By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Margaret R. Graham
On February 22, 2018, the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento, issued a judgment granting petition for writ of mandate and declaratory and injunctive relief (Judgment) to suspend further chemical activities undertaken by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to control or eradicate pests under the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program (the Project) until CDFA has certified a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) that corrects violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) identified in the court’s ruling.
CDFA is charged with promoting and protecting the state’s agricultural industry, and preventing the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases, and noxious weeds. Cal. Food & Agr. Code §§ 4011 401.51 403. CDFA developed the Project to control targeted pests or pathogens, and includes activities such as pest rating (evaluation of a pest’s environmental, agricultural, and biological significance); identification, detection, and delimitation of new pest populations; pest management response (which may include eradication and/or control of new or existing pest populations); and prevention of the movement of pests into and within California.
The present case was brought after CDFA sought to comply with CEQA by preparing a single PEIR that provides a consolidated set of management practices rather than prepare Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) specific to particular pest management activities. Petitioners alleged that CDFA violated CEQA by certifying the PEIR for the Project and in related proceedings that CDFA violated CEQA by subsequently expanding the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program to allow increased use of certain pesticides (Merit 2F and Acelepyrn) for the treatment of Japanese beetles without adequate environmental review.
The numerous CEQA violations identified by the court are set forth in a Consolidated Ruling on Submitted Matters (Consolidated Ruling) issued January 8, 2018, and attached as Exhibit 1 to the Judgment. The Consolidated Ruling discusses the following topics:
- Does the PEIR’s tiering strategy violate CEQA?
- Does CEQA require the Department to issue a Notice of Determination (NOD) anytime is carries out or approves a site-specific activity?
- Does the PEIR contain an adequate project description?
- Does the PEIR contain an adequate description of the baseline environmental setting?
- Does the PEIR fail to adequately analyze environmental impacts?
- Does the PEIR fail to adequately analyze the Project’s cumulative impacts?
- Does the PEIR improperly defer mitigation measures or conceal them as Program Features?
- Does the PEIR fail to adequately consider a range of reasonable alternatives to the Project?
- Did the Department violate CEQA’s notice and consultation requirements?
- Did the Department adequately respond to public comments on the DRAFT PEIR?
- Did the Department properly use addenda to modify the PEIR?
The court found multiple, broad-based issues with the PEIR, including, for example, a decision that the PEIR violates CEQA “because it adopts an unlawful tiering strategy, granting the Department authority to implement a broad range of practices without evaluating the site-specific conditions to determine whether the environmental impacts were covered in the PEIR.” The Consolidated Ruling also discusses particular failures of the PEIR. Additionally, of potential interest is the court’s opinion with regard to whether the PEIR failed to disclose and analyze impacts on sensitive biological resources, which Petitioners argued was based on several grounds: (i) an assumption that spraying “generally” will not occur near sensitive resources and fails to analyze potential impacts from pesticide drift; (ii) a conclusion, without substantial evidence, that the Project will have less-than-significant impacts on sensitive species; (iii) a conclusion, without substantial evidence, that traps and lures will not have significant impacts on non-target species; (iv) the use of improper thresholds of significance for impacts to pollinators and organic farming; and (v) a failure to define, disclose, and analyze impacts on wetlands.
The court did not find issues with the PEIR as it related to CDFA’s spraying assumptions and CDFA’s determinations of potential impacts on sensitive species, pesticide drift, or organic farming. The court likewise rejected Petitioner’s other challenges to the PEIR’s analysis of biological impacts, including the PEIR's analysis of traps/lures and of the species evaluated in the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA).
The court did, however, agree with Petitioners that the PEIR improperly ignored potentially significant impacts to pollinators. The court stated that the PEIR considered impacts to pollinators significant only if (1) the pollinator species impacted were “special status,” or (2) the impacts would result in a secondary change in the physical environment (such as conversion of land from agricultural to non-agricultural use). The PEIR did not consider whether the Project might adversely impact non-special-status pollinators, despite acknowledging that “healthy pollinator populations are critical to protecting the environmental quality and agricultural resources of the state,” and that “Colony Collapse Disorder” and “pollinator decline” are “ongoing ... serious” problems. The court found that CDFA’s “‘voluntary’ actions to benefit pollinator species are not, by themselves, sufficient to justify the lack of analysis and enforceable mitigation measures for the potentially significant impacts to non-special-status pollinators.”
