Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. serves small, medium, and large pesticide product registrants and other stakeholders in the agricultural and biocidal sectors, in virtually every aspect of pesticide law, policy, science, and regulation.

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

On April 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted an interactive telephone call with U.S. retailers and third-party marketplace platforms to discuss imposter disinfectant products and those that falsely claim to be effective against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.  EPA hosted the call due to recent complaints on the availability of products with unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous claims of protection against SARS-CoV-2 and has enlisted the help of the retail community to prevent these products from coming to market.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler described the call as “informative and productive,” and stated that “together, we will work diligently to ensure that consumers have access to EPA-approved and verified surface disinfectant products; products that we know to be effective against the novel coronavirus.”

Participants included the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the National Retail Federation, Walmart, Amazon, and eBay.  All expressed commitment to “work closely with trusted suppliers to ensure that all products that they sell meet or exceed all applicable U.S. safety standards and legal requirements” and to “work closely with EPA to remove fraudulent products from the marketplace as soon as possible.”  EPA is also coordinating with the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal partners to bring the full force of the law against those selling fraudulent or unregistered products.

Based on tips, complaints, and research, EPA has identified illegal products that are claiming anti-viral, antibacterial, disinfectant, sterilizing, or sanitizing properties but have not gone through EPA’s robust registration process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and are not legal for sale in the United States.  EPA only registers disinfectants that can be used effectively against the novel coronavirus on surfaces.  Non-registered products may not effectively eliminate the virus or reduce the spread of the virus and could even be harmful to consumers’ health.  Consumers are urged to refer to EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (List N) for EPA-registered disinfectants that EPA has determined to be safe and effective against the novel coronavirus.

The following is a list of some of the unregistered products that have been identified. EPA typically enforces FIFRA through stop-sale orders and penalty actions. EPA provided the following information to ensure that Americans have as much information as possible to help them protect themselves from COVID-19:

  • Lanyards that illegally claim to protect wearers from coronavirus:
  • Unregistered disinfectant tablets:
    • “Epidemic prevention Chlorinating Tablets Disinfectant Chlorine Tablets Swimming Pool Instant Disinfection Tablets Chlorine Dioxide Effervescent Tablet Chlorine Disinfectant 100g Cozy apposite Fun Suit”
    • “The Flu Virus Buster, CLO2 Disinfection Sticker, Removable sterilize air purifier, Anti COVID-19, Stop Coronavirus disease infection /Influenza Buster Disinfectant 1 Box/10 Tablets”
  • Unregistered disinfectant sprays:
    • “Fullene silver antibacterial solution/24 Hour Defense Hand Sanitizer Disinfectant Spray Against Corona Virus COVID- 19 Kills 99.99% of Germs Bacteria 24 Hours of Lasting Protection Alcohol Free 50ml (1.7 fl. oz.)”
  • Unregistered disinfectant wipes:
    • “99.9% Sterilization Wipes/16/32/48/64/96pcs Sterilization Rate of 99% Disinfection Wet Wipes and Paper Napkin Prevention of Coronavirus”

Additional information on the recent telephone conference is available here.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On March 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Press Release to clarify its Temporary Policy released on March 26, 2020, regarding EPA’s enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A discussion of the Temporary Policy is available on our blog.

The impetus for the Press Release was based, according to EPA, on the “reckless propaganda” by certain news outlets that provided erroneous or exaggerated information about the Temporary Policy, particularly that the Temporary Policy is providing a blanket waiver of environmental requirements or is creating a presumption that the COVID-19 pandemic is the cause of noncompliance. 

EPA’s Press Release outlines certain elements of the Temporary Policy that should not be overlooked:

  • The Temporary Policy states that EPA will not seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting requirements, if, on a case-by-case basis, EPA agrees that such noncompliance was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Policy is not intended to cover:
    • Exceedances of pollutant limitations in permits, regulations, and statutes.
    • Cases which may involve acute risks or imminent threats, or failure of pollution control or other equipment that may result in exceedances, except in possible circumstances where the facility contacts the appropriate EPA region, or authorized state or tribe, and allows regulators to work with that facility to mitigate or eliminate such risks or threats.
    • Normal operations and maintenance of public water systems and required sampling of vital drinking water supplies. 
  • Regulated parties must document the basis for any claim that the pandemic prevented them from conducting that routine monitoring and reporting and present it to EPA upon request. EPA states that it is using this approach to allow EPA to prioritize its resources and respond to acute risks and imminent threats, rather than making up-front case-by-case determinations regarding routine monitoring and reporting requirements.

