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By Lisa M. Campbell, Heather F. Collins, M.S. and Barbara A. Christianson

On March 9, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that due to the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, it is expediting review of submissions made by companies that are requesting to add Emerging Viral Pathogen claims to its labels of already-registered surface disinfectants.

EPA states that only claims that do not require review of new efficacy data are being expedited at this time.  Companies can submit these claims as non-Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 4) fast-track amendments.  Registrants are asked not to include other label changes typically covered under amendments and notifications as part of the submission to add Emerging Viral Pathogen claims.

EPA requests that registrants include the following information in a letter to ensure the efficient processing of submissions:

  • A subject line that clearly indicates “Emerging Viral Pathogen Claim for SARS-CoV-2”;
  • A request to make emerging viral pathogen claims;
  • A description of how the product meets the eligibility criteria for use against one or more categories of viral pathogens consistent with the guidance;
  • The identification of the virus(es) from the product label that the registrant is using to support the emerging viral pathogen claims and the study ID number (MRID) that supports the claim;
    • Note: EPA recommends using the minimum number of supporting viruses needed for the emerging pathogen claim in order to expedite EPA’s review
  • An up-to-date matrix (Form 8570-35); and
  • A request to add the Terms of Registration outlined in Attachment I of the Emerging Viral Pathogens Guidance.

Registrants should also submit a revised master label with a separate section for emerging viral pathogen claims that includes the generic claim statements identified in Attachment I of the Emerging Viral Pathogens guidance document.

EPA requests that applications are submitted through EPA’s CDX portal and email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with the CDX tracking number (CDX_2020_XXXXXXX) once an application was submitted to expedite the application.

If approved, the product will be added to List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2, during the next update to the list, which is scheduled to be updated in the next two weeks.

Additional information is available at Emerging Viral Pathogen Claims for SARS-CoV-2: Submission Information for Registrants and on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Heather F. Collins, M.S. and Barbara A. Christianson

On March 5, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of a new list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  Products on EPA’s “List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2” are registered disinfectants qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2 approved through EPA’s Emerging Viral Pathogen Program (Program).  Currently there are 85 products listed that are qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2.  Of note, EPA states that if the directions for use for viruses/virucidal activity of the listed products provide different contact times or dilutions, the longest contact time or most concentrated solution should be used.

EPA issued guidance for the Program in 2016; the guidance was intended to “expedite the process for registrants to provide useful information to the public” regarding products that may be effective against emerging viral pathogens.  In the event of an outbreak, companies with pre-approved products can make off-label claims (e.g., technical literature distributed exclusively to healthcare facilities, physicians, nurses, and public health officials; 1-800 consumer information services; company websites (non-label related); social media) for use against the outbreak virus.  These emerging pathogen statements will not appear on marketed (final print) product labels.  Additional information on EPA’s activation of its Emerging Viral Pathogen Program is available on our blog.

Companies with EPA-registered disinfectants that wish to add their products to List N, should provide the information as outlined below to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  1. Ensure that the product has a previously approved emerging viral pathogen claim.
  2. Provide the product name and EPA Registration number.

It is important to note that in releasing today’s list of products, EPA states in red bold font: “Note: There may be additional disinfectants that meet the criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.  EPA will update this list with additional products as needed.” 

In addition, EPA has updated other lists of antimicrobial products registered with EPA for claims against common pathogens:

  • List B: EPA Registered Tuberculocide Products Effective Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis;
  • List C: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective Against Human HIV-1 Virus;
  • List D: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective Against Human HIV-1 and Hepatitis B Virus;
  • List E: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis Human HIV-1 and Hepatitis B Virus;
  • List F: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective Against Hepatitis C Virus;
  • List G: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective Against Norovirus;
  • List H: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective Against Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus faecalis or faecium (VRE);
  • List K: EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products Effective Against Clostridium Difficile Spores; and
  • List M: Registered Antimicrobial Products with Label Claims for Avian (Bird) Flu Disinfectants.

Additional information on EPA’s List of Antimicrobial Products Registered with EPA for Claims Against Common Pathogens is available here.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Barbara A. Christianson

On January 29, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has activated its Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides (Guidance) in response to the discovery of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses cause numerous illnesses, from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).  First identified in Wuhan, China, the 2019-nCoV coronavirus is a new strain that had not been previously seen in humans.

EPA developed its Guidance in 2016 to address emerging pathogens.  Under this Guidance, EPA provides pesticide registrants with a voluntary “two-stage process to enable use of certain EPA-registered disinfectant products against emerging viral pathogens not identified on the product label.”  These pathogens may not be identified on a label because the occurrence of emerging viral pathogens is less common and predictable than established pathogens and because the pathogens are often unavailable commercially and standard methods for laboratory testing may not exist.  EPA’s intent is for the Guidance to “expedite the process for registrants to provide useful information to the public” regarding products that may be effective against emerging viral pathogens associated with certain human or animal disease outbreaks.  Registrants with a pre-qualified emerging viral pathogen designation can include an efficacy statement in technical literature distributed to health care facilities, physicians, nurses, public health officials, non-label-related websites, consumer information services, and social media sites.  Additional information on the Guidance is available here and here.

