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

On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit information on the current pesticide exemption provision process.

EPA announced that it is considering whether regulatory and policy changes are needed to improve the exemption provisions for pesticides that may be considered minimum risk under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  EPA states that changes to the current process could make the implementation and evaluation of the exemption provisions more efficient.

Comments on the ANPRM would be due on or before 90 days after publication of the ANPRM in the Federal Register in docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPP-2020-0537.  Although the issuance of this proposed rulemaking has been paused following the Biden Administration’s Executive Orders requiring agencies to review their rules and policies to ensure consistency with the current Administration’s environmental policies, should it proceed, it will be important for stakeholders to review carefully.  Discussed below are the issues raised in the ANPRM for stakeholder consideration.

EPA states it is seeking public input on:

  • Whether programmatic changes are necessary to ease state regulation of federally exempt products; and
  • Whether EPA should consider adding any new classes of pesticidal substances for exemption.

Specific questions posed include the following:

  1. Do you have any suggestions for improving the processes for initiating a review of a substance or for implementing a decision that a substance may be used or may no longer be used in a minimum risk pesticide process?  Please explain how changes could increase efficiencies.
  2. Are these factors appropriate for EPA to consider in determining whether a substance should be exempted from FIFRA regulation via the minimum risk exemption?
  3. Are there other factors that should be considered?  Please explain how these factors should be weighed in a minimum risk determination.
  4. EPA broadly requests comment on the utility, clarity, functioning, and implementation of the provisions in 40 C.F.R. Section 152.25.
  5. Are there other pesticidal substances or systems (e.g., peat), that EPA should consider adding as a new class at 40 C.F.R. Section 152.25 for exemption from registration under FIFRA?
  6. What other factors should EPA consider in determining whether a category or class of products should be exempted from FIFRA regulation?  Please explain how these factors should be weighed in a determination.
  7. Have the changes to the federal program in the 2015 rule, which provided specific chemical identifiers and the labeling changes, made it easier to identify specific chemicals used in minimum risk pesticide products?
  8. Are there state challenges to implementing the minimum risk program you would like to share with EPA?  Do you have suggestions for improvements to the program to address these issues?

Commentary

In the ANPRM, EPA states it is soliciting information that will help determine if any changes in the regulations should be made.  The ANPR does not contain specific possible changes to FIFRA exemptions.  EPA states:  “Should EPA decide to move forward with changes to the program, the next step would be to identify, develop and evaluate specific options for amending the current regulations in 40 CFR 152.25, and issue a proposed rule for public review and comment.”  Given the change in Administrations and the current “pause” on issuance of this proposed rulemaking, it is unclear whether EPA will issue this proposal, and if so whether EPA will take further steps regarding the exemption after reviewing the comments received.  Should EPA proceed to issue the ANPR, it will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to submit comments on these issues, and companies should consider identifying challenges with the current regulatory criteria and procedures, as well as potential modifications that could improve the regulatory process.

It is noteworthy that EPA received a petition from the Consumer Specialty Products Association in 2006 requesting that EPA address issues related to efficacy claims for Section 25(b) products and that EPA promised to address this petition by rulemaking or other avenues.  The potential for changes to the Section 25(b) requirements thus is not a new concern for EPA, and it will be important to monitor this issue.


 

By Heather F. Collins, M.S.

The March 1, 2021, deadline for all establishments, foreign and domestic, that produce pesticides, devices, or active ingredients to file their annual production for the 2020 reporting year is fast approaching.  Pursuant to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 7(c)(1) (7 U.S.C. § 136e(c)(1)), “Any producer operating an establishment registered [under Section 7] shall inform the Administrator within 30 days after it is registered of the types and amounts of pesticides and, if applicable, active ingredients used in producing pesticides” and this information “shall be kept current and submitted to the Administrator annually as required.”

Reports must be submitted on or before March 1 annually for the prior year’s production.  The report, filed through the submittal of EPA Form 3540-16:  Pesticide Report for Pesticide-Producing and Device-Producing Establishments, must include the name and address of the producing establishment; and pesticide production information, such as product registration number, product name, and amounts produced and distributed.  The annual report is always required, even when no products are produced or distributed.

