By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On February 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order granting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s (collectively EPA or Respondents) September 24, 2018, petition for an en banc rehearing concerning the Ninth Circuit’s August 9, 2018, decision that vacated an EPA order maintaining chlorpyrifos registrations and remanded the case to EPA with directions to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.
The Ninth Circuit’s order granting the Respondent’s petition that the case be re-heard en banc does not provide an explanation for its decision. The Ninth Circuit evidently found the arguments offered by Respondents and other interested parties that filed amicus curiae briefs more persuasive than Petitioners’ brief (including the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)), who argued against submission of certain amicus curiae briefs and also that, with limited exception, Respondent’s petition for rehearing lacked merit and should be denied.
The en banc oral argument will be held March 26, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. (PST).
Arguments for Rehearing
Prior to the February 6, 2019, order, on October 15, 2018, three amicus curiae briefs were filed in support of EPA’s petition by CropLife America (CLA), Agribusiness Council of Indiana (Agribusiness), and Dow Agrosciences LLC (DAS). Despite Petitioners’ objection to the motions of Agribusiness and CLA for leave to file amicus curiae briefs in support of Respondent’s petition for rehearing, on November 13, 2018, the Ninth Circuit granted the motions for leave to file amicus curiae briefs.
EPA’s petition for rehearing made multiple arguments as to why an en banc and panel rehearing should be granted, including the Panel’s lack of jurisdiction, the Panel’s order conflicting with applicable Supreme Court precedent, and specific modifications to be addressed to the order to comply with Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requirements. More information regarding EPA’s petition is available in our blog item “EPA Petitions for En Banc and Panel Rehearing in Ninth Circuit Chlorpyrifos Case.”
The amicus curiae briefs supported EPA’s arguments and also made arguments supporting rehearing in addition to those previously set forth by EPA. CLA’s brief focused on the fact that the Panel’s decision disregarded FIFRA’s cancellation process, stating: “if EPA ultimately were to determine that any chlorpyrifos registration would need to be cancelled, such an action could not be accomplished in the way the panel majority prescribed: by circumventing the procedures Congress required to ensure that pesticide cancellation decisions are not made unless and until these harms and the best science available are properly vetted.” DAS’ brief addressed in detail the Panel’s violation of administrative law in dictating how EPA must act (i.e., cancel the chlorpyrifos registrations) and the potential violation of FIFRA by EPA if forced to comply with the Panel’s order regarding the timing for cancelling such registrations. The amicus curiae briefs also sought to provide information on the practical consequences that chlorpyrifos registrants and users would face if the panel opinion is not revised. For example, DAS discussed its proprietary interest in protecting its registrations and defending its product, while Agribusiness in its brief provided some background on the use and benefits of chlorpyrifos, the lack of viable alternatives, and the ramifications of the order on insect pest resistance and the ability to combat new invasive pests.
Petitioners’ response to the petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc argued that there was no basis for rehearing. Petitioners noted that en banc review is “disfavored” and appropriate in limited “extraordinary circumstances” and in the face of “an irreconcilable conflict between the holdings of controlling prior decisions of this court.” Petitioners argued that the Panel decision was in accord with precedent and that a request for rehearing “would only result in further delay.” Petitioners did concede on two points: (1) modifying the order to direct EPA to cancel the registrations under the FIFRA cancellation process, which necessitates more time than the 60 days set forth in the order; and (2) clarifying that the order is limited to cancelling registrations that can result in residues on food.
EPA, chlorpyrifos registrants and users, and industry generally should be encouraged by the decision to grant an en banc rehearing in this case, but the outcome is far from certain. Given the issues at stake, registrants should monitor this hearing closely.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On July 29, 2016, the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB or Board) issued its Final Decision and Order (Order) upholding the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Initial Decision and an earlier order denying Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc.’s (BCS/NAI) Motion for Accelerated Decision that held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was authorized to cancel the conditional flubendiamide registrations under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(e) and did not need to provide BCS/NAI the full Section 6(b) cancellation process. The Board also upheld EPA’s determination prohibiting BCS/NAI from the continued sale, distribution, and use of existing stocks of flubendiamide products, but found that EPA’s determination to prohibit the continued sale and distribution of existing stocks of flubendiamide end-use products by distributors and retailers other than BCS/NAI was not supported by the record.
Additional information regarding this case is available in our blog items EPA ALJ Issues Initial Decision in Bayer Flubendiamide Cancellation Proceeding, EPA ALJ Denies Bayer’s Motion for Accelerated Decision and Flubendiamide Registrants and EPA File Post-Oral Argument Briefs.
The EAB summarized BCS/NAI’s arguments concerning the overall proceeding with two questions: (1) whether EPA has properly initiated this cancellation action under Section 6(e) rather than Section 6(b); and (2) if the proceeding is properly initiated under Section 6(e), whether BCS/NAI can nonetheless challenge the lawfulness of a condition in their registrations in a Section 6(e) proceeding.
