarding Inert Ingredients’ Disclosure.

In support of its ruling to grant EPA’s motion for summary judgment, the court stated:  “EPA is not mandated to require disclosure of the inert ingredients at issue,” since “[p]laintiffs have provided no persuasive evidence that EPA’s decision to forego rulemaking is inconsistent with the ANPR.”  The Court noted, for example, that EPA’s regulation governing disclosure of inert ingredients, 40 C.F.R. § 156.10(g)(7), states that “[t]he Administrator may require the name of any inert ingredient(s) to be listed in the ingredient statement if he determines that such ingredient(s) may pose a hazard to man or the environment”; this allows EPA to require applicants to list hazardous inert ingredients, but “does not mandate it.”  In addition, the Court found that EPA’s decision “that a series of non-rule actions would achieve a greater reduction in the risks from the use of pesticides and could be implemented in a timelier manner,” was not arbitrary or capricious, even if it “conceivably offers a less effective remedy than what plaintiffs sought.”

Discussion

The decision supports EPA’s discretionary authority to determine how to best manage and address any inert ingredients that may cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.  EPA has set forth several actions that it is taking or intends to take in lieu of mandatory label disclosure of inert ingredients.  For example, on October 22, 2014, EPA proposed to remove 72 chemical substances from the current listing of inert ingredients approved for use in pesticide products because the inert ingredients are no longer used in any registered pesticide product.  Registrants of any pesticides containing a potentially hazardous inert ingredient should monitor how EPA’s regulatory and focused non-regulatory actions affect such substances.  


 

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

On June 7, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was making two draft Pesticide Registration Notices (PR Notices) available for public comment:  (1) PR Notice 2016-X:  Draft Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Pesticide Resistance Management Labeling; and (2) PR Notice 2016-XX:  Draft Guidance for Herbicide Resistance Management Labeling, Education, Training, and Stewardship.  In its news release, EPA states that it has started a “more widespread effort aimed at combating and slowing the development of pesticide resistance,” in an effort to “address the growing issue of resistance and preserve the useful life of pesticides.”

Draft PR Notice 2016-X

Draft PR Notice 2016-X, which revises and updates PR Notice 2001-5, applies to all conventional agricultural pesticides (i.e., herbicides, fungicides, bactericides, insecticides and acaricides).  The focus of the updates in PR Notice 2016-X is on pesticide labels and improving information about how pesticide users can minimize and manage pest resistance.  

Specifically, EPA is proposing that specific resistance-management statements be included with the Directions for Use section under the heading “Resistance Management Recommendations.”  EPA states that the proposed labeling statements “focus on the mitigation of pest resistance and should be used where applicable based on the availability of other pesticides and production practices specific to that crop.”  As one example, EPA recommends the following general resistance management labeling statements for insecticide/acaricide products containing only a single active ingredient or multiple active ingredients that are from the same Mode of Action (MOA) group:

  • For resistance management, (name of product) contains a Group (mode of action group number) insecticide (or acaricide). Any (insect/mite) population may contain individuals naturally resistant to (name of product) and other Group (mode of action group number) insecticides/acaricides. The resistant individuals may dominate the insect/mite population if this group of insecticides/acaricides are used repeatedly in the same fields.

Since the recommended resistance-management statements depend on an active ingredient’s MOA, PR Notice 2016-X also addresses MOA grouping and identification symbols for agricultural uses of herbicides, fungicides/bactericides, and insecticides/acaricides.  The pesticide groupings are provided by the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), the Herbicide Resistance Action Committee (HRAC), the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) and the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC).  The MOA groups, and the identifier numbers and/or letters (i.e., symbols or codes) for herbicides, fungicides/bactericides and insecticides/acaricides may be accessed through the websites of the different Resistance Action Committees.  For example, for insecticides, IRAC uses a combination of numbers and letters to identify various MOA groups.  EPA recommends that the IRAC MOA identifier codes be used for designating insecticide MOA grouping information on labels for pesticides containing insecticides.  The IRAC MOA list and identifier codes can be found online.

