By Lisa R. Burchi
On March 7, 2019, in the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU), the Eighth Chamber of the General Court issued two judgments in cases regarding access of confidential information related to glyphosate. One of these decisions (Tweedale v. EFSA, Case T-716/14) related to a 2014 request for two toxicity studies that were “key studies” in the determination of glyphosate’s acceptable daily intake (ADI). The second decision (Hautala et al. v. EFSA, Case T-329/17) related to a request from Members of the European Parliament for access to parts (i.e., “material, experimental conditions and methods” and “results and discussions”) of 12 unpublished carcinogenicity studies, described as the “‘most crucial’ studies for the peer review and [EFSA’s] conclusion that glyphosate is unlikely to pose carcinogenic hazard to humans.” Partial access to those studies (i.e., raw data and findings aggregated in tables and figures) had been granted in an earlier 2016 decision.
A prior November 21, 2018, case related to glyphosate (Stichting Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe v. European Commission, Case T-545/11 RENV) and the General Court/Fourth Chamber’s judgment to prevent applicants from receiving access to information on the degree of purity of the active substance glyphosate, as well as the identity and quantities of impurities is discussed here. In contrast to the Stichting decision, where access was denied, the court in the March 7, 2019, decisions annulled prior decisions dated October 16, 2017 and March 14, 2017, that refused access to the requested information.
Article 4(2) of Regulation No. 1049/2001 (regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents) provides that access to documents should be refused where disclosure would undermine, in part, commercial interests of a natural or legal person, including intellectual property, unless “there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.”
Article 6(1) of Regulation No. 1367/2006 (regarding the application of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters to Community institutions and bodies) provides that, with regard to Regulation No. 1049/2001 Article 4(2), “an overriding public interest in disclosure shall be deemed to exist where the information requested relates to emissions into the environment.” Recital 15 of Regulation No. 1367/2006 also provides: “The grounds for refusal as regards access to environmental information should be interpreted in a restrictive way, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure and whether the information requested relates to emissions in the environment.”
Taken together, the court stated: “that means that an EU institution, hearing a request for access to a document, cannot justify its refusal to divulge it on the basis of the exception relating to the protection of the commercial interests of a particular natural or legal person for the purposes of Article 4(2), first indent, of Regulation No 1049/2001, where the information contained in that document constitutes information which ‘relates to emissions into the environment’ for the purposes of Article 6(1) of Regulation No 1367/2006.”
The General Court/Fourth Chamber thus addressed whether the information contained in the applicants’ requests constituted information which ‘relates to emissions into the environment’ for the purposes of Article 6(1) of Regulation 1367/2006.
In the March 7, 2019, decisions, the General Court/Fourth Chamber held that EFSA cannot argue that the requested studies do not concern actual emissions or the effects of actual emissions because “an active substance contained in plant protection products, such as glyphosate, in the course of normal use, is intended to be discharged into the environment by virtue of its function, and its foreseeable emissions cannot, therefore, be regarded as purely hypothetical.” The court further held: “It is apparent from that case-law that the concept of information which ‘relates to emissions into the environment’ for the purposes of Article 6(1) of Regulation No 1367/2006 is not limited to information which makes it possible to assess the emissions as such, but also covers information relating to the effects of those emissions.” The Court further stated that the “concept of information which ‘relates to emissions into the environment’ for the purposes of Article 6(1) of Regulation No 1367/2006 must be interpreted as covering not only information on emissions as such, namely information concerning the nature, composition, quantity, date and place of those emissions, but also data concerning the medium to long-term consequences of those emissions on the environment.”
The court also found that EFSA’s “argument that the conditions in which the requested studies were carried out are not linked to emissions is irrelevant. What matters is not the conditions in which the requested studies were carried out, but their purpose.” In these cases, the purpose to define a no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) from which the ADI was calculated, or to determine the carcinogenic effects of exposing humans to glyphosate, “must be regarded as constituting information which ‘relates to emissions into the environment; for the purposes of Article 6(1) of Regulation No. 1367/2006.”
In sum, the court in Tweedale concluded:
- It follows from the foregoing that the exception relating to the protection of commercial interests, provided for in Article 4(2), first indent, of Regulation No 1049/2001, cannot be relied upon in order to object to the disclosure of the requested studies which are regarded as information which ‘relates to emissions into the environment’ for the purposes of Article 6(1) of Regulation No 1367/2006.
The court in Hautala further stated that “an overriding public interest in disclosing the studies is deemed to exist, and EFSA could not refuse to disclose them on the ground that that would have an adverse effect on the protection of the commercial interests of the owners of the requested studies for the purposes of Article 4(2), first indent, of Regulation No 1049/2001.”
