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By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

The following documents have been filed in the Anderson v. McCarthy proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California:  (1) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Notice of Motion and Motion for Summary Judgment; (2) Defendant-Intervenors CropLife America, et al.’s Notice of Motion and Motion for Summary Judgment; and (3) Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment.

EPA’s documents are of particular interest to those who have been following this case and are concerned about the assertions in the case regarding the treated article exemption.  In its motion, EPA argues that the Ninth Circuit lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs’ claims, as the “EPA guidance document they challenge is not a judicially reviewable agency action -- much less a final action -- regarding the regulatory status of treated seed,” and Plaintiffs “have not identified any discrete, mandatory duty or action that EPA has failed to perform under [the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)].” 

EPA’s main arguments in support of its motion include:

  1. Plaintiffs have not identified any final agency actions.  The Inspection Guidance is not an agency action, and even if the Inspection Guidance were an agency action, it is not final.
  2. Count II (Plaintiffs’ allegation of EPA’s failure to regulate and enforce FIFRA with respect to pesticide-treated seeds) must be dismissed because there is no nondiscretionary duty identified by Plaintiffs that is unreasonably delayed or unlawfully withheld.
  3. Enforcement of FIFRA is a discretionary action not subject to review.

In its motion, Defendant-Intervenors argue:  “Each of Plaintiffs’ claims constitutes an impermissible programmatic attack on EPA’s existing pesticide regulatory program --specifically, the interplay between EPA’s regulation of pesticides registered to be applied as seed treatments and what Plaintiffs characterize as its categorical application of the treated article exemption to the treated seed.  As a result, each of these claims is non-justiciable as a matter of law, entitling Defendants to summary judgment in their favor.”  Defendant-Intervenors note that pesticides used for seed treatments are subject to “rigorous, scientifically robust review and approval under FIFRA,” making Plaintiffs’ attempt to impose a regulatory process “entirely duplicative of EPA’s existing exercise of its authority under FIFRA, while having no impact on human health or environmental safety.”

Plaintiffs’ memorandum sets forth its arguments for why the court should “find in favor of Plaintiffs on their four claims for relief:  that EPA failed to enforce FIFRA against an entire class of pesticides; that EPA improperly amended the treated article exemption without following proper [Administrative Procedure Act (APA)] rulemaking procedures; that EPA’s exemption of neonicotinoid-coated seeds was ultra vires and/or arbitrary and capricious under the APA; and that EPA’s labeling requirements for unregistered pesticide-coated seed bags was arbitrary and capricious under the APA and FIFRA.”  Specifically, Plaintiffs address why they believe EPA has failed to enforce FIFRA against neonicotinoid-coated seeds, why this asserted failure amounts to what they believe is “an unlawful abdication of [EPA’s] statutory responsibilities” and why they believe “EPA’s failure to enforce FIFRA against neonicotinoid-coated seeds and pesticidal dust-off is a ‘consciously and expressly adopted general policy,’ which ‘amounts to an abdication of its statutory responsibilities’ that this Court has the power to remedy.”

A hearing on EPA’s motion was set for October 27, 2016, but due to scheduling conflicts has been rescheduled for November 3, 2016.  It will be important to monitor the court’s consideration of these important issues closely.   More information on these proceedings can be found in our pesticide blog items District Court Declines to Rule on Jurisdictional Issues in Neonicotinoid Case until Summary Judgment and EPA Requests Dismissal of Complaint For Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction.


 

by James V. Aidala

The threat of the Zika Virus grows every day, and the need for clear information is especially pressing if you are pregnant.  How do you prevent getting infected with the Zika Virus, and what insect repellents are best?  The first question is easy to answer:  public health experts agree that women who are pregnant or who might be pregnant should use insect repellents.  The answer to the second question is not so simple.

I am a former senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and familiar with how the U.S. evaluates and approves pesticides, which include insect repellents.  It is not easy for the average consumer to know what works and what does not work.  Unfortunately, EPA policies have made this question much more complicated, having made important distinctions between some “natural”-type repellents and other products available in the marketplace.