EPA notes that it expects regulated facilities to comply with regulatory requirements, where reasonably practicable, and to return to compliance as quickly as possible, once the COVID-19 threat is over.  EPA states that it plans to lift the measures of the Temporary Policy as soon as normal operations can resume, which may occur sooner in some locations than others.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on March 26, 2020, a temporary policy regarding enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  EPA states that its temporary enforcement discretion policy applies to civil violations during the COVID-19 outbreak.  The policy addresses different categories of noncompliance differently.  For example, according to EPA, it “does not expect to seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations that are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic but does expect operators of public water systems to continue to ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies.”  The policy describes the steps that regulated facilities should take to qualify for enforcement discretion.  To be eligible for enforcement discretion, the policy requires facilities to document decisions made to prevent or mitigate noncompliance and demonstrate how the noncompliance was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

EPA notes that its policy does not provide leniency for intentional criminal violations of law and that it does not apply to activities that are carried out under Superfund and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action enforcement instruments.  EPA states that it will address these matters in separate communications.  The policy states that it does not apply to imports.  According to the policy, EPA is “especially concerned about pesticide products entering the United States, or produced, manufactured, distributed in the United States, that claim to address COVID-19 impacts.”  EPA “expects to focus on ensuring compliance with requirements applicable to these products to ensure protection of public health.”

The policy will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, 2020.  EPA will assess the continued need for and scope of this temporary policy on a regular basis and will update it if EPA determines modifications are necessary.  To provide fair and sufficient notice to the public, EPA states that it will post a notification on its website at least seven days prior to terminating the temporary policy.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On March 2, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule on EPA’s procedures for conducting on-site civil inspections.  This final rule applies to on-site inspections conducted by EPA civil inspectors, federal contractors, and Senior Environmental Employment employees conducting inspections on behalf of EPA. 

This rule is effective March 2, 2020.

This rule explains how EPA inspectors should conduct on-site civil administrative inspections and addresses common elements applicable to on-site civil inspections for compliance with environmental laws. 

The elements of the process for conducting on-site civil inspections, and some EPA guidance regarding each element, is as follows. 

  • Timing of Inspections and Facility Notification -- EPA inspectors should generally conduct inspections during the facility's normal work hours and take reasonable steps to work with the facility to agree on a workable schedule for accessing areas for the inspection.
  • Inspector Qualifications -- EPA inspectors must hold a valid credential to perform the inspection, which are issued to inspectors that have completed relevant training.
  • Obtaining Consent to Enter -- Upon arrival at a facility, EPA inspectors shall present their valid EPA Inspector Credentials to a facility employee, describe the authority and purpose of the inspection, and where possible seek the facilities' consent to enter. Inspectors are required under certain statutes to advise facility personnel that they can deny entry, but EPA may then seek a warrant for entry. 
  • Opening Conference -- The EPA inspector shall request an opening conference with available facility representatives or employees, where practicable. The EPA inspector shall discuss the overall objectives of the inspection and may request access to/copies of facility records and request to interview facility employees, as necessary.
  • Physical Inspection -- EPA inspectors shall inspect the areas, units, sources and processes relevant to the scope of the inspection. The inspectors will generally document their observations with photos and notes.
  • Managing Confidential Business Information (CBI) -- Pursuant to existing statutory and regulatory requirements, inspectors shall complete appropriate, statute-specific, CBI training before managing CBI. The EPA inspectors shall manage all CBI claims made by a facility during an inspection in accordance with 40 CFR part 2, subpart B.
  • Interview Facility Personnel -- EPA inspectors may conduct interviews of facility personnel as appropriate. Interviews may include, but are not limited to, the environmental contacts, process operators, contractors, maintenance personnel, process engineers, control room operators, and other employees working in the area(s) of interest.
  • Records Review -- Once the records requested by the EPA inspector are assembled, the EPA inspector shall review any records relevant to the facility inspection/field investigation. EPA inspectors may request copies of many different types of records (paper, electronically scanned, downloaded or recorded through other digital storage devices), when appropriate, and record copies of records taken from the facility. An EPA inspector may request records before, during, or after an inspection.
  • Sampling -- EPA inspectors may take samples when appropriate. Where applicable and practicable, during the opening conference, the inspector shall offer facility personnel the opportunity to obtain split samples or to collect duplicate samples.
  • Closing Conference -- EPA inspectors shall offer a closing conference with available facility employees, as practicable, to discuss any outstanding questions or missing documents and the process for follow up. EPA inspectors may also discuss next steps and how the facility will be contacted on the results of the inspection and identify the appropriate point of contact for further communication and coordination. EPA inspectors may also summarize any potential “areas of concern” identified in the inspection.
  • Inspection Reports -- After an inspection, EPA shall share an inspection report with the facility. The content and format of the report may vary depending on the facility, type of the inspection, and the statutory authority upon which the inspection is based.