These decisions support transparency but also may add confusion regarding any limitations placed on the scope of what is to be considered “information on emissions into the environment.” The prior 2018 Stichting decision refused access to information on the degree of purity of the active substance glyphosate, as well as the identity and quantities of impurities, finding that such information is excluded from the concept of “information relating to emissions into the environment:”
- Since the use, the conditions of use and the composition of a plant protection product authorised by a Member State on its territory may be very different from those of products evaluated at EU level during the approval of the active substance, it must be held that the information in the document at issue does not relate to emissions whose release into the environment is foreseeable and has, at the very most, a link to emissions into the environment.
These decisions may expand the scope of information that relates to emissions into the environment, including, for example, “data concerning the medium to long-term consequences of those emissions on the environment.” For information that is determined to constitute information that “relates to emissions into the environment,” the decisions appear to create a presumption for disclosure that cannot be countered based on the exception relating to the protection of the commercial interests of a particular natural or legal person.
Companies should continue to monitor these decisions closely, as guidance continues to evolve regarding the scope of disclosure.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On November 21, 2018, in Court of Justice of the European Union (EU), the Fourth Chamber of the General Court (General Court/Fourth Chamber) issued a judgment in the appeal case T-545/11 RENV that denied all three pleas on appeal and prevented applicants Stichting Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe (Applicants) from receiving certain documents containing confidential information relating to the first authorization of the placing of glyphosate on the market as an active substance, specifically the complete list of all tests submitted by the operators seeking the inclusion of glyphosate in Annex I to Directive 91/414.
The judgment provides a detailed history of the case, beginning in 2010, when Applicants requested access to the documents in question. In this initial case, the Secretary General of the Commission agreed with the Federal Republic of Germany’s decision to refuse access to the documents (contested decision) on the basis that disclosure in Article 4(2) of Regulation No. 1049/2001 would undermine protection of the commercial interests of a natural or legal person. In upholding Germany’s decision, the Secretary General found that there was “no evidence of an overriding public interest in disclosure” within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Regulation No. 1049/2001, and also that the information “did not relate to emissions into the environment” within the meaning of Article 6(1) of Regulation No. 1367/2006 concerning public disclosure of information on the environmental effects of glyphosate. As such, “protection of the interests of the manufacturers of that substance had to prevail.”
The Applicants brought an action for annulment of the contested decision to the Registry of the General Court. After one of the documents at issue (a draft assessment report issued by Germany prior to the initial inclusion of glyphosate in Annex I to Directive 91/414) was produced to the court (but still not released to the Applicants), the General Court ruled to annul the contested decision. The Commission appealed this annulment, stating that the General Court erred in its interpretation of the term “information [which] relates to emissions into the environment.” The Court of Justice was persuaded by this argument, set aside the initial judgment, and referred the case back to the General Court. The case was then assigned to the Fourth Chamber. The dispute was limited to the part of the document at issue that “contains information on the degree of purity of the active substance, the ‘identity’ and quantities of all the impurities present in the technical material, the analytical profile of the batches, and the exact composition of the product developed.”
The Applicants put forward three pleas in law in support of their action. The pleas, and the basis for the General Court/Fourth Chamber’s rejections of those pleas, are as follows:
- Failure to Take Account of the Scope of Article 4(5) of Regulation No. 1049/2001: Article 4(5) of Regulation No. 1049/2001 provides that a Member State may request an institution not to disclose a document originating from that State without its prior agreement. Applicants submitted that Article 4(5) of Regulation No. 1049/2001 does not constitute a right of veto for a Member State and that the Commission may not rely on the Member State’s opinion regarding the application of an exception provided for by Article 4(2) of that Regulation. The General Court/Fourth Chamber stated that “the argument put forward cannot succeed, since Article 4(5) of Regulation No 1049/2001 is not the basis on which the Commission refused access to that document. Consequently, the first plea in law must be rejected.” Instead, Article 4(2) was the basis for Germany’s decision, and the Commission verified that Germany’s reasons for that decision were “prima facie, well founded.”
- Overriding Public Interest In Disclosing Information Relating to Emissions Into the Environment: Applicants maintained that the exception to the right of access designed to protect the commercial interests of a natural or legal person must be waived, because of an overriding public interest in disclosure of the information requested, which relates to emissions into the environment. Specifically, Applicants argued that information related to the identity and quantity of impurities present in glyphosate and related test information must be disclosed so that it could be determined “which toxic elements are emitted into the environment and are liable to remain there for some time.” With regard to the concept of “information relating to emissions into the environment,” the General Court/Fourth Chamber rejected arguments that the provision must be interpreted restrictively to mean only direct or indirect release of substances from installations. The General Court/Fourth Chamber also found, however, that the concept cannot be interpreted in a way that would “deprive of any practical effect the possibility” that a Member State could refuse to disclose environmental information or “jeopardise the balance which the EU legislature intended to maintain between the objective of transparency and the protection of [commercial] interests.” In rejecting the second plea, the General Court/Fourth Chamber states:
Since the use, the conditions of use and the composition of a plant protection product authorised by a Member State on its territory may be very different from those of products evaluated at EU level during the approval of the active substance, it must be held that the information in the document at issue does not relate to emissions whose release into the environment is foreseeable and has, at the very most, a link to emissions into the environment. Accordingly, such information is excluded from the concept of “information relating to emissions into the environment,” in accordance with paragraph 78 of the judgement on appeal.