With regard to the first issue, the Board found that EPA appropriately commenced the proceeding under the expedited cancellation procedures set forth in FIFRA Section 6(e) because two criteria were satisfied: (1) the registration must have been issued as a conditional registration under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7); and (2) EPA must have determined that BCS/NAI failed to satisfy a condition of that registration. The Board found that “neither the plain language of the statute, its structure, nor legislative history” supported BCS/NAI’s argument that if EPA “has made an unreasonable adverse effects finding, FIFRA’s general cancellation provision in section 6(b) trumps section 6(e) and bars the Program from initiating a 6(e) cancellation proceeding, even where the elements for a section 6(e) cancellation are met.” The Board further stated: “Bayer and Nichino’s argument that section 6(b) takes priority over section 6(e) is inconsistent with the structure and environmental protection goals of FIFRA.” Instead, EAB states:
- Given Congress’ decision to add an expedited cancellation provision to FIFRA -- separate and independent from section 6(b) -- it is difficult to square FIFRA’s environmental protection goals with Bayer and Nichino’s argument that the Pesticide Program must use the more time-consuming and resource-intensive section 6(b) procedures to cancel a pesticide in circumstances where section 6(e)’s expedited procedures are applicable. That is particularly the case when one considers that, unless the Program issues an “emergency order,” a registrant is allowed to sell and distribute the pesticide during the course of section 6 cancellation proceedings. See FIFRA § 6(b)-(c), 7 U.S.C. § 136d(b)-(c). If the Program were required to initiate cancellation proceedings under section 6(b) instead of under section 6(e), registrants would, in effect, be rewarded with additional time to sell and distribute their pesticides. Had Congress intended such a result, it could have subordinated section 6(e) to section 6(b) when it added the new conditional registration authority (including section 6(e)) to the existing statutory structure in 1978. See S. Rep. No. 95-1188, at 11 (1978) (Conf. Rep.). But Congress did not take such a step. Rather, in creating the possibility of allowing pesticides to be introduced to the market conditionally when they could not meet all the requirements for a general registration, Congress took steps to assure that such pesticide registrations could be promptly canceled when the terms of the conditional registrations were not met.
The Board also found that BCS/NAI could not demand a Section 6(b) cancellation proceeding because they “willingly accepted the termination condition in 2008 and 2009, knowing that it required them to submit a request for voluntary cancellation if the Program were to issue a determination that flubendiamide causes unreasonable adverse effects.” EAB stated: “Given the language of the conditional registrations, Bayer and Nichino’s affirmative concurrence on that language, and the record of negotiations, we find that Bayer and Nichino willingly agreed to the termination condition, knowing that they were agreeing to an approach that could remove the flubendiamide products from the market rapidly. Having knowingly agreed to this procedure, they cannot contest it now.”
With regard to the second issue as to whether BCS/NAI can nonetheless challenge the lawfulness of a condition in their registrations in a Section 6(e) proceeding, EAB found that the scope of a Section 6(e) cancellation is “narrowly limited to the following issues: (1) whether the condition was satisfied, and (2) whether the Pesticide Program’s determination on the appropriate disposition of the existing stocks of the canceled pesticide is consistent with FIFRA.” The Board found that the facts in this particular case demonstrated that BCS/NAI “had ample opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of the termination condition in a timely and permissible way but failed to do so.” EAB noted, for example, that BCS/NAI could have declined to accept the registration terms and challenged EPA’s refusal to grant a conditional registration with terms acceptable to BCS/NAI. The Board further found that BCS/NAI understood the consequences of agreeing to the condition at issue and thus “knew, or should have known given the clarity of section 6(e), that any objection they had to the condition giving the Pesticide Program the option to effectively require cancellation without instituting a section 6(b) proceeding could not be raised in a section 6(e) cancellation for failure to comply with the termination condition.”
As for the specific issues that the Board stated were properly before it in this appeal, it found BCS/NAI did not comply with their obligation to submit voluntary cancellation requests. The Board rejected arguments that BCS/NAI’s failure to request cancellation is excused because EPA did not meet an important pre-condition to the termination condition by “engaging in dialogue” with BCS/NAI regarding the data and EPA’s conclusions related to that data. Specifically, the Board found that this objection was not timely raised and thus was precluded, but that even if it had not been precluded, BCS/NAI had failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that EPA did not engage in such dialogue.
One aspect of the EPA’s determination that was overturned relates to whether existing stocks can continue to be sold or distributed. Although the Board upheld as reasonable EPA’s denial of the sale and distribution of existing stocks by BCS/NAI because they violated the termination condition, EAB amended EPA’s existing stocks determination described in the Notice of Intent to Cancel “to allow distributors and retailers other than Bayer and Nichino to sell and distribute end-use flubendiamide products that have been formulated, packaged, and labeled for use and [that] have been shipped or released into commerce to distributors on or before the date of this Final Decision and Order, until those stocks are exhausted.” EAB instead stated that EPA’s “rationale for denying the sale and distribution of existing stocks by Bayer and Nichino -- because they violated the terms of their conditional registrations -- has limited, if any, applicability to non-registrants.” Distributors and retailers other than BCS/NAI can continue to sell and distribute end-use flubendiamide products that were formulated, packaged, and labeled for use and shipped or released into commerce to distributors on or before the date of this Final Decision and Order, until those stocks are exhausted.