While current PR Notice 2001-5 contains similar guidance in terms of MOA groupings and general pesticide-resistance statements, the Draft PR Notice 2016-X provides:  (1) additional guidance, and recommended format, for resistance management statements or information to place on labels; (2) includes references to external technical resources for guidance on resistance management (e.g., professional scientific societies, resistance action committees for different types of pesticides); and (3) updates the instructions on how to submit changes to existing labels to enhance resistance management language.  In addition, while PR Notice 2001-5 states that “implementation of this program is purely voluntary by the pesticide industry,” the language in Draft PR Notice 2016-X is arguably stronger, with EPA “encouraging” registrants to add the appropriate resistance-management statements through notification, amendment, or as part of an application for a new product.

Draft PR Notice 2016-XX

Draft PR Notice 2016-XX, which only applies to herbicides, is intended to provide guidance on labeling, education, training, and stewardship for herbicides undergoing registration review or registration (i.e., new herbicide actives, new uses proposed for use on herbicide-resistant crops, or other case-specific registration actions).  EPA states it is focusing on the holistic guidance for herbicides first because:

  1. Herbicides are the most widely used agricultural chemicals;
  2. No new herbicide mechanism of action has been developed in the last 30 years; and
  3. Herbicide-resistant weeds are rapidly increasing.  In the future, the Agency plans to evaluate other types of pesticides (e.g., fungicides, bactericides, insecticides, and acaricides) to determine whether and what guidance may be appropriate for these types of pesticides.

Under guidance described in PR Notice 2016-XX, EPA proposes to divide 28 herbicide Mechanisms of Actions into three categories of concern (low, moderate, high) based on the risk of developing herbicide-resistant weeds.  Appendix I to PR Notice 2016-XX provides three tables with herbicide Mechanisms of Actions of “Low Concern,” “Moderate Concern,” and “High Concern” for herbicide resistance.  EPA states its intent to make these tables available on its website, noting that the tables would need to be “checked periodically to determine if there are changes to the groupings or level of concern categories.”  Appendix II to PR Notice 2016-XX sets forth the following eleven elements that are focused on labeling, education, training, and stewardship strategies:

  • Element 1.  List Mechanism of Action Group Number on label.
  • Element 2.  List seasonal and annual maximum number of applications and amounts.
  • Element 3.  Provide Resistance Management language from PR Notice 2016-X, and/or Best Management Practices language from WSSA and HRAC, and/or HRAC proposed guidelines for herbicide labels. Note that Best Management Practices (BMP) should be appropriate to crop and production system.
  • Element 4.  Instruction to user to scout before and after application.
  • Element 5.  Provide definition of Likely Resistance.
  • Element 6.  Instruction to user to report lack of performance to registrant or their representative.
  • Element 7.  List confirmed resistant weeds in a separate table and list recommended rates for these weeds with the table.
  • Element 8.  Registrant report new cases of likely and confirmed resistance to EPA and users yearly. This is in addition to any adverse effects reporting.
  • Element 9.  Provide growers with:
  1. Resistance Management Plan;
  2. Remedial Action Plan (to control resistant weeds this season or next season);
  3. Educational materials on resistance management; and
  4. Plans should be locally developed and easily modified. EPA recommends that registrants work with Extension, Consultants, Crop Groups, HRAC, and the U.S. Department of Agricultute (USDA).
  • Element 10.  For combination products with multiple Mechanisms of Action, list which herbicide is controlling which weed (a three-way mixture may only have one effective Mechanism of Action for some problem weeds).  List minimum recommended rate if resistance is suspected.
  • Element 11.  Any additional specific requirements (e.g., mandatory crop rotation, unique agronomic aspects, additional training, time limited registration, etc.).

Elements 1 through 4 are proposed for Mechanisms of Actions of Low Concern, elements 1 through 8 are proposed for Mechanisms of Actions of Moderate Concern, and elements 1 through 11 are proposed for Mechanisms of Actions of High Concern.