- Alleged Infringement of Article 4(2) of Regulation No. 1049/2001 and Article 4 of the Aarhus Convention: Applicants argued that the contested decision is not in accordance with Article 4(2) of Regulation No. 1049/2001 and Article 4 of the Aarhus Convention, on the ground that the Commission did not evaluate the actual risk of damage to the commercial interests invoked. The General Court/Fourth Chamber stated that it must be held “that the Commission correctly weighed up the relevant interests, having set out precisely and specifically the way in which the commercial interests of producers of glyphosate or plant protection products containing it would be jeopardised by the disclosure of the document at issue.”
After rejecting all three pleas, the General Court/Fourth Chamber held that the action must be dismissed in its entirety, and ordered Applicants to pay the costs relating to the various proceedings.
This case has been monitored closely because of the potential implications for companies that have submitted data or other information claimed as confidential that could be disclosed based on “overriding public interest.” The American Chemistry Council (ACC), CropLife America, CropLife International (CLI), the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the European Crop Care Association (ECCA), the Association européenne pour la protection des cultures (ECPA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) all intervened in support of the form of the order sought by the Commission. The decision, and, in particular, the limitations placed on the scope of what is to be considered “information on emissions into the environment” provides helpful guidance and ensures that the exceptions provided for disclosure do not swallow the general rules under which institutions must refuse access to documents.
More information on glyphosate issues is available on our blog.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell
On September 25, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report Measures and Management Controls Needed to Improve EPA’s Pesticide Emergency Exemption Process that details the results from the its audit done to determine whether EPA has a comprehensive pesticide emergency exemption approval process that maintains environmental and human health safeguards. Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) allows EPA to “grant federal and state lead agencies the authority to approve -- in certain emergency situations -- the limited application of a pesticide not registered for that particular use. These short-term pesticide use approvals are called emergency exemptions.” OIG states that the scope of the audit “focused on the emergency exemption management process and the internal controls necessary to consistently implement and administer it.” OIG did not “evaluate the science used to review emergency exemptions or the subsequent emergency exemption application decisions.”
OIG’s main criticisms of EPA’s emergency exemption program listed in the report are:
- EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) collects human health and environmental data through its emergency exemption application process, including the total acres affected, the proposed and actual quantities of the exempted pesticide applied, and the estimated economic losses but it does not use these data to support outcome-based performance measures that capture the scope of each exemption, to measure the potential benefits or risks of each exemption, or to determine how well the emergency exemption process maintains human health and environmental safeguards.
- OPP does not consistently communicate emergency exemption information with its stakeholders. OPP previously sent a “year in review” letter to states that summarized the emergency exemption activity for that year and provided additional information regarding the emergency exemption process. OPP has not sent this letter since 2015, however.
- There were significant deficiencies in the OPP’s online database management, in its draft Section 18 emergency exemption standard operating procedure and application checklist, and in its reports to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.
The eight OIG recommendations in the report for the Assistant Administrator (AA) for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention’s (OCSPP) consideration, and OCSPP’s response to those recommendations, are as follows:
Recommendation 1: Develop and implement applicable outcome-based performance measures to demonstrate the human health and environmental effects of the EPA’s emergency exemption decisions.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP did not agree with this recommendation, stating that development of an outcome-based performance measure for the Section 18 emergency exemption process was neither appropriate nor feasible. No proposed corrective actions were proposed and this issue remains unresolved.
Recommendation 2: Determine which application review performance target for emergency exemption applications the OPP plans to meet, and make that target consistent between its Annual Performance Goal and its internal controls governing the emergency exemption process.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP did not agree or disagree with Recommendation 2, but it nevertheless provided a corrective action “to avoid future confusion” and a completion date (July 31, 2019) that was considered acceptable to OIG.
Recommendation 3: Update and prepare the draft standard operating procedure in final that OPP uses to guide the emergency exemption process.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP agreed with this recommendation and provided planned corrective actions and a completion date (July 31, 2019) that was considered acceptable to OIG.
Recommendation 4: Develop formal emergency exemption application review procedures that detail specific data collection, management and reporting control steps, and procedures that require specific management controls for accurately and consistently updating the OPP’s Section 18 database.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP agreed with this recommendation and provided acceptable planned corrective actions and a completion date (July 31, 2019) that was considered acceptable to OIG.