EPA has created the electronic reporting system to submit pesticide-producing establishment reports using the Section Seven Tracking System (SSTS).  Users will be able to use SSTS within EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to submit annual pesticide production reports.  Electronic reporting is efficient, saves time by making the process faster, and saves money in mailing costs and/or courier delivery and related logistics.  EPA is encouraging all reporters to submit electronically to ensure proper submission and a timely review of the report, as the majority of EPA staff are still working remotely and may not be on site to receive mailed reports.

Links to EPA Form 3540-16, as well as instructions on how to report and how to add and use EPA’s SSTS electronic filing system, are available below.

Further information is available on EPA’s website.


 

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

The January 15, 2021, deadline for payment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual maintenance fee for pesticide registrations is approaching.  The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 4(i)(1)(A) requires that everyone who holds an active or suspended pesticide registration granted under FIFRA Sections 3 and 24(c) (special local needs) to pay an annual maintenance fee to keep the registration in effect.  The maintenance fee requirement does not apply to supplemental registrations of distributors, which are identified by a three-element registration number.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EPA states that most EPA staff continue to telework and are not in the EPA offices; therefore, EPA will not send maintenance fee information by mail this year.  The instructions, maintenance fee filing form, fee tables, and product listings grouped by company numbers are available to download on EPA’s website.  When completed, the filing submission should be emailed to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  A paper copy should not be sent to EPA.

The fee for 2021 is $4,000 for each registration up to the maximum fees that can be assessed to a single registrant.  Each registrant of a pesticide must pay the annual fee and e-mail the response to EPA by Friday, January 15, 2021.  Registrations for which the fee is not paid will be canceled, by order and without a hearing. As in years past, payment must be made electronically online at www.pay.gov.

For certain qualified small businesses, the first product registration maintenance fee may be reduced by 25 percent, if the applicant meets the following criteria:

  1. The applicant has 500 or fewer employees globally;
  2. During the three-year period prior to the most recent maintenance fee billing cycle, the applicant has average annual gross revenue from all sources that do not exceed $10,000,000; and
  3. The applicant holds a total of five or fewer registrations subject to the maintenance fee.

There also are maintenance fee waivers for products that meet the criteria in two specific categories:  minor agricultural use products and public health pesticides.  The procedure for requesting a fee waiver for individual products is described in the instructions provided by EPA.

More information on the annual maintenance fees is available on EPA’s website.


 

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

On November 2, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the proposed rule to add chitosan (Poly-D-Glucosamine) to its list of active ingredients eligible for EPA’s minimum risk pesticide exemption under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b).  85 Fed. Reg. 69307.

The proposed rule is in response to a petition submitted to EPA on October 10, 2018, requesting that chitosan be added to the list of active ingredients eligible for EPA’s minimum risk exemption, followed by an April 4 2019, amended petition seeking also to add chitosan to the list of inert ingredients eligible for the minimum risk exemption.  EPA on August 20, 2020, issued a Federal Register notice stating that a draft regulatory document on this issue had been forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  EPA states that no comments were submitted on that notice by USDA or any other person.  EPA also forwarded the draft to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel for review, but according to EPA, the Panel “waived review of this proposed rule, concluding that the proposed rule does not contain scientific issues that warrant scientific review by the Panel.”  On October 8, 2020, EPA again announced it was considering adding chitosan to the list of active ingredients allowed for use in minimum risk pesticides and provided a pre-publication version of the proposed rule.

EPA states in the November 2, 2020, Federal Register notice regarding the proposed rule: “Based on all the information available to the Agency, there are low risk concerns for human health or the environment if chitosan is intended for use as a minimum risk pesticide.”  According to EPA, adding chitosan to this list may save stakeholders time and money through waived FIFRA registration requirements for certain products containing chitosan.  Specifically, EPA estimates the cost savings of avoiding the application process (e.g., guideline studies, registration fees) to be up to $116,000 initially and approximately $3,400 per year thereafter for each new product.

Comments on EPA’s proposal to add chitosan to its list of active ingredients for use on minimum risk pesticides are due on or before January 4, 2021, in Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0701.   EPA states that it is currently deferring a decision regarding the amended petition to add chitosan to the list of inert ingredients permitted in minimum risk pesticides.