Years ago, EPA de-regulated a number of natural, non-toxic materials from being subject to the registration requirements of the federal pesticide law (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act).  This made sense at the time since garlic, pepper, rotten eggs, vinegar, and other common chemicals are sometimes used as pesticides.  Before de-regulation, these products were also subject to the same requirements as synthetic chemical pesticides with long unpronounceable names (e.g., diethyltoluamide, better known as DEET) which EPA requires to have volumes of efficacy and safety test data.  Being natural does not mean a substance is non-toxic; some natural ingredients are fully evaluated and widely used.  But in the interest of efficient use of resources EPA issued a list of products that could be sold as pesticides, but would not be subject to EPA data requirements and review (EPA calls them “minimum risk pesticides”).

This list of pesticides which are not subject to EPA evaluation, and which are not required to have data which proves they are effective, includes a number of botanical ingredients, such as oil of citronella, geranium, rosemary, peppermint, and many others.  Many of these products can be used as pesticides -- some may work better than others -- and many work for the intended use (example:  rotten eggs, or as EPA refers to them -- “putrescent whole egg solids” -- are used as a deer repellent).

Many of these ingredients have been marketed as “natural” insect repellents, and labeled as “safe” or “non-toxic” using words that will not appear on products where EPA reviews and approves the instructions on the product label.

Here is the bureaucratic distinction which matters greatly to EPA, but will not be understood by consumers:

  • If the repellant label includes “public health claims” -- that it repels mosquitoes that may cause a disease (like Zika Virus or West Nile Virus) -- then the product has to have data showing that it works;
  • If the product just says “repels mosquitoes,” it is not required to have data that shows it is effective, and may very well be ineffective.

Few, if any, humans outside of EPA label experts realize this important distinction:  if there is no health claim on the label, then it is, in effect, a situation of “buyer beware.” 

What remains:  EPA’s deregulation of these products means it is legal to sell products which do not work, as long as the ingredients appear on the EPA minimum risk pesticides list.

Consumer Reports (CR) recently reported in May of this year on studies conducted on repellents.  Their results:

  • Using a “natural” mosquito repellent, with active ingredients such as citronella or clove, lemongrass, or rosemary oils, might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re pregnant or planning to be.
  • But five of the six plant-based repellents we tested…lasted one hour or less against Aedes mosquitoes, the kind that can spread Zika.

Not all repellents with the same ingredient are equally effective, and they found that some formulations of the chemical repellents also do not work for very long in their tests.  Some botanical pesticides are effective and have the public health claims on the label (example:  lemon eucalyptus, a botanical ingredient not on the exempt product list, and CR testing did find it to be effective).

To reduce confusion about what works, EPA for years has struggled to correct the situation by trying to impose changes to the requirements for insect repellents.

Unfortunately, to end the confusion about the difference between “repels mosquitoes” and “repels mosquitoes that can cause the Zika Virus,” EPA has to conduct a rulemaking which requires a long and bureaucratic process to complete.  The good news is that EPA is working on such a solution.  The bad news is that they have been working on it for almost ten years and they still have more work to do.  There are details and petitions and proposals and reasons why it has taken so long, but it is the kind of story that gives bureaucracy a bad name.

With the onset and fears about the Zika Virus, however, EPA should make the needed changes immediately to ensure that consumers are not misled into using products which are not proven effective in repelling mosquitoes. 

From a consumer’s point of view, it really is that simple.  Legally, it is more complicated.  In the meantime, EPA should be loud and clear in its communication about the distinction, even if they cannot take immediate action to reduce the confusion.


 

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

On August 12, 2016, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order denying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) request for an additional six months to decide whether to ban agricultural uses of chlorpyrifos.  The court opted instead to afford EPA a three month extension, stating that “this is the final extension, and the court will not grant any further extensions." 

EPA sought the six month extension on June 29, 2016, to allow time for EPA to complete two scientific analyses that may bear on EPA’s conclusions in the final rule, and to request further public comment before taking final action on a prior proposal to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances.  The two analyses that EPA wanted to complete are:  (1) a refined drinking water assessment that may allow EPA “to develop more tailored risk mitigation for some regions of the country,” and (2) an evaluation of the epidemiological data for chlorpyrifos to determine whether EPA should retain the point of departure based on acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition in the proposed rule.