Recommendation 5: Develop concise emergency exemption application guidance that specifies the minimum requirements of an application submission and is available on the OPP’s Section 18 website.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP did not agree or disagree with Recommendation 2, but it nevertheless proposed to: (1) evaluate how its web resources can be enhanced to respond to this recommendation; and (2) if it determines that enhancements to the Section 18 website are necessary, implement any needed web updates by December 2019. OIG does not believe the proposed corrective action for this recommendation is sufficient to meet the intent of the recommendation and states this recommendation remains unresolved.
Recommendation 6: Provide clear guidance to state lead agencies on how and when they can use efficacy data from other state lead agencies to satisfy the emergency exemption application criteria.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP did not agree with this recommendation, stating that the only example provided by OIG to support this recommendation represents an extremely rare situation. No corrective actions were proposed and this issue remains unresolved.
Recommendation 7: Expand the data presented in the OPP’s Section 18 database by considering additional data points, such as application acreage requested, actual acreage applied, and registration status of each exempted pesticide.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP agreed with this recommendation and stated it would “consider additional data points, such as application acreage requested, decision documents, and registration status of each exempted pesticide, as OCSPP explores ways to improve the website database and its overall content.” OCSPP proposed that by December 2019 recommendations would be made to the OPP Director for enhancing the Section 18 database and a memorandum would be provided to the OCSPP AA with a plan for updating the Section 18 database addressing these recommendations. OIG states that OCSPP did not commit to expanding the data presented in the Section 18 database and, thus, this issue remains unresolved.
Recommendation 8: Provide an annual update and information summary to state lead agencies to better inform them about any changes to the emergency exemption application-and-review process.
- OCSPP Response and OIG Resolution: OCSPP agreed with this recommendation and stated it would “explore how to provide periodic and useful program updates to applicants.” OCSPP proposed by that December 2019 it would “work with State Lead Agencies to identify the types of information they may find helpful for periodic updates” and “develop a strategy which details the activities that might be conducted to provide periodic and useful program updates to applicants.” OIG states that OCSPP found the term “periodic” unclear and stated the issue remains unresolved.
Although several of these recommendations and EPA’s proposals remain unresolved, registrants should monitor for actions to be taken by EPA in response to the OIG Report.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signaled on June 29, 2018, its intent to prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with potential changes to the regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered [(GE)] organisms.” The EIS will have a significant impact on how APHIS chooses to amend its regulation of GE organisms. APHIS requested comment on issues to be considered in preparing the EIS, as well as how to define the scope of the alternatives and environmental impacts. Comments are due July 30, 2018.
Our full memorandum provides some background, context, and a commentary regarding APHIS’ announcement.
By Carla N. Hutton and Jessie Nguyen
On May 9, 2018, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) posted the Spring 2018 Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan. OIRA states that the semi-annual Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan “provide uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory actions under development throughout the Federal government, covering over 60 departments, agencies, and commissions.” Below are highlights of rulemakings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) that are related to pesticides:
- Pesticides; Expansion of Crop Grouping Program (RIN 2070-AJ28): EPA is revising in phases the current pesticide crop grouping regulations to create new crop groupings, add new subgroups, and expand existing crop groups by adding new commodities. EPA plans to propose a fifth phase by February 2019 and a sixth phase by August 2019;
- Pesticides; Procedural Rule Amendment; Requirement for Certain Pesticide Actions to Publish Notices in the Federal Register (RIN 2070-AK06): EPA is considering revising several procedural regulations that require it to use a notice published in the Federal Register “to provide information and notice concerning registration of a pesticide product with a new active ingredient or new use; announce approvals of specific quarantine and public health exemptions; and summaries of certain state registrations.” Instead, EPA would provide the same information on a consolidated website. EPA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in September 2018;
- Pesticides; Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule; Reconsideration of the Minimum Age Requirements (RIN 2070-AK37): In spring 2017, EPA solicited comments on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. EPA states that it received comments specific to the January 4, 2017, certification rule and has decided to reconsider one requirement of the final rule. EPA intends to publish an NPRM in September 2018; and
- Pesticides; Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS); Reconsideration of Several Requirements (RIN 2070-AK43): As reported above, in spring 2017, EPA solicited comments on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. EPA received comments suggesting specific changes to the 2015 revised WPS requirements. Based on comments raised, EPA intends to publish an NPRM in September 2018.
By Heather F. Collins
On August 28, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first of three feature and functionality updates to the Pesticide Submission Portal (PSP) expected this year. The portal is a web-based application allowing registrants to submit pesticide application packages to EPA electronically. The PSP application is accessed through EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) Network which requires user registration.