Although the resolution of this case has potential implications for current and future registrations, EPA has acknowledged the unique circumstances of this case, and indicated that it is unlikely that a conditional registration like that issued for flubendiamide will be issued again. If a registrant ever finds itself in a similar position to BCS/NAI, or facing a situation, as EPA has indicated, that seeks a condition of registration that would allow a registration to simply expire, such companies should carefully consider how to proceed, including considering options to challenge the lawfulness of the condition proposed by EPA or to demonstrate that the applicant/registrant is entitled to a general, not conditional, registration.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Timothy D. Backstrom, and Lisa R. Burchi
On July 1, 2016, in an administrative appeal of the June 1, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Initial Decision and an earlier order denying Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc.’s (BCS/NAI) Motion for Accelerated Decision that held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was authorized to cancel the conditional flubendiamide registrations under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(e) and did not need to provide BCS/NAI the full Section 6(b) cancellation process, the parties in the case filed post-oral argument briefs. The briefs were ordered by the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB or Board) following oral arguments held on June 22, 2016, by BCS/NAI and EPA.
Additional information regarding this case is available in our blog items EPA ALJ Issues Initial Decision in Bayer Flubendiamide Cancellation Proceeding and EPA ALJ Denies Bayer’s Motion for Accelerated Decision.
The EAB requested that the parties submit post-order briefs responding to questions raised by the Board during oral argument, and the responses filed by the parties demonstrate their divergent views on issues related to this conditional registration and the process by which EPA sought to cancel such registration.
The specific questions asked by the Board and BCS/NAI and EPA’s responses are as follows:
1(a). What authority does the Board have in a FIFRA section 6(e) proceeding to consider the lawfulness of a condition of registration, given that section 6(e) proceedings are statutorily limited to two issues: (1) whether a condition of registration has been violated; and (2) whether EPA's determination with respect to disposition of existing stocks is consistent with FIFRA?
BCS/NAI argues that the EAB must resolve questions about the lawfulness of a condition of registration in determining whether the condition has been violated and to ensure that it has jurisdiction over this proceeding. BCS/NAI states: “For the EAB to determine ‘whether the … conditions have been satisfied within the time provided’ under FIFRA § 6(e)(2), the Board must necessarily first consider whether the conditions are valid.” BCS/NAI further argues that its “challenge to the lawfulness of the voluntary cancellation provisions is a challenge to the ALJ’s and EAB’s subject matter jurisdiction over this proceeding, the resolution of which is part of the Board’s inherent authority.” BCS/NAI argues that the EAB should find that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to administer this dispute and remand to the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP).
EPA, in contrast, stated that EAB “lacks the authority to rule on an issue clearly beyond the well-defined and narrow scope of section 6(e).” If the EAB disagrees with EPA’s position, EPA states that for all the reasons it set forth in its previous motions, “the challenged condition was clearly lawful.”
1(b). If the Board does possess the authority in a section 6(e) proceeding to consider the lawfulness of a condition of registration, may a third party also challenge the lawfulness of either that condition or any other aspect of the registration?
BCS/NAI argued that the Board’s authority to consider the lawfulness of a condition of registration does not give third parties broad rights to challenge the lawfulness of the condition or all aspects of the registration. On this point EPA seemingly agrees, stating “While EPA would want to do a more thorough study of relevant case law and legislative history before answering this question definitively, EPA has significant doubts that any third party could challenge any condition of registration in a FIFRA section 6(e) proceeding.”
1(c). Finally, if the Board were to conclude that the voluntary cancellation condition in the flubendiamide registrations is unlawful, what effect would such a holding have on the registration itself?
BCS/NAI argues that striking the voluntary cancellation provisions would not invalidate the registrations. Instead, “If the Board concludes that the voluntary cancellation provisions are unlawful, they can be stricken from the registrations and the registrations may continue without consequence other than ensuring that EPA cannot pursue an unlawful process.” BCS/NAI states that if EPA still wishes to proceed with cancellation, it must do so under FIFRA Sections 6(b) and (c).
EPA takes the position that if the EAB “decides it has the authority under section 6(e) to review the lawfulness of the cancellation condition, and finds it unlawful, the EAB should void the flubendiamide registrations.” Specifically, EPA states: “If the condition is found to be unlawful, the whole registration must be voided because it has never been found to meet the standard for registration under FIFRA without the cancellation condition. Although the EAB can rule on the legality of EPA’s actions that are within the scope of this proceeding, the authority to issue a registration on different terms is reserved to OPP.”
2. FIFRA section 6(e) provides that any hearing on a notice of intent to cancel issued under section 6(e) shall be conducted under FIFRA section 6(d). An order issued after a section 6(d) hearing "shall be based only on substantial evidence of record of such hearing." 7 U.S.C. § 136d(d). What standard of proof does this provision require? In answering this question, take into account that FIFRA section 16 requires that a substantial evidence standard be applied by a court in reviewing EPA decisions following a hearing, and the Supreme Court's decision in Steadman v. SEC, 450 U.S. 91 (1981).