EPA will likely work closely with registrants as they take steps to use these procedures to make claims related to coronavirus.  EPA notes that coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, meaning they are one of the easiest to kill with the appropriate disinfectant product, and thus using such products could help to limit the spread of these viruses.  Registrants that do not meet the criteria set forth in this Guidance yet make claims related to the coronavirus could face enforcement action for selling or distributing misbranded pesticides.  EPA states that it is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify and address 2019-nCoV in a timely manner and will continue to monitor developments closely.

Information on the coronavirus is available on CDC’s website.


 

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

On July 18, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a pre-publication version of a Federal Register notice announcing a final order denying the Pesticide Action Network North America’s (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) 2007 Petition requesting that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos (Order).  This Order constitutes final Agency action denying all of the Petitioners’ objections to EPA’s previous refusal to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos.  This Order also constitutes final administrative action concerning all parts of the 2007 Petition that were not previously addressed by EPA.  Given the previous extensive chlorpyrifos litigation, this latest action by EPA will likely lead to further litigation challenging EPA’s decision to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).

Background

The FIFRA registrations and related tolerances for chlorpyrifos have a complicated regulatory and legal history, as discussed in previous blogs available here.

EPA’s new Order denies objections made by PANNA and NRDC under the FFDCA to EPA’s March 29, 2017, order denying the request by PANNA and NRDC that EPA revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos and cancel all chlorpyrifos product registrations.  In the Order, EPA begins by summarizing its prior responses to the 2007 Petition, in which EPA denied each of ten claims raised in support of the Petitioners’ request that EPA revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances and cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations.  The ten claims are:

  1. EPA has ignored genetic evidence of vulnerable populations.
  2. EPA has delayed a decision regarding endocrine disrupting effects.
  3. EPA has ignored data regarding cancer risks.
  4. EPA’s 2006 cumulative risk assessment (CRA) for the organophosphates misrepresented risks and failed to apply the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) 10X safety factor.
  5. EPA over-relied on registrant data.
  6. EPA has failed to address properly the exporting hazard in foreign countries from chlorpyrifos.
  7. EPA has failed to incorporate quantitatively data demonstrating long-lasting effects from early life exposure to chlorpyrifos in children.
  8. EPA has disregarded data demonstrating that there is no evidence of a safe level of exposure during pre-birth and early life stages.
  9. EPA has failed to cite or incorporate quantitatively studies and clinical reports suggesting potential adverse effects below 10 percent cholinesterase inhibition.
  10. EPA has failed to incorporate inhalation routes of exposure.

EPA’s Order next focuses on the June 2017 objections to the March 29, 2017, Denial Order that were filed by several public interest groups and states.  The three main objections, and EPA’s response, are as follows:

  • Claims Regarding the Legal Standard for Reviewing Petitions to Revoke:  Objectors assert that EPA’s Denial Order applied the wrong legal standard.  Objectors assert that neither “scientific uncertainty” nor the October 2022 deadline for registration review under FIFRA Section 3(g), nor the widespread agricultural use of chlorpyrifos, provide a basis for denying petitions to revoke. Objectors claim that EPA has unlawfully left chlorpyrifos tolerances in place without making the safety finding required by the FFDCA.
  • EPA Response:  In its Order, EPA denies the objections related to Petitioners’ claims regarding neurodevelopmental toxicity, stating that the objections and the underlying Petition are not supported by valid, complete, and reliable evidence sufficient to meet the Petitioners’ burden under the FFDCA, as set forth in EPA’s implementing regulations.  Specifically, EPA states that Objectors have not met their regulatory burden to provide “reasonable grounds” for revocation, including an assertion of facts to justify the modification or revocation of the tolerance (40 C.F.R. § 180.32(b)) or the initial evidentiary burden for persons seeking revocation to come forward with sufficient evidence to show that pesticide tolerances to be modified or revoked are not safe.  After summarizing its review of available epidemiologic data, including feedback from the 2012 and 2016 FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meetings, EPA states that “the epidemiologic studies are central to the Petitioner’s claims regarding neurodevelopmental effects, yet the Petitioners and Objectors rely only on summaries in publications to present their case. Petitioners have not presented the raw data from the epidemiology studies for consideration of their claims.” EPA “concludes that the information yet presented by Petitioners is not sufficiently valid, complete, and reliable to support abandoning the use of AChE inhibition as the critical effect for regulatory purposes under the FFDCA section 408” and also that Petitioners have “failed to meet their initial burden of providing sufficiently valid, complete, and reliable evidence that neurodevelopmental effects may be occurring at levels below EPA’s current regulatory standard and no information submitted with the objections addresses this shortcoming of the Petition.”
  • Objections Asserting that EPA Has Found Chlorpyrifos to Be Unsafe: Objectors assert that EPA has previously found that chlorpyrifos tolerances are unsafe and has not disavowed those findings. Specifically, they claim that EPA has found that chlorpyrifos results in unsafe drinking water exposures and results in adverse neurodevelopmental effects to children and that EPA must therefore revoke the tolerances.
  • EPA Response:  EPA denies making any regulatory findings that chlorpyrifos tolerances are not safe, stating that its statements in its 2015 proposed tolerance revocation was not a final action.  EPA states: “Proposed rules are just that -- proposals; they do not bind federal agencies. Indeed, EPA made clear it was issuing the proposal because of the court order, without having resolved many of the issues critical to EPA’s FFDCA determination and without having fully considered comments previously submitted to the Agency.”  Regarding those objections related to drinking water, EPA states that since the Petition did not identify drinking water exposure as a basis for seeking tolerance revocation, the Objectors cannot now raise that concern as a basis for challenging EPA’s denial of the Petition. EPA also states: “The mere fact that EPA is considering the potential impact of chlorpyrifos exposures in drinking water in the Agency’s FIFRA section 3(g) registration review does not somehow provide Petitioners and Objectors with a vehicle for introducing that topic in the objections process on the Petition denial.”  EPA instead will continue its FIFRA Section 3(g) registration review and complete its evaluation of drinking water exposures to chlorpyrifos, and address these issues in its upcoming registration review decision.
  • Objections Asserting that the Denial Order Failed to Respond to Significant Concerns Raised in Comments:  Objectors argue that EPA’s Denial Order committed a procedural error by failing to address significant concerns raised in the comments on EPA’s 2014 risk assessment and 2015 proposed revocation that EPA’s assessment fails to protect children. In particular, the Objectors focus on concerns raised in comments asserting that (1) EPA’s use of 10 percemt cholinesterase as a regulatory standard is not protective for effects to children’s developing brains; (2) EPA has not properly accounted for effects from inhalation of chlorpyrifos from spray drift and volatilization; and (3) EPA inappropriately used the Corteva physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) model to reduce inter- and intra-species safety factors because the model is ethically and scientifically deficient.
  • EPA Response:  EPA denies the objections claiming procedural error, stating it “has no obligation to respond to rulemaking comments in denying the Petition or responding to objections, both of which are adjudicatory actions that are not part of the rulemaking process.  EPA also restated its prior response to the Petition that the “objections fail to meet burden of presenting evidence sufficiently valid, complete and reliable to demonstrate that chlorpyrifos results in neurodevelopmental effects that render its tolerances not safe.”  EPA further “believes it is lawful and appropriate for it to consider federally enforceable chlorpyrifos product labeling restrictions in assessing the extent of bystander risk from spray drift under both the FFDCA and FIFRA.”

Commentary

This latest EPA assessment appears to be more finely crafted than the earlier March 2017 response to the tolerance revocation Petition.  EPA explains that it does not consider the epidemiology studies cited by the Petitioners to be persuasive sufficiently to change EPA’s fundamental approach to assessing chlorpyrifos risks.  EPA notes that its current risk assessment utilizes the default 10X safety factor for infants and children specified by the FQPA, so any argument that it has not utilized this safety factor is moot.  At the same time, EPA maintains that the epidemiology studies do not justify changing EPA’s point of departure for risk assessment, which remains the threshold for 10 percent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition.  EPA states that there are significant problems with using the epidemiology studies for risk assessment, including lack of access to the underlying data, the absence of any known mechanism for neurodevelopmental effects below the threshold for AChE inhibition, and a lack of scientific consensus on a method for choosing an alternate point of departure based on the epidemiology studies.  This interpretation of the epidemiology studies for chlorpyrifos will remain controversial and these studies will continue to be cited by those who seek to eliminate chlorpyrifos use.

EPA has also taken a position that the burden is on the Petitioners to support a petition to revoke tolerances with reliable data.  What is less clear is “how much” evidence EPA considers sufficient to meet the threshold for tolerance revocation.  Meanwhile, EPA will defer its assessment of possible neurodevelopmental effects of chlorpyrifos below the threshold for AChE inhibition pending completion of the registration review for chlorpyrifos.  The deadline for EPA to complete registration review is October 1, 2022, although EPA states that it intends to expedite this process and to issue a proposed registration review decision by October 2020.

EPA also has included in its decision an intriguing discussion of some new animal studies for chlorpyrifos that purport to show low-level neurodevelopmental effects from chlorpyrifos.  The California Department of Pesticide Regulation relied substantially on these new studies when it designated chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant.  If these new chlorpyrifos studies are deemed credible, they could supplant efforts to use the chlorpyrifos epidemiology data in risk assessments and allow EPA to establish a new point of departure for chlorpyrifos that is not based on AChE inhibition.  Rather than disregarding these new data, which were not submitted in support of the tolerance revocation Petition, EPA says affirmatively that it intends to review them in the pending registration review.


 

By Lisa 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.

Discussion

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.”

Commentary

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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.

  1. 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.

Commentary

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


 
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