This new PSP, version 1.4, release expands the feature to allow users to submit voluntary data related to specific registration review cases. Users can submit study citations, data matrices (Form 8570-35), cover letters and studies (protocols, study profiles, supplemental study data) using the new "Voluntary Submission" link on the PSP home page. This new release also allows users to resubmit previously submitted 90-day responses. Once a 90-day response or data submission has been successfully transmitted to the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), users may now modify responses to data requirements, cite additional studies, upload additional documents, and change how the product registration is supported. EPA states: “This action is another step in a phased approach that will ultimately lead to EPA’s ability to accept all pesticide applications electronically, a move that will help modernize the pesticide registration process, increase operational efficiencies and reduce paper waste.” EPA indicates that in addition to these changes, this update introduces enhancements and bug fixes.
EPA also released the OPP Pesticide Submission Portal (PSP) User Guide Version 1.4 which provides detailed instructions on how to use the PSP application and guidance on how to prepare a package for electronic submission.
Applicants using PSP need not submit multiple electronic copies of any pieces of their applications; EPA states that the requirement to submit multiple copies of data in Pesticide Registration Notice 2011-3 is applicable only to paper submissions. Pesticide registrants who previously submitted information via paper, CD, or DVD may instead use the portal and forego the courier costs of sending to EPA.
More information about the Electronic Submissions of Pesticide Applications is available on EPA’s website.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
On July 20, 2017, the Trump Administration released its 2017 Unified Regulatory Agenda. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Agency Rule List included several pesticide rulemakings in the proposed rule stage, as well as the Certification of Pesticide Applicators rulemaking that is in the final rule stage. The five items in the proposed rule stage are:
- RIN 2015-AA00: Revision of Procedural Rules for Hearings on Cancellations, Suspensions, Changes in Classifications, and Denials of Pesticide Registrations. The agenda states that this proposed rulemaking is a “revision of the Rules of Practice governing the conduct of licensing adjudications under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).” The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for January 2018.
- RIN 2070-AK00: Pesticides; Technical Amendments to Data Requirements. The agenda states that to satisfy one of the commitments in a settlement agreement reached with the American Chemistry Council (Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0110-0139), EPA is proposing a correction pertaining to the 200 parts per billion (ppb) level described in 40 C.F.R. Section 158.2230(d) that was originally used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with respect to the “concentration of residues in or on food for tiering of data requirements for indirect food use biocides.” Through this rulemaking, the agenda states that EPA intends to “clarify that the 200 ppb level is based on total estimated daily dietary intake for an individual and not on the amount of residue present on a single food.” The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for July 2017.
- RIN 2070-AK06: Pesticides; Procedural Rule Amendment; Requirement for Certain Pesticide Actions to Publish Notices in the Federal Register. In the agenda, EPA states that as the as the Federal Register is “no longer the most cost effective or efficient way for providing notice or sharing information with the public,” it is considering changing the way that it provides notice on or shares information with the public -- specifically, by no longer publishing certain information in the Federal Register, but instead providing the same information on a consolidated website which the agenda states “will be more accessible to the public and other interested parties, as well as a more cost effective and efficient mechanism for providing timely updates.” The agenda lists the following kinds of notification it is considering making this change regarding: (1) reregistration of a pesticide product with a new active ingredient or new use; (2) announcing approvals of specific, quarantine and public health exemptions; and (3) Summaries of certain state registrations. For Registration Review, the agenda state that EPA “intends to announce availability of the documents that are currently announced in the Federal Register on the EPA's Registration Review Website.” For notices of availability announced in the Federal Register, the agenda states that “EPA intends to direct the public to a case-specific docket on Regulations.gov to view pertinent registration review documents and provide comment.” The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for April 2018.
- RIN 2070-AK40: Extension of Compliance Date(s); Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. As reported in our memoranda summarizing the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) final rule, EPA Publishes Worker Protection Standard Final Rule, the WPS final rule was issued on November 2, 2015, but has not yet been made effective. More information on the delay of its effective date is available in our blog item EPA to Delay Agricultural WPS Indefinitely; Cites Issues with Guidance and Training. This proposed rulemaking will adjust the compliance date. The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for July 2017 and the issuance of the final rule is scheduled for November 2017.
- RIN 2080-AA13: Updates to 40 C.F.R. § 26 Subpart K to reflect recent changes to 40 C.F.R. Subpart A (The Common Rule). As reported in our blog item Federal Agencies Announce Revision to Modernize Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, on January 19, 2017, EPA, together with a host of other federal agencies, released a final rule to modernize, strengthen, and make more effective the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects that was originally promulgated as a Common Rule in 1991, and is now codified in 40 C.F.R. § 26, Subpart A. These revisions, scheduled to become effective on January 19, 2018, will create a conflict within some of the EPA-specific subparts, in particular, Subpart K of 40 C.F.R. 26 (Basic Ethical Requirements for Third-Party Human Research for Pesticides Involving Intention Exposure of Non-Pregnant, Non-Nursing Adults) which regulates third party pesticide research. The agenda states that this proposed rulemaking is “intended to resolve proposed rulemaking discrepancies created by the recent revision to Subpart A, and will not alter the fundamental protections for human subjects, including vulnerable populations.” The issuance of the proposed rule is scheduled for January 2018.