The court concluded that EPA’s request for a six month extension “is not justified in light of EPA’s history in this matter as well as the court’s previous extensions.”  The court stated that EPA’s request was "another variation on a theme 'of partial reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action' that has been repeated for the past nine years,” and that “nothing has changed that would justify EPA’s continued failure to respond to the pressing health concerns presented by chlorpyrifos."

The court ordered EPA to take final action on its proposal to revoke tolerances for chlorpyrifos by March 31, 2017.  A further status report by EPA will be due in November 2016.

EPA’s updated analysis of the epidemiological data for chlorpyrifos will be a matter of considerable interest.  After EPA issued a proposed rule utilizing a point of departure for chlorpyrifos based on AChE inhibition, EPA issued a blanket determination based on the epidemiological data for chlorpyrifos in which EPA decided to retain the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) safety factor for all organophosphate (OP) pesticides.  This FQPA determination could cause EPA to conclude that the tolerances for chlorpyrifos must be revoked regardless of the outcome of the refined drinking water assessment. 

EPA later proposed to use an alternative point of departure for chlorpyrifos based on biomonitoring data from one of the chlorpyrifos epidemiology studies, but the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) met on April 19-21, 2016, and recommended against this new approach.  In its request for an extension, EPA stated that the FIFRA SAP might recommend a “hybrid approach” to adjusting the point of departure for AChE inhibition.  The FIFRA SAP meeting minutes do not appear to include such a hybrid recommendation.

In a related development, EPA has reached an agreement with the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) regarding the release of raw data from one of the chlorpyrifos epidemiology studies.  During the FIFRA SAP meeting, concerns were raised regarding use of the CCCEH study without access to the underlying raw data.  In an April 19, 2016, letter to Dr. Linda P. Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, EPA requested that CCCEH provide access to the underlying data.  In her response dated May 18, 2016, Dr. Fried offered to work with EPA “to determine if we can develop one or more data sets that can be properly de-identified, consistent with our obligation to protect the privacy of our research subjects, and that will also enable EPA to conduct its own analyses in order to address its transparency goals” or, in the alternative, offered to allow EPA staff to review the original data “in a secure data enclave onsite at Columbia.”  In its June 27, 2016, response, EPA stated that the offer to allow EPA staff to review the underlying data at a secure site did not resolve issues concerning the transparency of EPA’s analysis.  This correspondence is available in EPA Docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850. While EPA maintained it is “unnecessary” for CCCEH and EPA to develop redacted data sets, EPA accepted CCCEH’s offer to develop such data sets.

Commentary

EPA’s request for a six month extension was filed on June 29, 2016, two days after it accepted the offer by CCCEH to develop redacted data sets for the CCCEH epidemiology study.  Moreover, the FIFRA SAP meeting minutes issued on July 20, 2016, do not appear to provide the guidance that EPA had expected concerning a potential “hybrid” approach to adjusting EPA’s proposed point of departure for AChE inhibition.

Given the lesser extension granted by the court, it is questionable whether EPA will have sufficient time to review adequately the redacted underlying data sets offered by CCCEH, or even to determine whether those redacted data sets are adequate for this review, and to make any determination based on such data before EPA issues a supplementary proposal based on the refined drinking water assessment and the updated epidemiology assessment.  The court has stated that it will entertain no further extension requests, so EPA must complete its work expeditiously to allow time for comment before final action is due on March 31, 2017.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On July 20, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a memorandum attaching minutes from the April 19-21, 2016, FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meeting, Transmittal of Meeting Minutes of the April 19-21, 2016 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP or Panel) Meeting Held to Consider and Review Scientific Issues Associated with “Chlorpyrifos: Analysis of Biomonitoring Data.”  This SAP was convened to advise EPA regarding the evaluation of biomonitoring chlorpyrifos data from epidemiology studies conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH).

The minutes indicate that the SAP has significant concerns with EPA’s proposal to use the biomonitoring chlorpyrifos data from the CCCEH epidemiology studies to establish a point of departure (PoD) for chlorpyrifos risk assessment.  The minutes state:  “Because many uncertainties cannot be clarified, the majority of the Panel does not have confidence that the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) cord blood data on chlorpyrifos concentrations can accurately be used in quantitative risk assessment to determine a Point of Departure (PoD).”  A major source of uncertainty cited by the FIFRA SAP is “the lack of verification and replication of the analytical chemistry results that reported very low levels of chlorpyrifos (pg/g),” because EPA had to impute a finite quantitative value to “a large fraction of cord blood samples included in the analyses presented with levels below [level of detection (LOD)].”  Moreover, some SAP members “thought the quality of the CCCEH data is hard to assess when raw analytical data have not been made available, and the study has not been reproduced.”