The immediate effect of this decision is the inability for CDFA to continue “chemical activities … to control or eradicate pests under the [Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management] Program except as authorized under CEQA independent of the PEIR.” Should this decision stand, registrants and stakeholders should be interested in whether and how CDFA modifies the PEIR to support its pest control and management activities.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On March 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its release of final guidance clarifying where first aid statements should appear on the label of pesticide products. EPA also posted a response to public comments. Links to the final guidance and to the response to public comments documents are below:
EPA states that it was prompted to develop this guidance when it learned “that there was a discrepancy in how the ‘location of first aid statement,’ per [40 C.F.R. Section 156.68(d)] is interpreted by EPA and those in the pesticide registrant community.” EPA notes that its review and approval of pesticide labeling is generally of a “master” label and thus does not always include a review of the location or placement of specific language on a label.
On December 7, 2016, EPA posted a memorandum for public comment entitled “EPA’s Guidance for Pesticide Registrants on Location of the First Aid Statement and Clarification on Definition of Label ‘Panel’ per 40 CFR 156.68” to clarify the interpretation of the term “panel” in the context of 40 C.F.R. 156.68 and to clarify where first aid statements must appear on pesticide labels, based on their Toxicity Category.
In its final guidance, EPA states it “will continue to require that Toxicity Category I products have the first aid statements on the front panel except in cases where a variation has been approved.” Further, based on comments received and the wide reliance by the regulated community on the interpretation that “any panel” includes inside panels, EPA is changing its position from its 2016 memorandum and now “will not require Toxicity Category II and III products to bear the first aid statements on a visible front, back or side panel.”
EPA also listed three recommendations for registrants to consider when printing their container labels:
- For Toxicity Category I products, EPA strongly recommends that registrants consider placing duplicative first aid language on the very back page of the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label that is immediately “stuck” to the container in case the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label is accidentally removed.
- Regardless of whether a registrant chooses to place the first aid statements for Toxicity Categories II and III products on a visible front, back, side or inside panel, EPA recommends that duplicative first aid language appear on the very back page of the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label that is immediately attached to the container in case the booklet/accordion/saddle stitch label is accidentally removed. EPA states that this recommendation is not intended to suggest other information that registrants typically include on the very back page should be moved elsewhere.
- EPA recommends that the registrant community consider designing new booklets/accordion/saddle stitch labels that are not easily removed from the containers. Per 40 C.F.R. Part 156.10(a)(4), the labels are to be “securely attached” to the immediate container of the pesticide product. EPA believes that in many instances these labels are easily removed which is why, EPA states, it believes many registrants have already chosen to put the duplicative first aid statements on the very last page of the label that is attached to the container.
Registrants should review this guidance carefully, as this issue has been the subject of concern and controversy for a number of registrants.
By Lynn L. Bergeson, Christopher R. Bryant, and Margaret R. Graham
On March 6, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule (pre-publication version available here) to add hazardous waste aerosol cans to the category of universal wastes regulated under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations (Title 40 of the C.F.R., Part 273), entitled Increasing Recycling: Adding Aerosol Cans to the Universal Waste Regulations. EPA cites as authority for this change Sections 2002(a), 3001, 3002, 3004, and 3006 of the Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by RCRA, as amended by the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments Act (HSWA). EPA states the streamlined Universal Waste regulations are expected to:
- Ease regulatory burdens on retail stores and other establishments that discard aerosol cans by providing a clean, protective system for managing discarded aerosol cans;
- Promote the collection and recycling of aerosol cans;
- Encourage the development of municipal and commercial programs to reduce the quantity of these wastes going to municipal solid waste landfills or combustors; and
- Result in an annual cost savings of $3.0 million to $63.3 million.
As aerosol cans are “widely used for dispensing a broad range of products” including pesticides, the proposed rule may have implications for chemical companies that create and distribute pesticide products marketed in aerosol cans. Hazardous waste aerosol cans that contain pesticides are also subject to Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requirements, including compliance with the instructions on the product label. Under 40 C.F.R. Section 156.78, a flammability label statement is required for pressurized pesticide product products that states “Do not puncture or incinerate container,” but EPA’s 2004 determination (that will be posted to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2017-0463 on www.regulations.gov for this proposed rule) allows for the puncturing of cans. The proposed rule states:
- EPA issued a determination that puncturing aerosol pesticide containers is consistent with the purposes of FIFRA and is therefore lawful pursuant to FIFRA section 2(ee)(6) provided that the following conditions are met:
- The puncturing of the container is performed by a person who, as a general part of his or her profession, performs recycling and/or disposal activities;
- The puncturing is conducted using a device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and effectively contain the residual contents and any emissions thereof; and
- The puncturing, waste collection, and disposal, are conducted in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local waste (solid and hazardous waste) and occupational safety and health laws and regulations.
