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 Carla N. Hutton

As reported in our November 2, 2020, blog item, on October 30, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule on the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) regulation that revises the requirements on the pesticide application exclusion zone (AEZ), defined as an “area surrounding the point(s) of pesticide discharge from the application equipment that must generally be free of all persons during pesticide applications.” The final AEZ requirements were scheduled to go into effect on December 29, 2020, but on December 28, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an order in the case of State of New York et al. v. EPA that resulted in a stay of the requirements. Subsequent orders have extended this stay of the effectiveness.

EPA published a May 16, 2022, Federal Register notice stating that as of February 15, 2022, the effectiveness of the WPS final rule is stayed by court order until August 22, 2022. 87 Fed. Reg. 29673. According to the notice, EPA intends to publish another document in the Federal Register to address the status of the 2020 final rule if the stay of effectiveness expires or is lifted, but EPA “does not intend to publish additional Federal Register documents to announce any additional court orders entered to further stay the effectiveness of the 2020 final rule.”


 

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

 On May 6, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the availability of, and requesting comments on, data related to aquatic toxicity of chitosan salts. 87 Fed. Reg. 27059. Specifically, EPA is seeking comments on the following two aquatic toxicity reports submitted by Tidal Vision Products, LLC (Tidal Vision), the company that submitted a petition to EPA on October 10, 2018, requesting that EPA add chitosan to the list of active ingredients eligible for EPA’s minimum risk pesticide exemption under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 25(b):

  1. Tidal Vision USA. (2019). Aquatic Toxicology Report by Eurofins Environmental Testing Test America. Lab I.D. No. B4345. Report Date: June 17, 2019. EPA Master Record Identification (MRID) 51861901.
  2. Tidal Vision USA. (2019). Aquatic Toxicology Report by Eurofins Environmental Testing Test America. Lab I.D. No. B4421. Report Date: August 28, 2019. EPA Master Record Identification (MRID) 51861902.

EPA is seeking input on how these reports may be used by EPA in its assessment of aquatic toxicity of chitosan and its salts. EPA states “chitosan may form as a salt (e.g., acetate, lactate, hydrochloride, and salicylate) when it is solubilized in acids for end use product formulation and subsequently applied in the environment” and the new information submitted by Tidal Vision pertains to these salts.  Comments on the aquatic toxicity reports are due on or before June 6, 2022, in Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0701.

As background, EPA on August 20, 2020, announced that it was seeking to add chitosan to the list of active ingredients allowed in minimum risk pesticides that are exempt from pesticide registration requirements and was providing to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for review a draft regulatory document titled ‘‘Pesticides; Addition of Chitosan to the List of Active Ingredients Allowed in Exempted Minimum Risk Pesticides Products.”  A minimum risk product must meet six specific conditions to be exempt 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 EPA adds chitosan to the list of minimum risk pesticide active ingredients, pesticide products containing chitosan could qualify as minimum risk pesticides provided the other conditions also are satisfied (e.g., using inert ingredients approved by EPA for use in minimum risk pesticides, not making any public health claims).

On November 2, 2020, EPA requested comments on the proposed rule to add chitosan to the list of active ingredients eligible for the exemption. In the May 6, 2022, Notice, EPA states that  comments received on the proposed rule expressed concerns regarding derivatives of chitosan that are likely to be produced when chitosan is mixed with certain acids and on the potential hazard for aquatic organisms exposed to chitosan salts. Because of the concerns raised, EPA now is requesting comments on the two aquatic toxicity reports that pertain to these salts.

Commentary

EPA continues to remain focused on listing this specific substance rather than address other issues related to minimum risk pesticides that have been raised by industry to EPA over many years. There is, for example, a petition filed in 2006 by the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) requesting that EPA modify the minimum risk pesticide regulations to exclude products claiming to control public health pests from the Section 25(b) exemption. Comments submitted in response to the November 2, 2020, proposed rule raise additional concerns, including but not limited to the fact that the vast majority of states now require registration of minimum risk pesticides, thus shifting the burden away from EPA with costly and potential inconsistent results.

Though this EPA list is called “minimum risk,” it more accurately could be described as -- “so safe no one could, or at least should, have any concern about toxicity.”  There is long-standing reluctance for EPA to call any pesticide whatsoever as “safe” for various reasons, even to the point of an outright prohibition on using the word “safe” on registered labels.  (This is the clever distinction that “minimum risk” pesticides do meet the FIFRA definition of a pesticide, but the Section 25(b) designation allows that the label not be subject to EPA review and registration of the label.) 