The PR Notices are available on www.regulations.gov under Docket Numbers EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0242 for PR Notice 2016-X; and EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0226 for PR Notice 2016-XX.  Comments are due by August 2, 2016

With regard to PR Notice 2016-XX, EPA states that while comments are welcome on all aspects of this Notice, EPA is especially interested in comments on the following: (1) the approach, elements and categorization used to address herbicide resistance; (2) limiting the application of these measures during registration review to new herbicide active ingredients, new uses of herbicides proposed for use on herbicide-resistant crops, and other case-specific registration actions; (3) other effective measures to inform the stakeholder community of the occurrence of likely resistance; and (4) other useful strategies that, when implemented, would slow the development of herbicide resistance and prolong the useful life of herbicides.

More information on pesticide resistance management is available on EPA’s website.

Commentary

Avoiding the onset of resistance to any pesticide product is a widely shared goal of users and registrants of the pesticide to maintain the effectiveness and profitability of the product.  There is controversy, however, when EPA suggests specific instructions to the user community, since pesticide applications are site and situation specific, making general “one size fits all” approaches, even “flexible” ones, suspect among much of the user community.  When the instructions involve label requirements, which are enforceable, concerns about flexibility and the need to adapt to local conditions increase.

Resistance management has been a stated goal of EPA for some time; here EPA seems to argue it is of the utmost importance to preserve useful pest control tools since it is better to have more “tools in the toolbox.”  Yet, when EPA seeks to restrict a product or class of products and users and registrants cite the need for that product for resistance management, few benefits seem to be associated with resistance management in such cases.  Overall, there is also suspicion that EPA’s concerns regarding herbicide resistance masks a political response to critics of the widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops -- since the high value of resistance management gains little value when EPA attempts to restrict other products.  An example is EPA’s approach to organophosphate insecticides, where EPA is currently seeking to eliminate many uses that otherwise are viewed as important for insecticide resistance management.

Having EPA attempt to address resistance management via label instructions will be controversial, notwithstanding broad consensus that avoiding resistance is a shared goal.  So, the likely debate will focus less on the goal, and more on the means of achieving the goal, as this issue moves forward.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Sheryl L. Dolan

On June 2, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released harmonized product chemistry templates for use by registrants when submitting pesticide registration packages

These templates were developed by EPA and PMRA under the United States -- Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) workplan.  EPA stated that the templates are based on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Harmonized Templates for Reporting Chemical Test Summaries’ format, “but have been streamlined to address a single product/application and will facilitate the review of product chemistry data for global and joint registrations, as well as other actions.”  EPA and PMRA are encouraging applicants to begin using these templates to organize and summarize the product chemistry data for each product and/or registration package that is submitted to EPA and PMRA.

More information on these templates is available in the RCC’s Work Planning Format document.  


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Timothy D. Backstrom

On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Susan L. Biro issued an Initial Decision in the matter of Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc. (BCS/NAI), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Docket No. FIFRA-HQ-2016-0001.

This decision was issued following BCS/NAI’s request for a hearing to contest EPA’s Notice of Intent to Cancel Pesticide Registrations (NOIC).  BCS/NAI challenged EPA’s position that a conditional registration term in the relevant registrations required BCS/NAI to cancel voluntarily their flubendiamide registrations within one week of notification by EPA that the currently registered flubendiamide products will result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, and EPA’s issuance of a NOIC for all BCS/NAI flubendiamide products as a result of BCS/NAI’s decision declining EPA’s request to cancel voluntarily all flubendiamide registrations.

In an earlier order, Biro denied BCS/NAI’s Motion for Accelerated Decision and ruled that as a matter of law EPA was authorized to cancel the conditional registrations under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(e) and did not need to provide BCS/NAI the full Section 6(b) cancellation process.  More information regarding that decision is available in our blog item EPA ALJ Denies Bayer’s Motion for Accelerated Decision.