The two items in the final rule stage are:
- RIN 2070-AJ20: Pesticides; Certification of Pesticide Applicators. As reported in our memoranda summarizing the Certification of Pesticide Applicators’ final rule, Final EPA Rule Requires Stronger Standards for Applying Riskiest Pesticides, the final rule was issued on January 4, 2017. More information on the delay of its effective date is available in our blog item EPA Delays Effective Date of Certification of Pesticide Applicators Final Rule. On June 2, 2017, a Federal Register publication was issued that delayed the effective date until May 22, 2018.
- RIN 2070-AK13: Procedural Rule to Remove Obsolete Information. The agenda states that this final rule will remove information from EPA’s existing pesticide regulations that is now out of date or obsolete and will “provide clearer and more reliable information to those seeking to register a pesticide product.” The agenda further states that as rulemaking is intended to be a non-substantive, procedural rulemaking “since the EPA does not intend to make any substantive changes to the existing requirements,” EPA is considering issuing this as a final rule and not going through the notice and comment period. The issuance of the final rule is scheduled for January 2018.
Much of the work noted emphasizes potential procedural efficiencies and clarifications. The potential move to more announcements on the websites and away from the Federal Register is, at least in part, likely intended as a cost-saving measure. It is also a change that will be closely watched. For example, in recent years, EPA has seen registrations challenged based on assertions of an alleged lack of appropriate notice concerning the receipt or processing of registration applications, and these past challenges will likely influence any new procedures that EPA may adopt.
Of more interest is the new Administration’s call for suggestions of what rules or policies should be changed as part of a broader push for economic growth and less regulatory costs, which may result in more substantive regulatory changes and some likely controversial decisions about what rules or programs will be modified or eliminated -- but that exercise is not part of this announcement. The delay in the compliance date for the WPS regulation is more substantive, but changes that may be proposed have not yet been announced.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
In June 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) National Program Manager Guidance for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-2019, which sets forth the strategies and actions that EPA and its state and tribal partners will undertake to protect human health and the environment via six key programmatic activities. EPA uses an Annual Commitment System (ACS) to track annual regional performance information and results. Below is a listing of the six programmatic activities and their ACS measures, if applicable:
- Strengthening state and tribal partnerships through continued effective management of pesticide cooperative agreements. The guidance states that the “National Pesticide Program depends on cooperative agreements with states and tribes to implement many of the requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and to help ensure [EPA’s] regulatory decisions and programs achieve intended protections. For the ACS measure, the commitment target is 100 percent of pesticide program required activities included in grantee work plans completed under pesticide program portion of the FIFRA Grant Guidance. More information on the activities is listed in the guidance.
- Assisting in national, regional, and local pollinator protection efforts. EPA states that “through risk assessment, mitigation, education, and outreach, EPA’s Office of Pesticides Programs’ goal for pollinator protection is to ensure all pollinators, including managed pollinators such as honey bees, and native pollinator including Monarch Butterflies, are protected from adverse effects of pesticide exposure.” More information on the activities is listed in the guidance. EPA is not proposing any ACS measures to be associated with this area of focus for FY2018-2019.
- Effectively implementing the revised pesticides worker protection standard rule. More information on this rule is available on our blog under key phrase Worker Protection Standard. EPA states that no ACS measure is proposed to be associated with this area of focus for FY2018-2019 to “allow regional offices the flexibility to direct their efforts where they are most needed, and to select the activities and level of effort appropriate for the needs of their region.”
- Effectively implementing the revised certification of pesticide applicators rule. Same as above, EPA states that no ACS measure is proposed to be associated with this area of focus for FY2018-2019 to “allow regional offices the flexibility to direct their efforts where they are most needed, and to select the activities and level of effort appropriate for the needs of their region.” More information on this rule is available on our blog under key phrase pesticide applicators.
- Focusing region-specific pesticide priorities on those areas of greatest need nationally. EPA states that region-specific pesticide priority areas “support the agency’s national pesticide program efforts. In addition, these projects support one or more of the agency’s Strategic Plan goals and strategies, and directly benefit states and/or tribes. The region-specific pesticide priority areas to choose from are: (1) promotion of state and tribal pesticide program coordination and communication; (2) bed bug outreach and assistance; (3) promotion, development or support of integrated pest management efforts; (4) support of water quality risk assessment and mitigation; (5) spray drift outreach and incident data collection; and (6) support of emerging public health pesticide issues. The ACS measure commitment target is one project or initiative contributing to the implementation and enhancement of the region-specific pesticide program priority areas.
- Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). For the TRI program, EPA includes three ACS measures on the number of TRI data quality checks:
- The TRI-1 measure allows EPA to track performance of the TRI program, and aid in improving the accuracy and reliability of environmental data. This measure will provide valuable information as more than 21,000 facilities report to the TRI program annually.
- For FY2018, TRI-1 is a non-commitment measure of data quality calls and emails to 600 facilities in total across all regional offices.
- For FY2019, TRI-1 will be a commitment measure of data quality calls and email to 600 facilities in total across all regional offices.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Margaret R. Graham
In a two-page order issued on April 10, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina granted in part a motion for summary judgment filed by “me-too” registrants, Willowood, LLC, Willowood USA, LLC, Willowood Azoxystrobin, LLC, and Willowood Limited (Defendants), regarding Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC’s (Plaintiff) claims of copyright infringement. Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC v. Willowood, LLC, Case No. 1:15-CV-00274. The claims at issue (Counts V and VI of Plaintiff’’s complaint) were based on the Defendants’ use of Syngenta’s label. The court stated that it was granting this part of Defendants’ motion “because the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) precludes copyright protection for the required elements of pesticide labels . . . of me-too registrants.”
Counts V and VI of Plaintiff’s complaint stated that Defendant copied and used substantial portions of Syngenta’s copyrighted work, and that this infringement is “willful and knowing.” The Defendants’ motion for summary judgment stated with regard to the copyright infringement counts of the complaint:
- Counts V and VI fail as a matter of law because Defendants’ labels comply with applicable federal regulations and contain language that is mandated by federal law. Moreover, under settled law, the portions of Plaintiff’s labels that Plaintiff asserts Defendants have copied are not entitled to federal copyright protection. Finally, to the extent that any portions of Plaintiff’s labels are entitled to copyright protection, Defendants’ copying is permitted under the fair use doctrine.
The order states that “in enacting FIFRA, Congress intended narrow exception to copyright protection for the required elements of pesticide labels as against me-too registrants.” The court expressly rejects the lengthy 2005 decision issued by the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which reached a different conclusion in a similar case, stating that it finds the analysis in that decision “unconvincing.” FMC Corp. v. Control Solutions, Inc., 369 F. Supp. 2d 539, 555-71 (E.D. Pa. 2005). The court states: “FIFRA contemplates that a ‘me-too’ applicant will copy from the original pesticide label in ways that would otherwise infringe a copyright.”
Of interest, the court states that its grant of the summary judgment motion with respect to the copyright claims does not need to take into account an expert report or declarations by, among others, former EPA Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) officials Debra Edwards and Lois Rossi, filed by Defendants because “the Court is granting the summary judgment motion on legal grounds unrelated to the proffered evidence.”
Plaintiff filed its complaint on March 27, 2015. The complaint included seven counts against Defendants: the infringement of four patents in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271(a) (Counts I-IV), the two copyright infringement counts (Counts V-VI), and a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (N.C. Gen. Stat § 75-1.1) (Count VII). Count VII of the complaint was dismissed on August 12, 2016, and on March 24, 2017, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment regarding the infringement of two of the four patents; a decision on the infringement of the remaining two patents is still pending.
This opinion, which squarely rejects the 2005 conclusion of another district court, is likely to be of controversy and is the most recent decision in a long-standing debate on this issue between basic registrants and me-too registrants. EPA in the past has appeared to side with the me-too registrants. For example, in an August 3, 2005, letter to the Chemical Producers and Distributors Association (CPDA), written in response to the FMC decision, EPA stated that it “has been the practice of [OPP] since the enactment of FIFRA section 3(c)(7)(a) in 1978 to strongly encourage ‘me-too’ product labels to be identical or substantially similar to the labels of the products on which their registrations are based.” In that letter, EPA stated further: “Conveying application instructions and safety messages for similar products in different ways increases the likelihood that the product will be misused.” EPA at the time noted that there were over 650 mostly “me-too” products for just one herbicide (2,4,-D) -- and that having 650 products each having to say some of the required use instructions differently would be impossible.
Nonetheless, some elements of the label might be viewed as proprietary -- the “look and feel” of a product label, perhaps certain fonts, and trademarked product name (as opposed to the active ingredient name). It remains to be seen whether the April 10, 2017, order is the last judicial word on this subject or whether the issue will continue to be litigated. It is an issue that all registrants should monitor closely.
By Susan M. Kirsch
On November 1, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its Final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Pesticide General Permit for Point Source Discharges from the Application of Pesticides in the Federal Register, which regulates discharges to waters of the United States from the application of biological pesticides and chemical pesticides that leave a residue. 81 Fed. Reg. 75816. The 2016 NPDES Pesticide General Permit (PGP) replaces the 2011 PGP, which expired on October 31, 2016. The PGP applies to the following geographic areas where EPA serves as the NPDES permitting authority:
- The States of: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Idaho;
- District of Columbia;
- All U.S. territories except the U.S. Virgin Islands;
- Federal facilities in Delaware, Vermont, Colorado, and Washington;
- Discharges in Texas that are not under the authority of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, including activities associated with oil and gas exploration (see Appendix A of the Final 2016 PGP for further description); and
- All areas of Indian Country that are not covered by an EPA-approved permitting program (see Appendix A for Indian Country covered within each EPA Region).