Additional information on chitosan is available on our blog.


 

By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi

On October 15, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with Electrolux Home Products, Inc. (Electrolux) to resolve alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for importing air filter products that contain nanosilver.  Specifically, the settlement resolves EPA’s claims that Electrolux imported unregistered pesticides in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(1)(A) and failed to file the required Notices of Arrival in violation of FIFRA Section 12(a)(2)(N).  As part of the settlement, Electrolux will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $6,991,400.  The Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) is available here.

According to EPA, Electrolux imported approximately 420,000 Frigidaire brand dehumidifiers and air conditioners that contained filters incorporating an unregistered nanosilver and that were labeled and marketed with pesticidal claims.  With regard to the incorporation of nanosilver, there currently are no nanosilver pesticide products registered with EPA for use in home appliances to disinfect the ambient air or protect the health of the user. The only nanosilver pesticides that are currently registered with EPA are approved solely for incorporation into textiles to protect those articles themselves from antimicrobial pests such as mold and bacteria that can cause deterioration, discoloration, or odors.  In those cases, the products (textiles) incorporated with nanosilver can be exempt from FIFRA registration under the “treated article” exemption.  With regard to the claims, EPA states that claims it considers pesticidal include “antibacterial filter,” and “helps eliminate bacteria in the air that can make breathing difficult.” 

Commentary

The penalty in this case is significant, and represents a potentially growing trend for penalty amounts substantially higher than past cases.  This trend is due at least in part to the inflation adjustments to statutory civil penalty amounts, as discussed further here

In addition to the civil penalty, the CAFO states that Electrolux has replaced the filters manufactured with nanosilver and removed the online and on-box pesticidal claims for the products it had imported, as well as some additional products already in the United States.  The CAFO states:

The SSURO also provided for the movement of subject products for the purpose of consolidating the products for a rework project whereby Respondent, among other things, would replace the filter manufactured with nanosilver contained in each unit with a filter that was not manufactured with a pesticidal substance, affix a sticker with modified language over any pesticidal claims on the product packaging, and remove all pesticidal claims made for the subject products in Respondent’s online marketing

The CAFO further states that “Respondent offered to rework all dehumidifiers and air conditioners that contained a filter manufactured with nanosilver within its possession regardless of the date those products were imported.”  To date, EPA states that Electrolux has brought over 500,000 air conditioners and dehumidifiers into compliance.


 

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

On August 20, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking to add chitosan to the list of active ingredients allowed for in minimum risk pesticides exempted from pesticide registration requirements under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b).  A minimum risk product must meet six specific conditions to be exempted from pesticide registration.  One of those conditions is that the active ingredient in the minimum risk pesticide be one that is listed specifically by EPA.  If added to the list of minimum risk pesticide active ingredients, pesticide products containing chitosan could qualify as minimum risk pesticides provided the other conditions are also satisfied (e.g., using inert ingredients approved by EPA for use in minimum risk pesticides, not making any public health claims).

Chitosan is a naturally occurring polymer that is derived from the shells of crustaceans.  It is currently registered as a fungicide, antimicrobial agent, and plant growth regulator that boosts the ability of plants to defend against fungal infections.  For uses as a plant growth regulator, chitosan is applied to treat field crops, ornamentals, turf, home gardens, and nurseries.  Target pests include early and late blight, downy and powdery mildew, and gray mold.  As an antimicrobial agent, chitosan is used on textiles to protection the fabric from bacterial and fungal growth.  Chitosan is exempt from the requirement for a pesticide tolerance.

History -- The Caesar Salad Chemicals

The origin of the Section 25(b) list came from an effort by EPA to deregulate products which, while meeting the definition of being a pesticide (a product with the intended purpose of being sold or distributed to kill or repel a pest as defined under FIFRA), were common products of established safety.  More precisely, products with a lack of toxicity such that it was a “waste of resources” for EPA to subject such products to the bureaucratic requirements of FIFRA registration.