- EPA anticipates that this 2004 FIFRA determination would not be affected by the proposed addition of hazardous waste aerosol cans to the universal waste rules.
Comments will be due 60 days after the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register.
By Heather F. Collins, M.S. and Margaret R. Graham
On February 28, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of three Group B -- Antimicrobial Efficacy Test Guidelines, under Series 810, Product Performance Test Guidelines. The guidelines provide recommendations for the design and execution of laboratory studies to evaluate the effectiveness of antimicrobial pesticides against public health microbial pests. 83 Fed. Reg. 8666. The three final guidelines are:
EPA states these “test guidelines are part of a series of test guidelines established by the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) for use in testing pesticides and chemical substances. The test guidelines serve as a compendium of accepted scientific methodologies and protocols for testing that is intended to provide data to inform regulatory decisions.”
EPA issued draft guidelines in June 2015 and solicited comments. EPA states that some comments received on those draft guidelines have been incorporated into the final versions. EPA states that the revision “is more user friendly and clarifies topics such as confirmatory data, repeat testing, hard water formulation, wetness determination testing for towelettes, and internal toilet testing … [and] also includes information on supplemental testing policies such as lower certified limits, revision of the AOAC Use Dilution Method performance standards and clarified technical details for efficacy testing.”
Documents pertaining to the revision of the product performance guidelines, including public comment submissions, and the agency’s response to comments are available at www.regulations.gov, in Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0276. More information on test guidelines is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala
On February 26, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of California issued a memorandum and order on the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction (Order) to “enjoin the listing of glyphosate under Proposition 65 (Prop 65) and the application of its attendant warning requirement pending a final judgment in this case and set a schedule for expedited final resolution of the case.” The Order (1) grants plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the warning requirement of California Health & Safety Code § 25249.6 as to glyphosate; and (2) denies the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from listing glyphosate as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer under California Health & Safety Code § 25249.8. Specifically, the Order states: “pending final resolution of this action, defendants … are hereby ENJOINED from enforcing as against plaintiffs … California Health & Safety Code § 25249.6’s requirement that any person in the course of doing business provide a clear and reasonable warning before exposing any individual to glyphosate.” Although this is only a preliminary injunction while the case continues further resolution, it is extremely significant that, for now, glyphosate will continue to be listed on California’s Prop 65 list as a “chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer,” but products containing glyphosate will not be required to comply with the warning requirement.
Plaintiffs’ memorandum supporting its motion for preliminary injunction states that Prop 65’s requirement for products containing glyphosate to include a warning that glyphosate is “known to the State of California to cause cancer” is unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and, if allowed to go into effect, will cause Plaintiffs’ “reputational, competitive, and economic harms for which they cannot be compensated.” Plaintiffs state that the “legal merit of their First Amendment claim is indisputable and obvious on the face of the attached documents without any need for discovery, and thus the claim is appropriate for expedited judicial resolution.” California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the agency responsible for implementing Prop 65, listed glyphosate as a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer on July 7, 2017, and the attendant warning requirement would have taken effect on July 7, 2018.
In support of denying the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from listing glyphosate under Prop 65, the court states that plaintiffs “have not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the listing of glyphosate violates the First Amendment, because the listing is government speech, not private speech … [and it] is only the upcoming July 2018 deadline for providing the [Prop 65] warning that compels private speech.” The court noted further that Plaintiffs “have not shown a likelihood of irreparable harm should the court fail to enjoin the listing of glyphosate, because any harm that plaintiffs might suffer is caused by the warning requirements of [Prop 65], rather than the listing itself.” Accordingly, the court denied a preliminary injunction based on plaintiffs’ claim that the glyphosate listing violates the First Amendment.
On the other hand, in support of granting the request for a preliminary injunction enjoining the application of the attendant warning requirement, the court stated:
- On the evidence before the court, the required warning for glyphosate does not appear to be factually accurate and uncontroversial because it conveys the message that glyphosate’s carcinogenicity is an undisputed fact, when almost all other regulators have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.