Commentary

EPA states this rule was issued to fulfill the objectives outlined in Executive Order 13892 (Promoting the Rule of Law Through Transparency and Fairness in Civil Administrative Enforcement and Adjudication).  In addition to this rule, companies can find more detailed information in EPA’s FIFRA Inspection Manual, most recently updated in August 2019, and available here.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson

EPA recently released the Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) for the October 31, 2019, settlement discussed in our blog post “EPA Settles Two Cases Regarding Unregistered and Misbranded Pesticides.”  This October 31, 2019, settlement between U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3  and AFCO C&S, LLC (AFCO), a chemical company located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Pursuant to the CAFO, AFCO agreed to pay a $1,489,000 penalty to settle the alleged violations that involved the use of 12 products to clean and sanitize food and beverage processing facilities.

The CAFO provides more information on the violations Region 3 alleged.  The CAFO allegations state that AFCO sold and distributed 10unregistered pesticide products on at least 1,031 separate occasions in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A).  The CAFO also alleges that AFCO sold and distributed a product that made claims beyond those permitted by its FIFRA registration on at least five separate occasions.  It additionally alleges that AFCO sold or distributed a misbranded pesticide on 41 separate occasions.

EPA initially collected the information during an inspection of AFCO’s establishment in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on June 20, 2016.  The settlement also addresses violations of a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) that EPA issued to AFCO on July 13, 2018, requiring AFCO to immediately cease all sales and distributions of the 12 products.  The CAFO alleges that AFCO engaged in sales and distributions that violated this order, having sold or distributed the products from at least January 1, 2015, through either August 8 or August 9, 2019.  AFCO has since discontinued sales of all of the involved products, except for one registered product, for which EPA issued an Order Modification letter on March 4, 2019, allowing AFCO to recommence sales.

AFCO will pay the civil penalty within one year in 12 equal monthly installments, plus interest payment of $7,954.96, totaling $1,496,954.96.


 

By Lisa R. Burchi and Kelly N. Garson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently settled two cases involving allegations of non-compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Although the Consent Agreement and Final Orders (CAFO) and Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders (SSURO) issued in these cases are not yet available online, the penalty amounts at issue -- $200,000 and $1,489,000 -- reflect increased enforcement in targeted areas and EPA’s willingness to seek and obtain heroic penalties.

On November 18, 2019, EPA Region 9 announced that Decon7 Systems LLC (Decon7) would pay a $200,000 civil penalty in a settlement related to FIFRA violations.  Specifically, EPA found that Decon 7:

  • Sold and distributed two products that were not registered with EPA.  These products, “D7 Part 1” and “D7 Part 2,” combined to disinfect hard nonporous surfaces.  EPA regulations (40 C.F.R. § 152.15) set forth the conditions under which EPA will consider a product to be a pesticide product required to be registered, including but not limited to products containing certain “active” ingredients and/or making claims to kill, repel, or “disinfect” certain pests (e.g., germs, bacteria, viruses).
  • Sold and distributed pesticides that were labeled with false and misleading claims regarding safety and efficacy.  In addition to misleading efficacy claims to kill all bacteria, viruses, and fungi, EPA states:

The products also had false and misleading safety claims, which created the incorrect impression that the products were noncorrosive and nontoxic. The products’ formulations in fact could have caused skin burns and irreversible eye damage. The products’ labeling also claimed the products were used by various federal government agencies to clean up buildings following anthrax attacks, implying that the federal government recommends or endorses their use.

  • Exported unregistered pesticides that did not include necessary notifications and failed to comply with reporting obligations following a SSURO issued to the company in 2018.

On October 31, 2019, EPA Region 3 announced that it reached an agreement with AFCO C&S, LLC (AFCO), a chemical company located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to resolve alleged FIFRA violations.  AFCO agreed to pay a $1,489,000 penalty to settle the alleged violations that involved the use of 12 products to clean and sanitize food and beverage processing facilities.  EPA alleges that AFCO sold and distributed ten unregistered pesticide products, a misbranded product, and a product that made claims beyond those permitted by its FIFRA registration.