In particular, at an oversight Congressional hearing on the lack of progress being made at the time on EPA’s attempt to complete re-registration (now referred to as registration review), the EPA witness was asked about some most recently released re-registration assessments.  These referred to the four registered pesticides:  garlic, capsicum, acetic acid, and citric acid.  These are pesticides formulated into various products, and in the hearing were referred to by more common names: garlic, pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice.  This led to a famous oversight question to the EPA witness:  “Are you making progress or Caesar Salad?”

This led, in part, to the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) allowing very low risk pesticides to be exempt from registration.  It eventually issued the original Section 25(b) list to conserve review resources.  At the same time, since these products no longer had to be registered, it allowed label language such as “natural,” “non-toxic,” and “safe around children and pets,” which are disallowed registered product label claims.  Not surprisingly, label language allowing the word “safe” has proven to be a popular marketing claim for products that meet the exemption requirements.

At the same time, the fine print of the Section 25(b) exemption did not allow health and safety claims on such products even if they were made from Section 25(b) ingredients.  In particular, this led to concerns about insect repellents that could be made from Section 25(b) ingredients and were labeled as repelling mosquitoes or ticks or other public health pests; they could include the word “safe” as long they did not also mention any disease or other public health claims.  The average consumer, however, likely does not distinguish between insect repellents (or other products) that fit EPA’s definition of public health claims and those simply listing the target pest (e.g., mosquitoes, ticks, or rodents).  The average consumer is unlikely to realize the distinction between a product labeled as “XX insect repellent -- repels mosquitoes -- all natural and safe,” which may not have evidence of efficacy, and another product that says “YY insect repellent -- made from natural ingredients and repels mosquitoes, which may carry West Nile Virus” -- which is required to be registered and include proof of efficacy for any public health claims.

This possible consumer confusion was the subject of a FIFRA petition filed in 2006 by the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA).  The petition suggests that EPA modify the Section 25(b) regulation to exclude products claiming to control public health pests from the Section 25(b) exemption -- which would then require registration, including data proving efficacy (Docket: EPA-HQ-OPP-2006-0687-0002).

EPA responded to the CSPA petition in 2007, essentially agreeing about the problem of possible consumer confusion.  In a letter to CSPA, EPA stated:

…. whether we decide to pursue rulemaking or some other avenue, we intend to move as expeditiously as possible to identify the most efficient approach to protect the public from unknowingly relying on products that target public health pests and have not been shown to work.

EPA later announced that it would embark on rulemaking to address this possible consumer confusion.  It is, however, unclear whether this is still a pending matter on EPA’s agenda.  No docket materials have been added in many years.  As part of its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda in fall 2011, EPA included an entry that stated a Section 25(b) proposed rule would be issued before February 2013.  It is not clear if EPA continues to have plans to issue such a proposal.

Commentary

EPA’s August 20 proposal is an interesting development, as EPA’s other revisions and proposals for minimum risk pesticides trend toward adding restrictions to the conditions to be satisfied, thus limiting exemptions.  The current proposal would expand the exemptions by adding another active ingredient to the otherwise limited approved list.  Since changes to the Section 25(b) list will require a rulemaking, it is unclear what happened to the earlier plan to issue a proposed rule addressing the long-ago CSPA petition response.

EPA states that it has forwarded to the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a draft regulatory document concerning “Pesticides; Addition of Chitosan to the List of Active Ingredients Allowed in Exempted Minimum Risk Pesticides Products.”  EPA will not make this draft regulatory document available to the public until after it has been signed.  When it is available, that document and additional information will be available in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0701.


 

Register now for the American Bar Association (ABA) webinar “Navigating the Jurisdictional Tightrope Between Biopesticides, Biostimulants, and Related Emerging Technologies” with Bergeson & Campbell P.C. (B&C®) professionals deconstructing the jurisdictional boundaries distinguishing pesticides, biopesticides, plant regulators, biostimulants, and related technologies. The webinar will focus on draft EPA guidance intended to clarify the lines between and among those products that are subject to FIFRA registration as plant regulators and those biostimulant products not subject to FIFRA registration. The webinar also will focus on new and evolving chemistry and technology issues that may blur some jurisdictional lines or potentially move products from one category to another.  Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, B&C; Lisa R. Burchi, Of Counsel, B&C; and Sheryl Dolan, Senior Regulatory Consultant, B&C, will present.