Similar to the 2011 PGP, the 2016 PGP contains additional permit conditions and modifications that some states and tribes added through the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 certification process and/or the Coastal Zone Management Act process. Part 9 of the 2016 PGP provides a detailed breakdown of any additional requirements. Forty-six states have delegated authority to administer state versions of the PGP. The majority of states recently revised and reissued their respective state PGPs for another five-year permit cycle.
The 2016 PGP applies to the same pesticide use patterns covered by the 2011 PGP, which are:
- Mosquito and Other Flying Insect Pest Control -- control of public health/nuisance and other flying insect pests (including mosquitoes and black flies) that develop or are present during a portion of their life cycle in or above standing or flowing water.
- Weed and Algae Pest Control -- control of weeds, algae, and pathogens that are pests in water and at water’s edge, including ditches and/or canals.
- Animal Pest Control -- control of animal pests, including fish, lampreys, insets, mollusks, and pathogens, in water and at water’s edge.
- Forest Canopy Pest Control -- application of a pesticide to a forest canopy to control the population of a pest species (e.g., insect or pathogen) where, to target the pests effectively, a portion of the pesticide unavoidably will be applied over and deposited to water.
The 2016 PGP requirements are nearly identical to those in the 2011 PGP, with the exception of the following two updates included in the 2016 PGP:
- Electronic reporting (Part 7.8) -- All reporting under the 2016 PGP (i.e., Notice of Intent (NOI), Annual Report, and Notice of Terminations (NOT) submissions) must be submitted via EPA’s eNOI system to be consistent with EPA’s Electronic Reporting Rule. EPA will make these reports publicly available through a searchable index tool -- eNOI search. More information on electronic reporting, and access to the Central Data Exchange for NOI, Annual Report, and NOT submissions is available here.
- Updated definition of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern -- Following consultation between EPA and NMFS, as required under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), EPA expanded the Listed Resources of Concern to include additional species not included in the 2011 PGP definition. Under Part 188.8.131.52, pesticide discharges that overlap with NMFS Listed Resources of Concern trigger additional NOI requirements to certify that the discharges and discharge-related activities are not likely to adversely affect federally listed “endangered” or “threatened” species, or federally-designated “critical habitat.” Permittees may consult EPA’s PGP NMFS Listed Resources of Concern -- Interactive Mapping Tool to determine whether a discharge activity will overlap with these Resources of Concern. Appendix I provides endangered species instructions for affected permittees. EPA states in the corresponding Fact Sheet for the 2016 PGP that it continues to estimate that less than two percent of the total number of Operators in the PGP coverage areas will need to meet additional permit requirements in order to meet ESA-related provisions.
The 2016 PGP permit conditions went into effect on October 31, 2016, and the PGP will expire in five years on October 31, 2021. 2016 PGP coverage is automatic through January 12, 2017, without the submission of an NOI, but pesticide Operators (i.e., pesticide applicators) must comply with all 2016 PGP conditions as of October 31, 2016. For any discharges commencing on or before January 12, 2017, that will continue after this date, a decision-maker must submit an NOI no later than January 2, 2017, to ensure PGP coverage, and for any discharges subsequent to January 12, 2017, an NOI submission is required no later than 10 days before the first discharge. Table 1-1 at Part 1.2.3 outlines which decision-makers must submit NOIs based on the particular pesticide use pattern, location (i.e., if discharging to a designated Outstanding National Resource Water), and acreage thresholds. Table 1-2 at Part 1.2.3 provides applicable NOI submission deadlines, including grace periods for NOI filing for discharges in response to a Declared Pest Emergency.
EPA’s webpage for pesticide NPDES permitting includes links to the final 2016 PGP, a related fact sheet, the permitting decision tool, and information on eNOI and ESA procedures.
Although the 2016 PGP largely mirrors the 2011 version of the permit, it will be important for decision-makers to familiarize themselves with the new electronic reporting requirements (Part 7.8). EPA’s eNOI system is publicly searchable and could subject PGP permit holders to additional scrutiny by citizens and advocacy groups concerned about potential environmental and public health implications of pesticide applications in their areas. Decision-makers should consult EPA’s PGP NMFS Listed Resources of Concern -- Interactive Mapping Tool and the Alternative PGP Sources of Information for NMFS Listed Resources of Concern to determine where discharges may overlap with these areas and trigger additional permit conditions.