The SAP also, however, stated that “both epidemiology and toxicology studies suggest there is evidence for adverse health outcomes associated with chlorpyrifos exposures below levels that result in 10% red blood cell (RBC) acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition (i.e., toxicity at lower doses).”  Nevertheless, it agreed with EPA that “applying additional safety factors to the AChE PoDs to account for a possible noncholinergic mode of action (MOA) would be problematic because of challenges in justifying any particular value for such an adjustment.”

Of note, the SAP concluded that it would be appropriate to use a “10X intra-species extrapolation factor” in any analysis based on the cord blood data.  It also identified other sources of uncertainty that should be considered in such an analysis, including “the inability of single measures of chlorpyrifos concentration in blood to provide information regarding source, frequency, duration and magnitude of exposure, and how these exposures are linked to specific outcomes measured in the CCCEH study participants.”  Although EPA suggested in a Status Report filed in the chlorpyrifos litigation pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 29, 2016, that the FIFRA SAP might recommend a “hybrid approach” that EPA could use in lieu of a PoD based on AChE inhibition, thereby altering the prior EPA analysis for chlorpyrifos, the SAP minutes do not include a recommendation for such a hybrid methodology.

Commentary

Given the concerns expressed by the SAP regarding EPA’s proposal to derive a PoD from cord blood biomonitoring data collected in the CCCEH epidemiology studies, it may be unlikely that EPA will further pursue this specific approach.  It is less clear whether EPA will be inclined to propose any further adjustments to its existing risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, which utilizes a PoD based on animal AChE data, along with intra-species and inter-species uncertainty factors and an additional Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X factor.  EPA’s decision to retain the special FQPA factor in its risk assessment for chlorpyrifos will remain controversial, because it is based on an assessment of the value and significance of several epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos that many in the pesticide industry strongly dispute.  The discussion in the minutes of the uncertainties resulting from the refusal of the CCCEH investigators to provide underlying raw data may provide further support for arguments by industry that EPA should not predicate risk assessments on the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos before obtaining and reviewing these data.

More information on the FIFRA SAP and its surrounding legal issues is available in our blog item EPA Requests Six Month Extension of Deadline for Decision on Chlorpyrifos Tolerance Revocation, and more generally on our blog with keyword chlorpyrifos.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

In two recent orders issued in the neonicotinoid seed treatment case Anderson v. McCarthy, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California declined to take immediate action in response to a motion by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting that the Court dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  This case involves allegations by a coalition of beekeepers, farmers, and non-governmental organizations (Petitioners) that EPA has incorrectly applied the treated article exemption to seeds coated with neonicotinoid pesticides.

The Court issued an order denying the EPA motion to dismiss on May 13, 2016.  In that order, the Court concluded that factual issues to be resolved in deciding whether a 2013 EPA guidance document constitutes a final reviewable action are so “intertwined” with the substantive issues in the case that it would be inappropriate to try to resolve the jurisdictional issues until after the filing of summary judgment motions.  The Court stated:

  • If the 2013 Guidance did consummate a new rule, and thus a final agency action, then defendants clearly violated federal law by failing to comply with rulemaking requirements.  If the 2013 Guidance did not constitute final agency action, then subject-matter jurisdiction is lacking, and the case must be dismissed.

In the May 13, 2016, order, the Court also stated that the decision to defer action on the jurisdictional issues was a “close call,” because “defendants put forth a strong argument in support of dismissal of the lawsuit at the Rule 12 stage.”

On May 23, 2016, EPA filed another motion requesting that the Court clarify the May 13, 2016, order.  In its clarification motion, EPA pointed out that the May 13, 2016, order addressed only three of the counts in the complaint challenging the 2013 Guidance, but did not address Count II, which alleged a general “failure to act” because EPA has not regulated neonicotinoid coated seeds as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  According to EPA, resolution of this count involves a “pure issue of law,” because the Petitioners “failed to identify any discrete, legally-required action that EPA has failed to perform.”