 

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

On April 3, 2020, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced it would allow enforcement discretion by County Agricultural Commissioners (CAC) for licensing and certification requirements for pesticide applicators who perform sanitization services to control the spread of COVID-19.

DPR states in its announcement that, under normal circumstances, a “Pest Control Business (PCB) must always have a Qualified Applicator License (QAL) holder to supervise pest control services.  Generally, where a PCB performs sanitization services, the QAL must also be certified in Category A, P, or K” described as follows:

  • Category A allows PCBs to perform sanitization or disinfection in residential, industrial, or institutional (RII) use settings such as hospitals, schools, or prisons;
  • Category P allows PCBs to perform microbial pest control in RII use settings; and
  • Category K allows PCBs to perform health related pest control services under a government-sponsored program.

DPR acknowledges that due to Governor Newsom’s March 4, 2020, “Stay at Home” Executive Order, DPR cannot proctor in-person licensing examinations to certify licensees.  DPR thus announced that it will use enforcement discretion by allowing “licensed and registered PCBs to perform sanitization services for the control of COVID-19 if they have a designated individual at each business location with a valid QAL in any category” (emphasis added by DPR).  DPR specifies that enforcement discretion applies when all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The professional sanitization service is performed for COVID-19 control and only during the next 90 days.
  2. The PCB without the specific QAL license category notifies the CAC in writing with an explanation for why the sanitization work is necessary.
  3. Examples of necessary work may include situations in which the PCB is the only licensee registered to do business in the county or where other properly licensed PCBs are unavailable to perform COVID-19-related work.
  4. The QAL holder ensures that all applicators applying antimicrobials are properly trained and are in strict compliance with label directions and all other applicable laws and regulations.

The announcement states that those who wish to obtain more information should contact Joe Marade, DPR’s County/State Liaison, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


 

By Kelly N. Garson and Carla N. Hutton

On January 27, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a notification for Project Number OA&E-FY20-0095, announcing that it will begin fieldwork to audit EPA’s adherence to pesticide registration risk assessment regulations, policies, and procedures.  In a memorandum addressed to EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), OIG stated that its objective is to evaluate EPA’s ability to address human health and environmental risks prior to pesticide product registration.  OIG will conduct the audit from EPA headquarters.  According to the memorandum, the anticipated benefits of this audit include determining whether EPA has adequate controls to address human health and environmental risks prior to pesticide product registration.

OIG is an independent office created by the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended.  Though located within EPA, Congress funds OIG separately to ensure independence as it conducts activities such as audits and investigations to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of EPA’s operations and programs.  Following the audit, OIG will prepare a report that may include recommendations for corrective actions OCSPP should take based upon OIG’s findings.  More information on OIG’s previous reports and audit system is available on OIG’s website.  Recent OIG reports regarding the implementation of FIFRA include:


 

By Heather F. Collins, M.S.

The March 1, 2020, deadline for all establishments, foreign and domestic, that produce pesticides, devices, or active ingredients to file their annual production for the 2019 reporting year is fast approaching.  Pursuant to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 7 (7 U.S.C. § 136e), “any producer operating an establishment registered [under Section 7] shall inform the Administrator within 30 days after it is registered of the types and amounts of pesticides and, if applicable, active ingredients used in producing pesticides” and this information “shall be kept current and submitted to the Administrator annually as required.” 

Reports must be submitted on or before March 1 annually for the prior year’s production.  The report, filed through the submittal of EPA Form 3540-16:  Pesticide Report for Pesticide-Producing and Device-Producing Establishments, must include the name and address of the producing establishment; and pesticide production information such as product registration number, product name, and amounts produced and distributed.  The annual report is always required, even when no products are produced or distributed.

EPA has created the electronic reporting system to submit pesticide producing establishment reports using the Section Seven Tracking System (SSTS).  Users will be able to use SSTS within EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to submit annual pesticide production reports.  Electronic reporting is efficient, it saves time by making the process faster, and saves money in mailing costs and/or courier delivery and related logistics.

Link to EPA Form 3540-16, as well as instructions on how to report, and how to add and use EPA’s SSTS electronic filing system are available below.

Further information is available on EPA’s website.


 
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