Without the ability to review the bases underlying EPA’s determination that the continued registration of flubendiamide does not meet the Registration Standard under Section 6(b), the only two issues for consideration under Section 6(e) were: (1) whether BCS/NAI “initiated and pursued appropriate action to comply” with the voluntary cancellation provision of their conditional flubendiamide registration; and (2) whether EPA’s existing stocks determination was consistent with FIFRA.

With regard to the first issue, the ALJ found that new arguments offered by BSC/NAI were not timely raised, and even if they had been, the ALJ was “not persuaded by the merits of these objections.”  Specifically, in response to the objection that BCS/NAI’s voluntary cancellation condition was excused because “EPA was required to engage in open, measured scientific dialogue before demanding cancellation” but did not do so, the ALJ found instead that “while it is clear from the record that Petitioners were not in agreement with EPA as to the toxicity end-points chosen or the Agency’s ultimate determination, they clearly were aware of them, and the rationale behind them, and had an opportunity to respond to EPA and engage in dialogue with Agency officials about these issues.”  The ALJ concluded that BCS/NAI was not excused from the voluntary cancellation provision that was a condition of BSC/NAI’s registrations and did not submit a voluntary cancellation request, thus triggering the Section 6(e) cancellation proceedings.

With regard to the second issue concerning existing stocks, BCS/NAI had challenged EPA’s determination that the use of the flubendiamide technical registration product or the further distribution and sales of the end-use products would be prohibited, but use of the end-use products by end-users would be allowed.  BCS/NAI argued that FIFRA is a risk-based statute and the facts supported an existing stocks policy that allows for sale, distribution, and use of the limited existing stocks available at the time of cancellation.  The ALJ found, however, that EPA’s decision was consistent with FIFRA since FIFRA grants EPA the discretion to allow the continued sale and use of a cancelled pesticide but does not require that EPA make any “determination” that continued use and sale is consistent with FIFRA’s purposes.

Commentary

BCS/NAI have indicated they will appeal the matter to the Environmental Appeals Board.  A key issue in this forthcoming appeal will be whether EPA had discretion to adopt a condition of registration so restrictive in nature that it deprived BCS/NAI of any meaningful right to contest EPA’s subsequent scientific determinations.  Most conditional registrations do not include a comparable condition, but it is common for EPA to issue conditional registrations under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7) that remain in effect only for a limited period during the pendency of data development.

This case illustrates the difficulty that a registrant may encounter subsequently contesting any condition that it has nominally accepted.  Applicants should be wary and should carefully scrutinize any conditions that EPA may propose.  It may be worthwhile in some instances to consider contesting a particularly onerous condition.  FIFRA Section 3(c)(6) affords every applicant the right to contest a decision by EPA to deny an application for a less restrictive registration.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On May 11, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Compliance (OC) and Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) issued a memorandum to its regional Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Division Directors and Branch Chiefs to establish a joint position of OC and OPP “for how regions should respond to requests for EPA-issued Certificates of Establishment (COEs) and Certificates of Origin (COOs).”

OC and OPP state that the need for a joint position is based on recent requests by exporters to have EPA certify that a specific facility is a registered pesticide producing establishment, or certify that a particular pesticide product was produced at a specific establishment.  These certificates are used by exporters to submit to foreign governments that require “‘EPA documentation’ prior to allowing registered and unregistered pesticide products into their jurisdictions.”

Under the new national approach, EPA regional offices are to stop issuing COEs or COOs.  In the memorandum, OC and OPP state the following three factors in support of this approach:

  • EPA does not believe that FIFRA provides the statutory authority for issuing either a COE or a COO;
  • EPA does not believe that regions have the information necessary to certify the origin of an exported pesticide, registered or unregistered, arriving at a foreign destination; and
  • EPA believes that COE letters, particularly for unregistered pesticides, may be misleading to foreign governments.