The EPA motion for clarification was scheduled to be heard on July 21, 2016, but the Court issued an order on July 14, 2016, vacating that hearing.  The new order stated that “defendants raised a fair point,” because “the Court’s order on the motion to dismiss failed to expressly come to grips with that part of the motion directed at the ‘failure to act’ claim for relief.”  Nevertheless, the Court concluded that “no harm will be done in postponing resolution of that issue until summary judgment.”

Commentary

Although the Court has declined to rule on any jurisdictional question concerning the Petitioners’ complaint posed by EPA until after the parties have filed their respective motions for summary judgment, this case may still be dismissed once the Court engages in the requisite fact-finding.  When the Court stated that EPA made a “strong argument” in support of immediate dismissal, it appeared to be a clear signal that this case may yet be resolved on jurisdictional issues.  The Court may decide based on the record whether the 2013 Guidance was intended to change or to modify the existing policy on applicability of the treated article exemption to coated seeds.  The Court may also consider whether or not EPA intended the policy set forth in the 2013 Guidance to be binding in deciding whether or not to bring subsequent enforcement actions.  In addition, the Court will need to consider whether it can review a general “failure to act” in the absence of any allegation that EPA was required to take some specific action.


 

By Lisa M. CampbellTimothy D. Backstrom, and Lisa R. Burchi

On July 1, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued in the Federal Register an interim final rule adjusting penalty amounts for Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) violations by more than three times the current level, in some cases.  The rule also adjusts the level of statutory civil monetary penalty amounts for the other statutes that EPA administers.  EPA issued this interim final rule pursuant to 2015 amendments to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (DCIA) (collectively the 2015 Act).  The 2015 Act sets forth new requirements for agencies to:  (1) adjust the level of statutory civil penalties with an initial “catch-up” adjustment through an interim final rulemaking; and (2) beginning January 15, 2017, make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation.

EPA states that the purpose of the 2015 Act is to “provide a mechanism to address these issues by translating originally enacted statutory civil penalty amounts to today’s dollars and rounding statutory civil penalties to the nearest dollar,” and “[o]nce Federal agencies issue the 2016 one-time catchup rule, each statutory civil penalty amount will be adjusted every year to reflect the inflation that has thereafter accrued.” 

EPA sets forth a five step procedure to determine the cost-of-living or inflation adjustment to statutory civil penalties.  Through this interim final rule, EPA amends 40 C.F.R. Part 19 of EPA’s regulations, Adjustment of Civil Monetary Penalties for Inflation, to include:

  1. The operative statutory civil penalty levels, as adjusted for inflation, for violations occurring on or before November 2, 2015, and for violations occurring after November 2, 2015, where penalties are assessed before August 1, 2016; and
  2. The operative statutory civil penalty levels, as adjusted for inflation, where penalties are assessed on or after August 1, 2016, for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015.

Table 2 to 40 C.F.R. Section 19.4 sets forth the specific statutory civil penalty provisions of statutes administered by EPA, with the original statutory civil penalty levels, as enacted, with the last column of which displaying the operative statutory civil penalty levels where penalties are assessed on or after August 1, 2016, for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015.  Specific changes to FIFRA penalties in Table 2 are as follows:

  • U.S. Code citation:  7 U.S.C. 136(a)(1); Environmental Statute:  FIFRA; ​Statutory civil penalties, as enacted:  $5,000; Statutory civil penalties for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, and assessed on or after August 1, 2016:  $18,750; and
  • U.S. Code citation:  7 U.S.C. 136(a)(2)*; Environmental Statute:  FIFRA; ​Statutory civil penalties, as enacted:  $1,000/500/1,000; Statutory civil penalties for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, and assessed on or after August 1, 2016:  $2,750/$1,772/$2,750.

* Note that 7 U.S.C. 136(a)(2) contains three separate maximum civil penalty provisions.  The first mention of $1,000 and the $500 statutory maximum civil penalty amount were originally enacted in 1978 (Pub. L. No. 95-396) and the second mention of $1,000 was enacted in 1972 (Pub. L. No. 92-516).

