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By Lisa M. Campbell and Susan M. Kirsch

On February 15, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added resources to its website regarding the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements of the WPS.  As of January 2, 2018, full compliance is required with all of the AEZ-related requirements in the WPS. The new EPA website resources include:

While many welcome EPA’s guidance on the many thorny issues presented by the WPS and AEZ requirements, some believe that in places, the newly issued guidance raises additional questions and leaves some significant questions unaddressed.  Given the controversy over this rule, this new guidance should be reviewed closely.

More information on the WPS, including EPA’s December 2017 announcement of its intention to revise the AEZ and other WPS provisions, and current implementation deadlines can be found on our blog under key word WPS and key phrase Worker Protection Standard.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On February 12, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has reached an agreement with Syngenta Seeds, LLC (Syngenta), a pesticide company in Hawaii, to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) at its farm in Kekaha, Kauai.  The settlement includes two penalty components:  a $400,000 Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) for worker protection standard (WPS) training; and $150,000 as a civil penalty.

The Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO), issued on February 7, 2018, states the parties are resolving alleged violations under FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(G) from the use of the registered restricted-use pesticide Lorsban Advanced on an agricultural establishment in Kekaha, Hawaii, “in manners inconsistent with its labeling by not complying with applicable Worker Protection Standard regulations.”  Syngenta neither admitted nor denied the allegations but consented to the assessment of the civil penalty and to the other conditions in the CAFO.

EPA’s Press Release states that under the settlement, Syngenta “will spend $400,000 on eleven worker protection training sessions for growers in Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.”  Specifically, the SEP states it “is intended to assist and provide compliance tools to small-scale growers of agricultural plants that face compliance challenges based on cultural, literacy, or language considerations, and/or geographic isolation.”  Further, Syngenta will “also develop compliance kits for use at these trainings and for wider distribution in the agricultural community in English and four other languages commonly spoken by growers and farmworkers in the training locations -- Mandarin, Korean, Tagalog, and Ilocano.”  These compliance kits will include the following practical resources, among others:

  • Summary documents with corresponding videos addressing the major compliance topic areas within the WPS;
  • Worker training resources including, but not limited to, training outlines with materials, tailgate training toolkits, and sign-in sheets; and
  • Sample WPS company policies and procedures.

This CAFO and in particular the SEP will be interesting to monitor considering EPA’s recent WPS revisions that became effective on January 2, 2017, and the additional proposed revisions for which comments are expected to be solicited. 

More information on FIFRA enforcement issues is available on our blog under key word enforcement.  Information on Syngenta’s 2016 CAFO regarding label violations is available in our blog item Syngenta Settles with EPA on Alleged Label Violations.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced, in two separate notices, that it is initiating a process to revise (1) certain requirements in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) (82 Fed. Reg. 60576 (Dec. 21. 2017)); and (2) to revise the minimum age requirements in the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (C&T) rule.  82 Fed. Reg. 60195 (Dec. 19. 2017).

For the WPS rulemaking, the provisions at issue were identified as part of the public comments received in response to Executive Order (EO) 13777, Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.  Three provisions in particular were the subject of public comment, and later consideration by the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) at its November 2, 2017, meeting.  The three provisions are:  minimum age (the 2015 WPS specifies a minimum age of 18 years, with an exemption for owners of agricultural establishments and their immediate family members); designated representative (the 2015 WPS requires employers to provide pesticide application information and safety data sheets to a designated representative of a worker or handler under specified circumstances); and application exclusion zones (AEZ) (the 2015 WPS requires the establishment of AEZs with respect to outdoor production on farms, nurseries, and forests to reduce the number of incidents where workers or others are exposed to pesticides during agricultural pesticide applications). 

EPA also announced that the compliance dates in the revised WPS remain in effect and that EPA has no intent to extend them.  This means that most provisions in the revised WPS went into effect on January 2, 2017, and compliance with two additional requirements will begin on January 2, 2018.  The two requirements include compliance with the display of pesticide safety information, and pesticide handlers must temporarily suspend applications if workers or others enter in the application zone during pesticide applications.  The only requirements in the revised WPS that will not be in effect as of January 2, 2018, are the requirements that the worker and handler pesticide safety training material cover the expanded content at 40 C.F.R. §§ 170.401(c)(3) and 170.501(c)(3).  The 2015 revised WPS provided that compliance with the expanded pesticide safety content in these sections was not required until 180 days after EPA publishes in the Federal Register a notice of availability of certain training materials.  While there are training materials available that meet the expanded content requirement, EPA has not yet published such a Federal Register and apparently does not intend to do so until after the rulemaking announced on December 21 has concluded.

For the C&T rule, EPA expects to “publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit public input on proposed revisions to the rule by the end of FY2018,” and it has no plans to change the implementation dates in the January 4, 2017, final rule.  The C&T notice states that “EPA has determined that further consideration of the rule’s minimum age requirements is warranted through the rulemaking process” after it considered comments received pursuant to EO 13777, revisiting the record, and reviewing the applicable statutory. 

More information on WPS issues is available on our blog under key phrase Worker Protection Standard


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

In a November 2, 2015, Federal Register notice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  issued the final rule revising the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Worker Protection Standard (WPS).  EPA previously announced these revisions on September 28, 2015, and stated that it would issue the final rule in the Federal Register within 60 days. 

The following are important dates:

  • January 4, 2016:  The date when the final WPS rule is effective.
  • January 4, 2017:  The date by which agricultural employers and handler employers will be required to comply with all of the new requirements set forth in the final rule except for the ones listed below.
  • January 4, 2018 (Or 180 Days After An EPA Announcement That Training Materials Are Available, Whichever Is Later):  The date by which agricultural employers and handler employers will be required to comply with certain new requirements for the content of pesticide safety training for workers and handlers and pesticide safety information display (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. § 170.311(a)(3), 40 C.F.R. § 170.401(c)(3), and 40 C.F.R. § 170.501(c)(3)).  EPA states it delayed implementation of the final rule regarding certain training and display materials to provide agricultural employers and handler employers time for such materials to be updated, printed, and distributed as well as to allow time for existing trainers to familiarize themselves with those new materials.
  • January 4, 2018:  The date by which agricultural employers and handler employers will be required to comply with the requirement that the handler performing an application must immediately suspend a pesticide application if any worker or other person, other than an appropriately trained and equipped handler involved in the application, is in the application exclusion zone described in § 170.405(a)(1) or the area specified in column B of the Table in § 170.405(b)(4) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. 170.505(b)). 

EPA also states that it is “committed to a robust outreach, communications and training effort to communicate the new rule requirements to affected WPS stakeholders.”  EPA has stated its intent to do the following to facilitate implementation:

  • Issue plain language “how to comply” fact sheets and guidance materials.
  • Develop compliance assistance materials that are targeted to specific agricultural sectors and rule requirements, such as respirator requirements or the WPS exemptions and exceptions.
  • Develop and disseminate new worker and handler training materials, conduct outreach to potentially affected parties, and provide assistance and resources to States and Tribes for WPS implementation.
  • Hold Pesticide Regulatory Education Program courses for State and Tribal pesticide program staff that will focus on WPS implementation, and Pesticide Inspector Residential Training courses for State and Tribal pesticide inspectors that will focus on WPS inspection requirements.

The details of the WPS final rule are discussed in Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) blog entry EPA Announces Revisions to Its Worker Protection Standard.

For more information, please see B&C’s memorandum Predictions and Outlook for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) 2015 and James V. Aidala Comments on EPA’s Worker Protection Standards.  More information is also available on EPA’s Worker Protection Standard webpage.