BCS/NAI argues that the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof applies to orders issued by the EAB after a Section 6(e) hearing. EPA’s position is that a hearing to address the scope of FIFRA Section 6(e) must be conducted in accordance with FIFRA Section 6(d), which states that an order issued after such a hearing “shall be based only on substantial evidence of record of such hearing.”
3. What "conclusions" are covered by the requirement in the flubendiamide conditional registration that EPA "shall engage in dialogue about the data and the Agency's conclusions?" Does EPA's determination on the toxic endpoint level constitute a "conclusion" within the meaning of the registration?
BCS/NAI argues that EPA was required “to not only engage in general dialogue about the data, but also to disclose and engage in dialogue about the Agency’s final decisions and judgments about the data and whether they support continued registration,” including EPA’s unreasonable adverse effects determination and decisions on toxicological endpoints. Specifically, BCS/NAI states: “It makes sense that a condition requiring good-faith dialogue before demanding cancellation based on an unreasonable adverse effects determination would include dialogue about the final determination. In this case, EPA precluded any opportunity for such dialogue by issuing its determination on the same day as its cancellation demand.”
EPA argues in the first instance that, as the ALJ determined, BCS/NAI did not timely raise the sufficiency of dialogue issue. If EAB considers this issue timely, EPA provides a summary of EPA’s risk assessment process and argues that “the endpoint selection was one of many components that support the conclusions in the risk assessment, but the endpoint selections were not themselves identified as conclusions in the flubendiamide risk assessments.”
4. Appellants argue on appeal that EPA presented "new conclusions in the January 29, 2016 Decision and supporting documents that were not discussed with Registrants." Appeal Brief of Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc. at 22. If there were new conclusions presented in these documents, what were they, and where in the record are these conclusions detailed?
BCS/NAI argues that EPA presented at least three new conclusions in the January 29, 2016, documents that were not discussed with registrants: (1) EPA disclosed for the first time on January 29, 2016 its determination that “continued use of flubendiamide as currently registered … will result in unreasonable adverse effects to the environment;” (2) “Second, throughout the Decision Memorandum, EPA refers to its conclusions that exposure concentrations based on EPA’s theoretical modeling exceed or will exceed ‘Agency LOCs [levels of concern]’ within certain time periods based on unspecified toxicological endpoints”; and (3) “Third, and perhaps most critically, the Decision Memorandum and supporting documents contain buried within them EPA’s decision to adopt the 0.28 ppb sediment pore water endpoint from the spiked water study, which had been superseded by an endpoint from the scientifically more relevant and sound spiked sediment study, as the sole basis for its cancellation determination.”
EPA rejects Appellants’ argument that there were any new conclusions in its January 29, 2016, decision and supporting documents. EPA continues to contend that the toxicity endpoint is not a “conclusion” or “new,” instead arguing that risk assessment documents indicate EPA has been relying on the .28 ppb concentration since 2008.
5. EPA relied upon a toxic endpoint level from the Des-iodo Spiked Water 28-Day Study (MRID 46817023), among other evidence, in its January 29, 2016 unreasonable adverse effects determination for flubendiamide. What does the record show as to whether Appellants were notified of EPA's intent to use this toxic endpoint level prior to January 29, 2016?
BCS/NAI argued that EPA deliberately thwarted dialogue on the use of the 0.28 ppb endpoint and did not disclose its final decision until January 29, 2016. While acknowledging that the 0.28 ppb sediment pore water endpoint was calculated back in 2008, BCS/NAI notes that they submitted a spiked sediment study in 2010 based on comments from EPA for its preference for such a study, and that EPA reviewed the spiked sediment study in July 2011 and concluded that it supported a TWA pore water sediment endpoint of 19.5 ppb. After that, BCS/NAI states:
- [T]he record shows that OPP chose not to notify Registrants at a putative final meeting on December 15, 2015 that it had decided to revert to the 0.28 ppb endpoint; briefed the Assistant Administrator on the case for cancellation using analysis employing that endpoint the very next day; precluded meaningful discussion of the use of the lower endpoint by denying the Agency had made that decision at the January 6, 2016 meeting and presenting the lower endpoint as one endpoint among a “suite” of available endpoints; and deliberately obscured its reliance on the unsound endpoint in its final decision documents issued on the same day as the cancellation demand -- which do not even mention the choice, let alone provide the scientific basis for it.
EPA, in contrast, states that the record shows that EPA “openly and consistently treated the chronic toxicity endpoint from the Des-iodo Spiked Water 28-Day Study (MRID 46817023) as the appropriate regulatory endpoint, and neither withheld information regarding the endpoint, or changed its endpoint selection at any time between 2008 and the issuance of the [Notice of Intent to Cancel].”
6. FIFRA section 6(f) mandates that voluntary cancellation requests may not be acted upon by EPA until a notice-and-comment procedure has been completed. If Appellants had requested voluntary cancellation of the flubendiamide registrations under section 6(f), could they have challenged EPA's unreasonable adverse effects determination during the notice-and-comment period?