The court also stated that the required warnings are “false and misleading” and that plaintiffs “have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim, are likely to suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of equities and public interest favor an injunction, the court will grant plaintiffs’ request to enjoin [Prop 65]’s warning requirement for glyphosate.”
This case, while not the end of the story, is a very significant development both for glyphosate specifically and perhaps for Prop 65 warning requirements generally. Industry should follow this case closely given the implications for glyphosate and potentially other Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)-regulated pesticides and chemicals generally. Some in industry have long been concerned that Prop 65 warning requirements contradict conclusions supported by the data and reached by other agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This decision is a huge preliminary win for those with these concerns and, depending on the ultimate outcome of the case, could provide a precedent for additional challenges related to other substances. The potential reach of the case beyond glyphosate, however, will likely be dictated heavily by the facts of each case.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Susan M. Kirsch
On February 15, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added resources to its website regarding the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements of the WPS. As of January 2, 2018, full compliance is required with all of the AEZ-related requirements in the WPS. The new EPA website resources include:
While many welcome EPA’s guidance on the many thorny issues presented by the WPS and AEZ requirements, some believe that in places, the newly issued guidance raises additional questions and leaves some significant questions unaddressed. Given the controversy over this rule, this new guidance should be reviewed closely.
More information on the WPS, including EPA’s December 2017 announcement of its intention to revise the AEZ and other WPS provisions, and current implementation deadlines can be found on our blog under key word WPS and key phrase Worker Protection Standard.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On February 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 Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On February 8, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is planning to submit an information collection request (ICR), “Submission of Unreasonable Adverse Effects Information under FIFRA Section 6(a)(2)” (EPA ICR No. 1204.13, OMB Control No. 2070-0039), to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act.
EPA states that information submitted under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(a)(2) “provides an important means of focusing EPA attention on key problem areas regarding the use of a particular pesticide.” EPA states that since the last ICR was approved, it is increasing by 71,778 hours the total estimated respondent burden compared with the ICR currently approved by OMB. This increased estimate is based in part on the number of Section 6(a)(2) submissions, which EPA expects to increase by 16 percent from 93,000 in the last ICR approval to approximately 108,000 for this ICR renewal. According to EPA, the increase is “due to EPA’s revised expectations regarding the number of incident reports that will be submitted to the Agency, which reflects historical information on the number of responses received.” EPA states this increase also is due to additional data requests under 40 C.F.R. Part 159, including:
- Additional standardized post-market surveillance reporting on adverse effects and submission of sales information required by EPA following a significant increase in the number of adverse incidents for spot-on domestic animal pet products from several registrants;
- Additional information required by EPA from the registrant of an herbicide to help explain circumstances for incidents of alleged tree and plant damage; and
- Additional documentation required by EPA from neonicotinoid registrants following concerns about neonicotinoid pesticides and the loss of bee colonies.
Through EPA’s notice, it is soliciting public comments on the proposed ICR. EPA states that this is a proposed extension of the ICR, which is currently approved through September 30, 2018. Comments are due by April 9, 2018. EPA has posted supporting documents in the docket for this notice, EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0687, on www.regulations.gov:
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and James V. Aidala
On February 1, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is publishing new guidance that sets forth a tiered approach intended to help manufacturers and EPA determine when the number of field trials necessary to register seed treatment uses can be reduced.
In its memo and attached Seed-Treatment Focus Group (STFG) Guidance Document dated January 26, 2018, EPA states that its Health Effect Divison (HED) has received “multiple waiver requests for seed-treatment field-trial residue data and has reviewed multiple field-trial datasets that indicated that there was the potential to reduce the number of field trials required to support the registration of seed-treatment uses.” EPA states that to evaluate this hypothesis, the HED Chemistry Science Advisory Council (ChemSAC), in collaboration with the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), in accordance with the July 11, 2017, Joint Canada/United States Field Trial Requirements “performed a retrospective analysis of all seed-treatment residue data that have been submitted to EPA/PMRA and has developed a tiered approach for determining if current crop-specific field trial data requirements are required to support new seed-treatment uses, or if a reduction in the number of required field trials is appropriate.” EPA’s announcement states that “the analysis showed that the data required to support registration could be substantially reduced and still be protective of human health.”