Commentary

Despite the large increase in some of the civil penalty amounts, EPA has determined, pursuant to Administrative Procedure Act (APA) Section 553(b)(3)(B), that it “would be impracticable and unnecessary to delay publication of this rule pending opportunity for notice and comment.” According to EPA, notice and comment are not necessary “because the 2015 Act does not allow agencies to alter the rule based on public comment.”  This rationale presumes that EPA has correctly determined the size of the initial “catch-up” penalty adjustment mandated by the 2015 Act.  Despite EPA’s APA finding, EPA would likely be obligated to consider any comment arguing that EPA did not determine the size of this initial adjustment correctly.  Future annual adjustments should be much smaller and, thus, presumably not as likely to be as controversial.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom

On June 29, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted a status report in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case concerning a petition by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos.  The Court of Appeals issued an order on December 10, 2015, requiring EPA to take final action concerning the PANNA and NRDC petition no later than December 30, 2016.  To comply with an earlier order, EPA issued a proposed rule to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos before it could complete a refined drinking water assessment or propose a new “point of departure” for chlorpyrifos based on biomonitoring data from an epidemiological study. 

EPA’s status report states that it has made “significant progress” towards meeting the December 30, 2016, deadline, but “extraordinary circumstances exist that make it impracticable for the Agency to meet the Court’s deadline.”  Based on these extraordinary circumstances, EPA has requested a six-month extension for final action on the petition. 

EPA notes that a proposed new point of departure was presented to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), but was not favorably received.  At the same time, EPA states that the SAP “raised concerns about the approach EPA adopted in the Proposed Rule, namely that the continued use of acetylcholinesterase inhibition as the point of departure may not be sufficiently health protective.”  EPA infers that the SAP may be disposed to recommend a “hybrid approach,” but the written SAP report will not be issued until the end of July, 2016.

EPA states that it had planned to seek public comment on its refined drinking water assessment and new point of departure for chlorpyrifos immediately after the SAP meeting.  EPA now believes that it would be best to obtain the final SAP report before deciding how to establish a point of departure.  Accordingly, EPA proposes to seek comment on its refined drinking water analysis and analysis of the epidemiological data by early Fall 2016, and to take final action on the PANNA and NRDC petition by June 30, 2017.

Commentary

EPA expects that the refined drinking water assessment for chlorpyrifos will allow “tailored risk mitigation” that could eliminate one basis for the proposed revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances.  In contrast, EPA’s concerns about the potential neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos may not be as readily addressed by risk mitigation.  If EPA decides either to retain the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X safety factor for chlorpyrifos based on purported neurodevelopmental effects observed in epidemiological studies, or to adopt some “hybrid” risk assessment methodology for neurodevelopmental effects in response to the SAP recommendations, debate on the merits of doing so will likely be strong.  The status report does not appear to suggest that EPA is currently considering revisiting its general views on the chlorpyrifos epidemiological data; if EPA is not doing so, considerable continued debate on this issue is also likely.


 

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 Lisa R. Burchi

In an April 22 memorandum, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intent to begin preliminary research to assess the EPA’s inspections of, and enforcement against, illegal pesticide imports.

OIG states that its objective with this project is to “determine whether the EPA’s Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) import inspection program is effectively deterring, identifying and confiscating illegal pesticide imports, to protect human health and the environment.”  OIG’s efforts will include determining whether EPA is effectively identifying pesticide imports for inspection and sampling, as well as whether EPA is taking appropriate enforcement action against noncompliant imports.

OIG notes that this project is included in its fiscal year 2016 Annual Plan.  The Annual Plan notes a project commencement date of June 2016 and describes its efforts as follows:

  • The EPA’s enforcement program addresses the illegal importation of unregistered or otherwise noncompliant pesticide products into the United States. This project could result in reduced risks to human health and the environment due to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act imports noncompliance, while assuring effective deterrence through inspections and enforcement actions. We will seek to determine whether the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act Import Inspection program effectively deters or identifies and confiscates illegal pesticide imports to protect human health and the environment.