BCS/NAI argued that if registrants had requested voluntary cancellation under Section 6(f), they could not have effectively challenged EPA’s unreasonable adverse effects determination during the notice-and-comment period. BCS/NAI argues that “in exchange for the opportunity to submit public comments criticizing the lack of scientific support for EPA’s unreasonable adverse effects determination, Registrants would have had to cancel products that they believe should properly remain registered, forgo their statutory rights to a cancellation decision that is subject to interagency review by the Secretary of Agriculture and scientific peer review by the Scientific Advisory Panel and that can be challenged in an administrative proceeding, and, in doing so, potentially jeopardize their ability to seek and obtain judicial review of that decision.” BCS/NAI states further: “No registrant should be forced to sacrifice its statutory and due process rights in order to raise scientific concerns that EPA is free to ignore. Nor should registrants be held to have lost their rights to challenge the conditions by failing to pursue such an unfavorable path, particularly when the conditions of registration at issue themselves point to the right to invoke and seek relief through the § 6(e) process.”
EPA’s position is that “comments submitted during the section 6(f) comment period would become part of the Agency’s records and, to the extent relevant to EPA’s cancellation decision, could be expected to be part of the administrative record if someone appealed EPA’s decision to approve or deny the voluntary cancellation request to the federal courts.”
7. Is the doctrine of laches legally applicable to this proceeding? If so, explain how the record supports this conclusion.
A claim can be barred by laches when “the delay in filing the claim (1) is unreasonable and inexcusable and (2) materially prejudices the defendant.” BCS/NAI argued that the doctrine of laches does not apply here, as there was no unreasonable delay by registrants, and there is no prejudice to EPA. BCS/NAI states that they were justified in not pursuing any of the purported options for an earlier challenge that EPA’s claims were available. Instead, BCS/NAI chose “to generate the required data and satisfy the substantive conditions of registration, trusting that if the data did not show evidence of accumulation to levels of concern (which they did not), EPA would follow the science and the terms of the PAL and grant unconditional flubendiamide registrations.”
While EPA agrees that if the proceeding is limited to the scope set forth by Section 6(e), the laches doctrine would not be applicable. EPA also argues that “if EPA were to determine that the appropriateness of the cancellation condition is an appropriate issue for resolution,” then laches would apply. To support its position, EPA states that there is “substantial evidence in the record” that BCS/NAI waited almost eight years to challenge the condition of their registration that is now at issue. EPA further argues that it would be prejudiced because key negotiators of the cancellation condition and the initial registrations are no longer available and “this lack of available witness testimony could materially prejudice the Agency.”
The questions posed by the EAB, and the respective responses by BCS/NAI and EPA, indicate fundamental differences regarding the facts and application of the law to this case. Although the resolution of this case has potential implications for current and future registrations, EPA has acknowledged the unique circumstances of this case, and indicates that it is unlikely that a conditional registration like that issued for flubendiamide will be issued again.
EPA states: “the structure of the flubendiamide cancellation condition was unprecedented, and the flubendiamide experience shows that a condition requiring a registrant to request cancellation pursuant to section 6(f) is significantly less reliable than a condition that would allow a registration to simply expire. EPA is unlikely to grant in the future a registration with conditions that depend on a registrant requesting cancellation pursuant to section 6(f).” The statement by EPA that it is more likely in the future to impose a condition that would allow affected registrations “to simply expire” leaves unresolved the question of the rights a registrant would have to contest cancellation based on such an expiration date.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Timothy D. Backstrom
On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Susan L. Biro issued an Initial Decision in the matter of Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc. (BCS/NAI), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Docket No. FIFRA-HQ-2016-0001.
This decision was issued following BCS/NAI’s request for a hearing to contest EPA’s Notice of Intent to Cancel Pesticide Registrations (NOIC). BCS/NAI challenged EPA’s position that a conditional registration term in the relevant registrations required BCS/NAI to cancel voluntarily their flubendiamide registrations within one week of notification by EPA that the currently registered flubendiamide products will result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, and EPA’s issuance of a NOIC for all BCS/NAI flubendiamide products as a result of BCS/NAI’s decision declining EPA’s request to cancel voluntarily all flubendiamide registrations.
In an earlier order, Biro denied BCS/NAI’s Motion for Accelerated Decision and ruled that as a matter of law EPA was authorized to cancel the conditional registrations under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(e) and did not need to provide BCS/NAI the full Section 6(b) cancellation process. More information regarding that decision is available in our blog item EPA ALJ Denies Bayer’s Motion for Accelerated Decision.
Without the ability to review the bases underlying EPA’s determination that the continued registration of flubendiamide does not meet the Registration Standard under Section 6(b), the only two issues for consideration under Section 6(e) were: (1) whether BCS/NAI “initiated and pursued appropriate action to comply” with the voluntary cancellation provision of their conditional flubendiamide registration; and (2) whether EPA’s existing stocks determination was consistent with FIFRA.