EPA developed two decision trees detailing the process for determining the residue chemistry field trial data requirements for seed-treatment uses: one for potato seed-piece (PSP) treatments only and another one for all remaining crops. EPA states that this case study demonstrates that application of the guidance set forth in these decision trees can, for both manufacturers and the agency, “potentially save considerable resources in terms of conducting, submitting, and reviewing the studies while still obtaining the data necessary to support seed-treatment pesticide registrations.”
The outlined procedure and memo document will supersede EPA’s previous guidance issued on October 28, 1999, entitled “Classification of Seed Treatments as Food or Nonfood Uses.”
More information is available on EPA’s Determining the Number of Field Trials Required to Register Seed-Treatment Uses webpage.
This announcement of improved review procedures allows EPA to cite both greater coordination across national borders (working with Canada), and reduce unnecessary data requirements. This would fit with the current Administration’s emphasis on reducing regulatory burdens and fostering greater innovation in regulated arenas. It also might be seen as general “good government,” as it updates guidance which is now almost twenty years old. Since seed treatment technology and associated policy issues have both evolved over the years, such a review and revision would seem timely regardless of any larger political directive.
By James V. Aidala
On January 31, 2018, Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced the establishment of an Interagency Working Group to Coordinate Endangered Species Act (ESA) Consultations for Pesticide Registrations and Registration Review. EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (the Services) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on the establishment of the working group. The stated purpose of the working group is that it “will provide recommendations to EPA, FWS, and NMFS leadership on improving the [ESA] consultation process for pesticide registration and registration review (‘pesticide consultation process’) and will ensure that the new process is recorded and formalized as appropriate.” The working group’s action plan includes the following:
- Analyze relevant statutes, regulations, and case law. The Working Group will review the statutory requirements under ESA and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); the case law that has developed on the intersection of ESA and FIFRA; and existing regulations for the pesticide consultation process.
- Review past ESA pesticide consultation practices to learn lessons from recent experience and review current and previous pesticide consultation practices to identify problems and areas for improvement, as well as best practices that should be used in future pesticide consultations.
- Prepare recommendations to improve scientific and policy approaches to ESA pesticide consultations. For example, the Working Group will develop a streamlined process for identifying which actions require no consultation, informal consultation, or formal consultation. The Working Group will also help provide clarity as to what constitutes the “best scientific and commercial data available” in the fields of pesticide use and ecological risk assessment, which EPA and the Services are required to use under ESA section 7(a)(2).
- To the extent that current authorities and practices do not allow for the timely and accurate review of pesticides consistent with governing authorities, the Working Group may memorialize its recommendations for a revised regulatory framework, including addressing agency responsibilities, recommended technical approaches, and recommendations for new regulations, a memorandum of understanding, or other appropriate documentation.
Like others before them, the Trump Administration is embarking on a journey to address the problem of how to integrate ESA assessment and consultation requirements with the FIFRA registration process. This directive will help organize a senior level effort to coordinate activities of EPA and the Services and, like past efforts, at the senior management level there will likely be at least a recognition that something needs to be done to fashion a more efficient and predictable process. Currently ESA reviews add months and years to the registration review process and, to date, that process is followed by seemingly inevitable litigation challenging the EPA decision as not sufficient to meet ESA requirements.
The result has been an exhaustive, time and resource intensive initial set of “pilot” biological opinions, and a very long list of promised consultations resulting from past litigation cases. Currently, the workload already committed will be virtually unattainable for a number of years, and as EPA plans to have ESA assessments as part of the registration review process for older pesticides (as well as for future new product applications), the budget and staffing implications are staggering. Meantime, agricultural stakeholders, including pesticide manufacturers and grower groups who use pesticides, fear that the current process might result in the loss or delay in the introduction of needed pest control products.
This is the context for the current attempt to devise an integrated, more efficient process to have any realistic chance to fashion a process which meets the requirements of both statutes. We wish any and all participants good luck and constant senior political level involvement -- they will likely need much of it.
More information on ESA issues is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
Beginning on January 23, 2018, the European Commission (EC) opened a consultation period on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) risk assessment process (scientific advice). The EC states it is seeking feedback on its process both as a “follow-up to the commitments made by the Commission in reply to the European Citizens’ Initiative on glyphosate,” and in response to “citizens [that] have put into question the risk assessment based on studies provided by the industry and this in particular where the industry seeks an authorisation, e.g. for pesticides, GMOs etc.”