OIG’s review of EPA’s activities in this area should come as no surprise considering that the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has identified import border compliance as one of its three FIFRA focus areas for the past several years.  For example, OECA’s FY 2016-2017 National Program Manager Guidance (NPMG), which sets forth OECA’s priority-setting strategies, has made EPA Regions aware of EPA’s strong interest in import compliance.  The NPMG suggests that the Regional office efforts in this regard include monitoring import compliance through inspections; focusing on “high-risk” unregistered pesticides and importers with a history of noncompliance or significant importation activities from countries frequently associated with noncompliant shipments; and overseeing the transition of manual review of Notices of Arrival (NOA) to the Automated Commercial Environment in the International Trade Data System (ACE/ITDS).  Indeed, there is a noticeable uptick in EPA Regional office review of NOAs and OECA enforcement of noncompliant pesticide imports. 

Companies that import pesticides should carefully review their import policies and how they prepare their NOAs to ensure they do not invite EPA scrutiny and potential enforcement action.  


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On March 10, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and a supporting memorandum of law (Memorandum) in Anderson v. McCarthy, Case No. 3:16-cv-00068 (N.D. Cal. filed Jan. 6, 2016).  In support of its motion, EPA states that the District Court lacks jurisdiction because three of the four claims stated in the complaint “seek review of a guidance document that does not constitute ‘final agency action’ reviewable under the Administrative Procedure Act [APA] or the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act [FIFRA],” and that the remaining claim “which asserts a failure to regulate under and enforce [FIFRA], fails because Plaintiffs have not identified a clearly imposed duty on the part of EPA to take some discrete action to regulate under or enforce the Act.”

The Complaint was filed by a coalition of U.S. beekeepers, farmers, and affiliated non-government organizations (Petitioners) who requested that the District Court provide declaratory relief stating that seeds coated with neonicotinoid insecticides are not eligible for the “treated article” exemption under FIFRA.  Petitioners argue, in part, that the following language from EPA’s 2013 Inspection Guidance (Guidance) provides a new interpretation of the scope of the “treated article”:

                  Inspectors may also take into account any locations of treated seed planting when identifying locations of potential pesticide sources. Note: Treated seed (and any resulting dust-off from treated seed) may be exempted from registration under FIFRA as a treated article and as such its planting is not considered a “pesticide use.” However, if the inspector suspects or has reason to believe a treated seed is subject to registration (i.e., the seed is not in compliance with the treated article exemption), plantings of that treated seed may nonetheless be investigated.

The Complaint argues that this Guidance improperly expanded the scope of the treated article exemption and was in effect an unlawful rule issued without prior notice and comment. The Complaint seeks an order from the District Court declaring, in part, that “unregistered seeds do not fit within the ‘treated article’ exemption from pesticide regulation in 40 CFR § 152.25(a) and must be regulated as pesticidal products under FIFRA.”

With regard to the scope of the treated article exemption, EPA in its Memorandum states that the language from the Guidance, which is for the use of inspectors and not the general public, is:

               [A] far cry from prescribing the law or policy as to exemption of treated seed as a treated article under 40 C.F.R. § 152.25(a), as they in no way implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy. Instead, this language in the Inspection Guidance is but one recommendation to inspectors who are investigating all possible sources of pesticides, including treated seed.

EPA further argues that the “note” in its Guidance is “nothing more than the unremarkable reiteration of EPA’s longstanding view of the treated article exemption in 40 C.F.R. § 152.25(a).”  EPA states that the applicability of the treated article exemption has been discussed publicly by EPA since 2003 in an document published jointly by EPA and Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency entitled “Harmonization of Regulation of Pesticide Seed Treatment in Canada and the United States.”  In that document, EPA states that it “plainly indicates that where the conditions of the treated article exemption are met, ‘[s]eeds for planting which are treated with pesticides registered in the U.S. are exempt from registration as pesticides and may be freely distributed and sold within the U.S.’”  Thus, EPA states that Petitioners “have failed to meet their burden to demonstrate that the Inspection Guidance (or any other action) constitutes “final agency action” as that term is used in the APA, and thus they have not met their burden of demonstrating jurisdiction.”

On March 16, 2016, Intervenor-Defendants CropLife America, the American Seed Trade Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Cotton Council of America, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Corn Growers Association, and the Agricultural Retailers Association filed to join EPA’s Motion to Dismiss.

More information on the complaint is available in our blog item EPA Sued Over Guidance Classifying Seeds Coated with Neonicotinoid Insecticides as Treated Articles Exempt from Registration under FIFRA.


 
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