With regard to the first issue, the ALJ found that new arguments offered by BSC/NAI were not timely raised, and even if they had been, the ALJ was “not persuaded by the merits of these objections.” Specifically, in response to the objection that BCS/NAI’s voluntary cancellation condition was excused because “EPA was required to engage in open, measured scientific dialogue before demanding cancellation” but did not do so, the ALJ found instead that “while it is clear from the record that Petitioners were not in agreement with EPA as to the toxicity end-points chosen or the Agency’s ultimate determination, they clearly were aware of them, and the rationale behind them, and had an opportunity to respond to EPA and engage in dialogue with Agency officials about these issues.” The ALJ concluded that BCS/NAI was not excused from the voluntary cancellation provision that was a condition of BSC/NAI’s registrations and did not submit a voluntary cancellation request, thus triggering the Section 6(e) cancellation proceedings.
With regard to the second issue concerning existing stocks, BCS/NAI had challenged EPA’s determination that the use of the flubendiamide technical registration product or the further distribution and sales of the end-use products would be prohibited, but use of the end-use products by end-users would be allowed. BCS/NAI argued that FIFRA is a risk-based statute and the facts supported an existing stocks policy that allows for sale, distribution, and use of the limited existing stocks available at the time of cancellation. The ALJ found, however, that EPA’s decision was consistent with FIFRA since FIFRA grants EPA the discretion to allow the continued sale and use of a cancelled pesticide but does not require that EPA make any “determination” that continued use and sale is consistent with FIFRA’s purposes.
BCS/NAI have indicated they will appeal the matter to the Environmental Appeals Board. A key issue in this forthcoming appeal will be whether EPA had discretion to adopt a condition of registration so restrictive in nature that it deprived BCS/NAI of any meaningful right to contest EPA’s subsequent scientific determinations. Most conditional registrations do not include a comparable condition, but it is common for EPA to issue conditional registrations under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7) that remain in effect only for a limited period during the pendency of data development.
This case illustrates the difficulty that a registrant may encounter subsequently contesting any condition that it has nominally accepted. Applicants should be wary and should carefully scrutinize any conditions that EPA may propose. It may be worthwhile in some instances to consider contesting a particularly onerous condition. FIFRA Section 3(c)(6) affords every applicant the right to contest a decision by EPA to deny an application for a less restrictive registration.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On April 25, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Susan L. Biro issued an order denying Petitioners Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc.’s (BCS/NAI or Petitioners) motion for accelerated decision and deciding that the abbreviated Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(e) cancellation hearing, rather than the full Section 6(b) process, was appropriate (Order). This decision is significant and, if it stands, could have far-reaching impact on easing EPA’s potential ability to cancel conditionally registered pesticide products.
Background information regarding Bayer’s decision to challenge EPA’s position that a conditional registration term in the relevant registrations required BCS/NAI to cancel voluntarily their flubendiamide registrations within one week of notification by EPA that the currently registered flubendiamide products will result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, and EPA’s notice of intent to cancel all BCS/NAI flubendiamide products as a result of BCS/NAI’s decision declining EPA’s request to cancel voluntarily all flubendiamide registrations, is available in our blog items: Bayer Announces That It Will Not Submit Voluntary Cancellation Requests for Flubendiamide and EPA Issues Notice to Cancel Flubendiamide Registrations.
BCS/NAI’s Motion for Accelerated Decision (Motion) requested that the ALJ “issue an accelerated decision finding that EPA’s forced ‘voluntary’ cancellation provision is unlawful, denying the proposed cancellation of the registrations under [FIFRA] § 6(e), and requiring EPA to follow the process required under § 6(b) if it wishes to cancel the flubendiamide registrations for failure to meet the FIFRA registration standard.” Petitioners argued that the more abbreviated procedure under FIFRA Section 6(e) was the wrong procedure to apply for a cancellation procedure, and that it is unlawful for EPA to “bypass cancellation process and due process rights guaranteed by statute and to shield its cancellation decision from review and challenge by Bayer, Nichino, and all other affected stakeholders.” Petitioners further argued that case law supported its position, since “[i]n the only other FIFRA cancellation proceeding to have been conducted in at least two decades, EPA drew a sharp distinction between FIFRA§§ 6(b) and 6(e) and confirmed that when EPA makes a cancellation decision based on a Registration Standard determination, the proper process is for EPA to proceed with cancellation under § 6(b).”
EPA’s opposition to the Motion argued in part that when Petitioners agreed to cancel voluntarily their flubendiamide registrations within one week of notification by EPA that the currently registered flubendiamide products will result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, Petitioners “waived or reduced their due process rights from a fuller FIFRA section 6(b) hearing to the more limited FIFRA sections 6(e) and 6(f) rights to get their products to market quicker.” EPA further argued that in seeking other relief, Petitioners are “in effect, asking this Tribunal to rewrite the terms and conditions of their registrations,” which would exceed its authority.
In its Order, the ALJ concludes that FIFRA’s “text, structure, and legislative history and federal court opinions allow for this Section 6(e) proceeding.” The ALJ states that “Petitioners have cited nothing in the statute or legislative history to suggest that EPA is obliged to use the pre-existing general registration cancellation process under FIFRA Section 6(b) for cancelling general registrations, to cancel conditional registrations.” The ALJ further notes: “The few cases that Petitioners cite to support their claim that EPA is required to go through a Section 6(b) proceeding to cancel pesticide registrations are all clearly distinguishable from the facts of this case because they involve general registrations, not conditional registrations.” Instead, the ALJ compared a “conditional registration” to a learner’s permit not entitled to Section 6(b) cancellation proceedings, while unconditional registrations are “entitled to an extended process because EPA previously determined their use, on an indefinite basis, would not cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.”