The General Food Law Regulation established EFSA, an independent scientific agency, to provide the risk assessment component of its risk analysis principle; the other two components are risk management and risk communication. EFSA provides its scientific opinions “which form the basis for the measures taken by the [European Union (EU)] in the food chain.” The EC states the General Food Law Regulation “is the cornerstone of the EU regulatory framework covering the entire food chain: ‘from farm to fork.’” The EC is requesting feedback to help it “look into how [the EC] can improve the current system and to address citizens’ expectations about independence and transparency of the EU risk assessment system.” The EC is specifically requesting views and experiences on the following:
- The transparency and independence of the EU risk assessment system with respect to the underlying industry studies and information on which EFSA's risk assessment/scientific advice is based;
- Risk communication; and
- The governance of EFSA, in particular the involvement of the EU Member States (MS) in the EU risk assessment system.
To contribute, interested parties must fill out the online questionnaire available here. All stakeholders and EU as well as non-EU citizens are welcome to contribute to this consultation. The consultation period will close on March 20, 2018.
This Consultation is of significant interest to stakeholders, particularly in balancing the potential need for increased transparency with the need to protect confidential business information, trade secret information, and proprietary expensive data investments. Decisions made by EFSA also could have a global impact on data protection, as any decisions made by EFSA to increase transparency could affect whether certain data can continue to be protected under other regulatory programs.
Outside of the transparency issues that are receiving much attention of late, it is important to note generally that views about risk assessment policies across governments tend to be driven by underlying political disagreements, with support or criticism somewhat predictable depending on how the resultant decisions are “for or against” the view of an interested constituency.
The transparency issue here should be considered not only on its own merits, but also within the controversy that surrounded the EU assessment approach for glyphosate, an herbicide which is widely used in production of genetically modified crops. As a stalking horse for the EU debate about biotechnology crops, the EU glyphosate assessment has, for example, become embroiled as part of the glyphosate carcinogenic classification of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). See our blog item IARC Announces Cancer Classification for Glyphosate and Other Pesticides. The IARC review concluded that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen,” contrary to most other assessments done by the U.S., Canada, and some EU Member States. Comments on the general EU risk assessment process can be expected to be intertwined with the perspective that any commenter has on the glyphosate assessment, even though the request is for public comment on the assessment process generally, and not only specifically about glyphosate.
More information on glyphosate is available on our blog under key word glyphosate.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On January 22, 2018, the White House again delayed the effective date of revisions to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, referred to as the Common Rule. Final revisions were published on January 19, 2017. On September 8, 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and 15 other federal departments and agencies published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing revisions to each agency’s codification of the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, originally promulgated as a Common Rule in 1991. 80 Fed. Reg. 53931. On January 19, 2017, HHS and other federal departments and agencies published a final rule revising the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects. 82 Fed. Reg. 7149. The revised policy, referred to as the “2018 Requirements,” was scheduled to become effective on January 19, 2018, with a general compliance date of January 19, 2018, with the exception of the revisions to the cooperative research provisions for which the compliance date is January 20, 2020.
After publication of the 2018 Requirements, representatives of industry, including organizations representing recipients of federal human subjects research awards, expressed concern regarding their ability to implement all of the 2018 Requirements by the scheduled general compliance date. Stakeholders requested a delay in the general compliance date of the 2018 Requirements with the exception of certain burden-reducing provisions of the 2018 Requirements, including certain carve-outs from the definition of “research” exemptions, elimination of the continuing review requirements for certain categories of research, and the elimination of the requirement that institutional review boards (IRB) review grant applications. The HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP) also recommended in August 2017 that implementation of the 2018 Requirements should be delayed. The new effective date is July 19, 2018. Comments are due by March 19, 2018.
More information on the Common Rule is available on our blog.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Margaret R. Graham
On January 10, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rule to adjust the level of statutory civil monetary penalty amounts under the statutes that EPA administers, including the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). 83 Fed. Reg. 1190. This follows EPA’s July 2016 interim final rule adjusting penalty amounts for (FIFRA) violations by more than three times the current level, in some cases, as well as the level of statutory civil monetary penalty amounts for the other statutes that EPA administers. The adjustments in the January 10, 2018, final rule, as well as in the July 2016 rule, are mandated by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended through the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. The law prescribes a formula for annually adjusting statutory civil penalties to reflect inflation, maintain the deterrent effect of statutory civil penalties, and promote compliance with the law. The final rule is effective as of January 15, 2018.