Discussion

Under this approach whereby EPA regions will cease the previously routine practice of issuing COEs and COOs, companies may encounter difficulties or business disruptions with some foreign governments that have traditionally required COEs and COOs.  OC and OPP state that they are “working on making FIFRA Section 7 establishment registration information (that which is not confidential business information) available on OC’s website,” which EPA states could be relied upon in lieu of COEs.  As for COOs, OC and OPP suggest that registrants:  (1) “should be directed to the exporters for the COO, which can then be certified by a State or local chamber of commerce”; or (2) could seek commercial third-party service providers to handle COO processing for an exporter. 

EPA states that the new joint position has no effect on Gold Seal Letters issued by OPP that provide the registration status of a registered pesticide product.  Gold Seal Letters will still be issued upon request to the appropriate registered division within OPP.

Registrants are concerned about this new approach, however, and it is likely that debate on it will continue.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On May 11, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an unpublished memorandum decision in an environmental justice case, Garcia v. McCarthy, Case No. 14-15494, that many have been watching closely.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed a decision by the U.S. District Court dismissing the Plaintiffs’ Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  The District Court case involved an effort by the original complainants (parents of Latino school children) to obtain judicial review of a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to enter into a voluntary compliance agreement with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR).  The original administrative complaint filed in 1999 alleged that CDPR “authorized the use of methyl bromide and other pesticides in a fashion that had a disproportionately harmful effect on Latino school children in violation of Title VI.”  Although EPA made an initial finding of a prima facie violation of Title VI, Plaintiffs asserted that EPA did not inform the complainants of the status of their complaint while the matter was being investigated and did not allow them to participate in settlement negotiations.

In challenging EPA’s settlement with CDPR, Petitioners alleged that EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by limiting its investigation to methyl bromide exposure between 1995 and 2001, and by failing to allow for Plaintiffs’ participation in settlement negotiations.  The Ninth Circuit followed the Supreme Court enforcement discretion case Heckler v. Cheney, 470 U.S. 821 (1985), finding that EPA’s decision to settle the matter was also committed to EPA discretion by law.  The Ninth Circuit stated:

  • [Petitioners’ allegations] are entirely untethered to any statutory provision or regulation implementing Title VI.  None of the statutes or regulations cited by plaintiffs provide a meaningful standard for defining the limits of EPA’s discretion in investigating a complaint, and none require EPA to permit plaintiffs to participate in EPA’s settlement negotiations. EPA’s plenary authority to either accept, reject, or refer a complaint to another federal agency, 40 C.F.R. § 7.120(d)(1)(i), must necessarily include the lesser power to determine the scope of the investigation in the event the complaint is accepted.

Commentary

EPA’s original decision finding a prima facie violation of Title VI by CDPR was surprising and concerning to many.  The current challenge to EPA’s decision to resolve the complaint through a voluntary settlement with CDPR raised additional environmental justice concerns.  Some industry observers were concerned about the possibility that the Ninth Circuit might view EPA’s decision to exclude the complainants from settlement discussions with disfavor.  The decision by the Ninth Circuit to affirm the District Court’s dismissal means that EPA will retain substantial discretion to negotiate appropriate settlements, even though it determines a Title VI complaint is meritorious.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and James V. Aidala

On May 9, 2016, Jack Housenger, Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), announced the selection of Anna Lowit for the Senior Science Advisor Position in OPP’s Immediate Office. 

Lowit has been a toxicologist in OPP’s Health Effects Division since 1998. Housenger’s announcement of Lowit’s selection notes that she has “provided expert technical advice and guidance to senior management on issues related to toxicity testing, human risk assessment, and science policy issues,” and that she “provided substantial input to enhance science quality and ensured that scientifically accepted procedures and consistent criteria were applied, so that OPP’s risk assessments were recognized as reflecting the state-of-the-science.”

In light of the many current and expected issues involving fundamental science policy issues -- such as the application of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X safety factor, endocrine effects tests and their meaning, utilization of information from epidemiological studies, regulatory application of constantly evolving cancer assessment methodologies, and the appropriate approach to evaluating products of synthetic biology -- the Senior Science Advisor position is among the most important positions on the organization chart of OPP.


 
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