- [A] “conditional registration” is not equivalent to a full registration; it is a stop-gap status that gives the registrant time to gather data to prove it is entitled to general registration. This situation is analogous to obtaining a learner’s permit to obtain the requisite skill to demonstrate competence on the practical driving skills test in order to obtain a driver’s license. As such, conditional registrations are not entitled to the same lengthy procedures for cancellation under Section 6(b).
The ALJ further dismissed Petitioners’ argument that the “forced” voluntary cancellation condition in their conditional registrations is unlawful, finding instead that Petitioners had options and “made a business decision, likely for excellent economic reasons, and accepted the conditions and put their products on the market under conditional registrations.” In addition, the ALJ found that “the record in this case indicates that Petitioners played an active part in drafting the conditions in the [Preliminary Acceptance Letter] PAL containing the voluntary cancellation provisions and were well aware of their significance.” The Order states:
- As such, this Tribunal sees no reason to allow Petitioners out of the 2008 legal agreement they knowingly made for a “fast death” cancellation arrangement. This is especially true because Petitioners only sought to challenge the voluntary cancellation arrangement as “unlawful” seven years after entering into it and only when EPA sought to trigger the cancellation and make Petitioners live up to their end of the bargain. In the interim, Petitioners financially benefited from the conditional registration, which allowed them to sell their products while pursuing data to remove the “uncertainty” as to their adverse effects on the environment.
If the case proceeds under the FIFRA Section 6(e) hearing process, the only issues to be determined will be limited to “whether the registrant has initiated and pursued appropriate action to comply with the condition,” and the EPA determination concerning disposition of existing stocks. This means that BCS/NAI’s significant issues as to whether EPA’s determination that the continued registration of flubendiamide does not meet the Registration Standard cannot be reviewed since, as BCS/NAI discuss in their motion, that the ALJ under a Section 6(e) hearing process cannot conduct “an independent scientific review to gauge the strength of EPA’s scientific conclusions in support of its proposed cancellation.”
Many in industry agree with BSC/NAI’s argument in their Motion that EPA’s decision to proceed in this way has shown “an apparent unwillingness to subject its positions to peer review and public scrutiny in compliance with FIFRA.” It is unclear how many other conditional registrations have conditional registration provisions that would require voluntary cancellation in the manner that the one at issue in this proceeding does. Even if that provision is not a typical provision, the potential implications for abbreviated cancellation proceedings for other conditional registrations are significant and should be carefully considered by registrants with regard to both their existing and future registrations. A condition of registration could result in a de facto waiver of rights otherwise afforded to challenge a cancellation determination that is not supported by the science and/or not consistent with the FIFRA Registration Standard. This may be easier said than done, as many in the registrant community find there is often not much “voluntary” about accepting an EPA proposed condition of registration.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
Significant issues concerning the scope of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to cancel conditional registrations are raised by recent events concerning flubendiamide products sold in the U.S. by BayerCrop Science LP (Bayer) under the trade name Belt. Bayer announced on February 5, 2016, that it will not comply with EPA’s request that Bayer “voluntarily” cancel its registered flubendiamide products. In a January 29, 2016, letter, EPA stated that flubendiamide and a degradate compound are “mobile, stable/persistent, accumulate in soils, water columns and sediments and are toxic to aquatic invertebrates.” Based primarily on EPA’s ecological risk assessment, EPA has determined “that the continued use of the currently registered flubendiamide products will result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” Bayer disagrees strongly with the EPA risk assessment, because Bayer believes it is based on overly conservative modeling estimates that cannot be reconciled with actual monitoring and environmental fate data for this pesticide.
Conditional registrations for pesticides containing flubendiamide were first granted by EPA under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 3(c)(7) in 2008. As one condition of registration, EPA required Bayer to conduct specific environmental fate studies, which have now been submitted and reviewed. EPA also adopted an initial expiration date for all registrations of flubendiamide products of July 31, 2013, which EPA later agreed to extend several times to allow time for further review and discussion of the submitted data. The current dispute with Bayer involves a specific condition that EPA included in its preliminary acceptance letter for this active ingredient, which EPA contends obligates Bayer to request voluntary cancellation of the registrations now that EPA has made a finding of unreasonable adverse effects. Bayer characterizes the condition in question as “unlawful,” and argues that EPA must afford Bayer a full adjudicatory hearing under FIFRA Section 6(b) before the registrations can be cancelled.
Because Bayer has not submitted the “voluntary” cancellation requests demanded by EPA, EPA has stated that it will initiate the cancellation process for conditional registrations established by FIFRA Section 6(e). Although this process affords Bayer an opportunity for an administrative hearing, the issues in a conditional registration hearing under FIFRA Section 6(e) are limited to “whether the registrant has initiated and pursued appropriate action to comply with the condition,” and the EPA determination concerning disposition of existing stocks. Bayer argues that the condition as it was originally imposed by EPA was improper and denies statutory due process rights, and that EPA must afford Bayer a full adjudicatory hearing under FIFRA Section 6(b) rather than the limited hearing provided under FIFRA Section 6(e).