With this rule, the new statutory maximum penalty levels listed in Table 2 of 40 C.F.R. Section 19.4 will apply to all civil penalties assessed on or after January 15, 2018, for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, when the 2015 Act was enacted. For general civil penalties under Section 14(a)(1) of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the penalty amount is increasing to $19,446 from $19,057; for FIFRA Section 14(a)(2), which applies to private applicators and contains three separate statutory maximum civil penalty provisions, the penalty amounts are increasing from $2,795, $1,801, and $2795; to $2,852, $1,838, and $2,795.
More information on this interim final rule is available in our blog item “EPA Issues ‘Catch-Up’ Adjustments for Federal Civil Penalties.” The January 10, 2018, final rule is available online.
By Lisa R. Burchi and Lisa M. Campbell
On January 3, 2018, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) issued Notice 2018-01: Expanding Use of Pesticide Products Under Reevaluation. Under Notice 2018-01, effective immediately, DPR will not act upon an Application for Pesticide Registration or an Application to Amend a Pesticide Product if it determines the registration or acceptance would potentially “expand use” of an active ingredient or pesticide product currently under reevaluation until the conclusion of the reevaluation.
DPR states that it commences a reevaluation of an existing registered pesticide when it finds, based on an investigation of all reported episodes and information received, that a significant adverse impact to human health or the environment has occurred or is likely to occur. DPR states that the policy set forth in Notice 2018-1 is needed for pesticides under reevaluation because until DPR reviews existing data for substances under reevaluation, determines whether additional data to satisfy reevaluation data requirements must be submitted, and then receives and assesses additional data applicable to the reevaluation that can mitigate the concern that prompted the initiation of the reevaluation, DPR “is not in a position to determine that an expanded use will not cause a ‘significant adverse environmental impact,’ as required under its certified regulatory program (3 CCR section 6254).” Once the reevaluation process is completed, DPR states that it will then be in a position, in light of its reevaluation determination, to consider applications for product registration or amendment.
Scope of Notice 2018-1
DPR is currently reevaluating certain pesticide products containing the following active ingredients:
- Copper-based antifouling paints (copper oxide, copper hydroxide, and cuprous thiocyanate);
- Diazinon; and
- Nitroguanidine neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, and dinotefuran).
This notice applies to new pesticide products that include these active ingredients, including supplemental distributor registrations (subregistrations) and amendments to currently registered pesticide products, when “expanding use” of the active ingredient relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation.
Specifically, DPR states in Notice 2018-1 that it interprets the following types of actions, related to a new or amended product containing the active ingredient under reevaluation, as examples of “expanding use”:
- A proposed new pesticide product, including any Special Local Needs registration or Experimental Use Permit, with a label bearing uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation. This includes any product label that is identical or substantially similar to a currently registered product in California.
- Amendment of a currently registered product to add or modify uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation, even if such use is already on other currently registered pesticide products in California. Examples of such changes include:
- New or modified uses (e.g., new crops, pests, or use sites);
- New or modified use patterns (e.g., adding aerial, aquatic, soil applications, or outdoor use);
- Significant formulation changes (unless prompted by the reevaluation);
- Increased application rates or total use amount allowed (e.g., acreage or frequency of application); and
- Other label additions or changes that may increase pesticide exposure in a manner that is relevant to the basis for the reevaluation.
This notice does not preclude expanded use of a product if the expansion is not consistent with uses or exposure scenarios relevant to the concern that prompted the reevaluation. As an example, DPR states that an application containing an active ingredient that is under reevaluation over concerns regarding exposure to wildlife would not be precluded under this notice as an expanded use is if the product is labeled solely for indoor use, with no potential wildlife exposure.
DPR also acknowledges that a pest management or public health need could arise during a reevaluation that would support the issuance of an Emergency Exemption request under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In those cases, with regard to the potential applicability of Notice 2018-1, DPR states that it “will assess the request by relying on currently available information and risk mitigation strategies.”
DPR’s reevaluation process can take years to complete, so not only are pending affected submissions for products containing the active ingredients at issue effectively frozen, but future submissions for active ingredients newly entering the reevaluation process could be halted potentially for lengthy periods of time, despite the fact that DPR may ultimately determine that any identified “expanded uses” do not cause a significant adverse environmental impact. It is an initiative that many in industry are monitoring closely.
More information on other California DPR-related issues is available on our blog under key phrase California DPR.