The settlement also addresses violations of a SSURO that EPA issued to AFCO on July 13, 2018.  AFCO engaged in sales and distributions that violated this order.  AFCO has since discontinued sales of all of the involved products, except for one registered product.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On November 7, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was ordering Pool Water Products Inc. to stop selling an improperly registered pesticide, ALL CLEAR 3” Jumbo Chlorinating Tablets.  The announcement states that even though the ALL CLEAR 3” Jumbo Chlorinating Tablets product was registered with EPA, Pool Water Products was selling and distributing an unregistered version of the product made in China that has not been evaluated by EPA.

EPA’s action, which it states applies to nationwide distribution, transport and sales of the product, follows a statewide stop-sale order issued earlier this month by the Arizona Department of Agriculture when state inspectors discovered the unregistered pesticide, which is used to disinfect pools, during an August 30 inspection of the company’s Phoenix warehouse.

This case exemplifies the need for companies to understand Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) registration and amendment requirements, and the importance that a product’s label, formula, and manufacturing process match exactly with the information submitted to EPA and upon which EPA relied in approving the registration.  Many composition and processing changes require an amendment to be approved by EPA; failure to do so could result in an enforcement action such as this one. 

More information on pesticide registration issues is available on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On February 14, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Amazon Services LLC (Amazon) entered into a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) whereby Amazon agreed to pay $1,215,700 in civil penalties for approximately four thousand alleged violations under Section 3 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for the distribution of unregistered pesticide products.  Amazon neither admitted nor denied the specific factual allegations, which included: 

  • Between January 1, 2013, and November 1, 2015, Amazon distributed, held for distribution, held for shipment, or shipped two unregistered pesticide products called “3pcs Cockroach Cockroaches Bugs Ants Roach Kills Chalk”; and “Miraculous Insecticide Chalk” on multiple occasions in the United States. 
  • Between January 1, 2013, and March 1, 2016, Amazon distributed, held for distribution, held for shipment, or shipped three unregistered pesticide products called “HUA Highly Effective Cockroach Killer Bait Powder”; “R.B.T.Z. Safe Highly Effective Roach Killer Bait Powder Indoor”; “HUA Highly Effective Fly Killing Bait Powder”; and “Ars Mat 60 pcs. Refil for ARS Electric Mosquito Killer Convenient, Clean & Smokeless” on multiple occasions in the United States. 

Amazon also agreed to implement a supplemental environmental project (SEP) consisting of the development, deployment, and operation of a publicly available eLearning course, downloadable educational materials, and test on FIFRA requirements and associated regulations (eLearning Project).  Although no monetary amount was specified for the implementation of the SEP, the eLearning Project will be a significant undertaking, as the materials will be available in three languages (English, Spanish, and Chinese) and Amazon will require all of its Amazon.com sellers to complete the eLeaming course and pass an associated test prior to allowing such Amazon.com sellers to sell products identified as pesticides.  The only circumstance when this requirement will not apply to Amazon.com sellers is when a seller can “demonstrate that the seller's existing compliance program is sufficient to ensure products sold via Amazon.com comply with FIFRA.”

More information on FIFRA enforcement issues is available on our blog under key word enforcement.  


 

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  James V. AidalaLisa M. Campbelland Timothy D. Backstrom

On December 14, 2017, the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that it issued and collected the first round of fines resulting from investigations regarding the pesticide dicamba.  The news release states that the first wave of civil penalties issued to applicators, all from Dunklin County, were issued as “a result of investigations of complaints during the 2016 growing season,” and the “civil penalties, ranging from $1,500 to $62,250, were issued for pesticide misuse (off label use and drift).”  Further, in 2016, “Department staff conducted and completed 121 complainant investigations.  Those complainants named approximately 60 applicators, who were investigated as a result of complaints. In addition, the Department investigated nearly 100 non-Dicamba related incidents.” 

Commentary

This is the first group of what is anticipated to be a large number of dicamba-related enforcement cases, given the extensive number of, and publicity concerning, the reported incidents involving dicamba.  Reported incidents in Arkansas were even more numerous than those in Missouri.  About one-third of the reported incidents in Missouri have now been attributed to only six applicators.  One applicator alone was cited for 149 discrete violations, which indicates that problems with the new dicamba formulations may be less widespread than some originally feared based on the large number of reported incidents.  Moreover, some of the states where the new dicamba products were widely used have reported very few incidents.  In the aggregate, this data suggests that better stewardship training accompanied by rigorous enforcement may be sufficient to greatly reduce the future incidence of unexpected off-site movement of the new dicamba formulations.

More information on dicamba issues is available in our blog.


 
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