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EPA ALJ Issues Initial Decision in Bayer Flubendiamide Cancellation Proceeding
On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Susan L. Biro issued an Initial Decision in the matter of Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America, Inc. (BCS/NAI), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Docket No. FIFRA-HQ-2016-0001.
This decision was issued following BCS/NAI’s request for a hearing to contest EPA’s Notice of Intent to Cancel Pesticide Registrations (NOIC). BCS/NAI challenged EPA’s position that a conditional registration term in the relevant registrations required BCS/NAI to cancel voluntarily their flubendiamide registrations within one week of notification by EPA that the currently registered flubendiamide products will result in unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, and EPA’s issuance of a NOIC for all BCS/NAI flubendiamide products as a result of BCS/NAI’s decision declining EPA’s request to cancel voluntarily all flubendiamide registrations.
In an earlier order, Biro denied BCS/NAI’s Motion for Accelerated Decision and ruled that as a matter of law EPA was authorized to cancel the conditional registrations under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 6(e) and did not need to provide BCS/NAI the full Section 6(b) cancellation process. More information regarding that decision is available in our blog item EPA ALJ Denies Bayer’s Motion for Accelerated Decision.
Without the ability to review the bases underlying EPA’s determination that the continued registration of flubendiamide does not meet the Registration Standard under Section 6(b), the only two issues for consideration under Section 6(e) were: (1) whether BCS/NAI “initiated and pursued appropriate action to comply” with the voluntary cancellation provision of their conditional flubendiamide registration; and (2) whether EPA’s existing stocks determination was consistent with FIFRA.
With regard to the first issue, the ALJ found that new arguments offered by BSC/NAI were not timely raised, and even if they had been, the ALJ was “not persuaded by the merits of these objections.” Specifically, in response to the objection that BCS/NAI’s voluntary cancellation condition was excused because “EPA was required to engage in open, measured scientific dialogue before demanding cancellation” but did not do so, the ALJ found instead that “while it is clear from the record that Petitioners were not in agreement with EPA as to the toxicity end-points chosen or the Agency’s ultimate determination, they clearly were aware of them, and the rationale behind them, and had an opportunity to respond to EPA and engage in dialogue with Agency officials about these issues.” The ALJ concluded that BCS/NAI was not excused from the voluntary cancellation provision that was a condition of BSC/NAI’s registrations and did not submit a voluntary cancellation request, thus triggering the Section 6(e) cancellation proceedings.
With regard to the second issue concerning existing stocks, BCS/NAI had challenged EPA’s determination that the use of the flubendiamide technical registration product or the further distribution and sales of the end-use products would be prohibited, but use of the end-use products by end-users would be allowed. BCS/NAI argued that FIFRA is a risk-based statute and the facts supported an existing stocks policy that allows for sale, distribution, and use of the limited existing stocks available at the time of cancellation. The ALJ found, however, that EPA’s decision was consistent with FIFRA since FIFRA grants EPA the discretion to allow the continued sale and use of a cancelled pesticide but does not require that EPA make any “determination” that continued use and sale is consistent with FIFRA’s purposes.
BCS/NAI have indicated they will appeal the matter to the Environmental Appeals Board. A key issue in this forthcoming appeal will be whether EPA had discretion to adopt a condition of registration so restrictive in nature that it deprived BCS/NAI of any meaningful right to contest EPA’s subsequent scientific determinations. Most conditional registrations do not include a comparable condition, but it is common for EPA to issue conditional registrations under FIFRA Section 3(c)(7) that remain in effect only for a limited period during the pendency of data development.
This case illustrates the difficulty that a registrant may encounter subsequently contesting any condition that it has nominally accepted. Applicants should be wary and should carefully scrutinize any conditions that EPA may propose. It may be worthwhile in some instances to consider contesting a particularly onerous condition. FIFRA Section 3(c)(6) affords every applicant the right to contest a decision by EPA to deny an application for a less restrictive registration.