This dispute presents a variety of important legal questions, including what authority EPA has under FIFRA to impose time limitations or expiration dates for pesticide registrations, the rights a registrant has when it applies to amend or to renew a time-limited registration, and the nature of the conditions that EPA may lawfully impose for a conditional registration under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7). The entire pesticide industry will be watching this matter with great interest.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On December 17, 2015, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Case Nos. 14-73353, et al. (consolidated), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a reply in support of its motion for voluntary vacatur and remand of its decision granting a registration to intervenor DowAgroSciences LLC (DowAgro) for Enlist Duo herbicide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). DowAgro responded to the motion by agreeing that remand is appropriate but opposing vacatur as an effort to circumvent the normal cancellation process, while the petitioners Center for Food Safety, et al. (CFS) filed a response supporting the motion for vacatur. More information on the DowAgro and CFS responses is available in our blog entry DowAgro and Center for Food Safety File Responses to EPA’s Motion for Voluntary Vacatur and Remand.
In its reply, EPA rejects the argument by DowAgro that it is trying to “short-circuit” the normal cancellation procedures under FIFRA. Citing recent Ninth Circuit precedent on vacatur, EPA argues that “vacatur would be more protective of the environment during the time in which EPA evaluates the new information, and Dow has failed to demonstrate any disruptive consequences of vacatur.”
EPA also takes issue with certain statements by CFS that it characterizes as “erroneous or irrelevant.” EPA contradicts assertions by CFS that EPA overlooked important evidence concerning the synergistic effects of Enlist Duo’s principal ingredients, that EPA determined that Enlist Duo will not protect endangered non-target plants, that EPA has violated the ESA, and that EPA is approaching synergistic effects as a new issue. EPA also objects to the efforts of CFS to introduce an extra-record newspaper article.
This case will continue to be watched closely, as there is widespread industry concern about EPA’s effort to use a judicial process in lieu of normal adjudicatory procedures and about EPA’s substantive approach to evaluating synergistic efficacy data. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the issue of potential synergistic effects is relatively narrow and does not appear to be among the purported deficiencies in the EPA decision originally cited by the petitioners.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, James V. Aidala, and Timothy D. Backstrom
On December 7, 2015, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Case Nos. 14-73353, et al. (consolidated) Intervenor Dow AgroSciences, LLC (DowAgro) filed a response, and Petitioner the Center for Food Safety, et al. (CFS, et al.) filed joinder in and response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion for voluntary vacatur and remand of EPA’s registration of DowAgro’s Enlist Duo herbicide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), as well as a response to DowAgro’s Fact Sheet, a public statement made by DowAgro after EPA’s motion was filed.
DowAgro’s response calls EPA’s motion a “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” motion. The request for remand, DowAgro states, is “uncontroversial” and will allow the agency to review the new information that may bear on the pesticide registration. DowAgro thus does not object to the remand and believes ultimately that “the new information cited by respondents has no impact on the validity of the existing registration.”
On the other hand, DowAgro argues that EPA’s request to vacate the registration is “novel and unlawful.” DowAgro states that EPA is trying to “short-circuit [the FIFRA] regulatory scheme and abdicate the responsibilities Congress assigned to the agency.” Specifically, DowAgro argues this case is “closely analogous” to the Reckitt Benckiser case (762 F. Supp. 2d 34 (D.D.C. 2011), where the court did not allow EPA to circumvent the statutory cancellation regime, finding that FIFRA Section 6 “establishes a detailed, multistep process that EPA must follow when it wants to cancel or suspend a registration.” Id. at 42 (emphasis in original). DowAgro states that the court must “limit its relief to a remand for the agency to exercise primary jurisdiction to review the new information and decide what additional steps, if any, are warranted.” While EPA reviews the additional information, DowAgro has agreed to “stop sales of Enlist Duo, and to work out an appropriate agreement to that effect with the agency.”
CFS, et al.’s filing asserts that vacatur is the appropriate remedy. CFS, et al. states that EPA now “has an opportunity -- a mandate -- to meet its duties under FIFRA and the ESA, and ensure Enlist Duo’s safety.” CFS, et al. “not only agree, but believe EPA greatly downplays the potential for harm by focusing only on the buffers and terrestrial plants,” and states that the “potential for harm far outweighs any likely economic disruption to Intervenor Dow.”
The outcome of the issue raised by EPA’s motion, and DowAgro’s position that EPA should not be permitted to “bypass” regulatory cancellation procedures is of significant interest to all pesticide registrants. This case will be closely watched not only because Enlist Duo is a major new product for Dow and a new tool in the herbicide-tolerant crop world, but also because of the potentially precedential process that EPA’s motion seeks with regard to pesticide registrations.
More information on EPA’s motion is available in our blog entry EPA Files Motion for Voluntary Vacatur and Remand of Enlist Duo Registration.