This issue of possible risks from adding chitosan to the Section 25(b) list in light of the studies EPA seeks comment on appears to allow EPA to back away from its intended designation as minimum risk or to have the public comment reaffirm EPA’s assessment that chitosan’s safety profile is sufficiently beyond reproach to align with the other members of this category.  There are many other pesticides considered of very low risk but not so low as to have made the Section 25(b) list until now.  That there is a hint of debate about possible toxicity could signal that future additions to the list are being contemplated to encourage more “minimum risk” product development.  Or more simply, it may signal EPA’s reaction to the comments received has triggered some reconsideration of how “minimum” any minimum risk needs to be to qualify for the Section 25(b) list.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

According to a May 9, 2022, news item published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Advancing EPA’s Understanding of the Next Generation of Pesticides,” over the past decade, EPA “has received an increasing number of pesticide product applications that potentially contain nanomaterials.” The article notes that EPA’s current pesticide review method was not designed for nanomaterials, so each product is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. An EPA research team led by EPA scientist Dr. Chunming Su conducted an exhaustive search for patents and published literature related to nanopesticides to understand the state of the science. The item states that the team found and analyzed more than 36,000 patents and 500 peer-reviewed journal articles. The team established two general categories of nanopesticides to help inform EPA’s regulatory reviews: products with mostly metal-based nanomaterials as the active ingredient, like nanosilver and nanocopper oxide/hydroxide; and products that encapsulate and carry the active ingredient using nanomaterials (mostly carbon based) like graphene and carbon nanotubes. According to the item, the research team also developed a review framework “that includes a simple decision tree to determine what products should be classified and evaluated as a nanopesticide.” Products determined to contain nanomaterials are subject to additional assessment or data needs from the manufacturer. Dr. Andrew Byro of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) states that the framework “represents a major steppingstone in the development of a method for identification of nanomaterials.” EPA will use this framework as a platform to help inform its data needs and future determinations regarding the evaluation of nanomaterials in antimicrobial pesticides.

EPA’s research team collected their findings related to the physical and chemical properties and efficacy of nanopesticides in a peer-reviewed journal article in Nature Nanotechnology, “Nano-enabled pesticides for sustainable agriculture and global food security.” According to EPA’s news item, the team “found that nano-enabled pesticides adhere better to plant surfaces and have a reduced impact on non-target organisms. Nanopesticides may also enhance plant resilience against stressors from heat or drought.” EPA states that these benefits “could lead to higher crop yield and provide more agricultural resilience to address climate change and weather extremes.” EPA notes that the research team’s findings “also highlight the data gaps and the need for additional research on potential adverse impacts of nanopesticides.”


 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. (EDT)

Register Today

A circular economy requires new thinking about what products we make, from which materials we make them, and where products go at the end of their useful life. An important but often overlooked aspect of new product development is an understanding of the consequences of the product’s chemical composition and the end-of-life implications of the decisions made at the front end of the process. Working within this framework plays a critical role in building a resilient, dependable, and sustainable system that fosters innovation to develop a circular economy. Register now to join Lynn L. Bergeson, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Kate Sellers, and Mathy Stanislaus, as Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) presents “Domestic Chemical Regulation and Achieving Circularity.”

Topics Covered:

  • Achieving sustainability and the promise of the circular economy
  • Defining sustainable chemistry under the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act
  • Federal policy and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulatory shifts intended to support sustainability and circularity
  • Transitioning chemicals from research and development (R&D) platforms into the market
  • Changes to TSCA and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that affect chemical innovation

Speakers Include:

Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, B&C, has earned an international reputation for her deep and expansive understanding of how regulatory programs pertain to industrial biotechnology, synthetic biology, and other emerging transformative technologies. She counsels corporations, trade associations, and business consortia on a wide range of issues pertaining to chemical hazard, exposure and risk assessment, risk communication, minimizing legal liability, and evolving regulatory and policy matters.

Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry, B&C, is a 17-year veteran of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is one of the most widely recognized experts in the field of green chemistry, having served as senior staff scientist in EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) and leader of EPA’s Green Chemistry Program. His expansive understanding of the specific challenges and opportunities that TSCA presents for green and sustainable chemistry is a powerful asset for clients as they develop and commercialize novel chemistries.

Kate Sellers, Technical Fellow at ERM, leads a multi-disciplinary team of professionals dedicated to helping companies recognize the business value of product stewardship. Over the past year, Kate has seen an uptick in several product sustainability trends, including implementation of the TSCA life-cycle assessment, circular economy programs, and sustainability initiatives. In addition to her consulting work, Kate teaches “Product Stewardship and Chemical Sustainability” at Harvard University

Mathy Stanislaus, was recently appointed as Vice Provost and Executive Director of Drexel University’s Environmental Collaboratory, bringing interdisciplinary expertise in environmental sciences, engineering, law, health, business, economics, policy, and humanities to co-design transformative environmental solutions. Stanislaus joined Drexel from the Global Battery Alliance (GBA), a multi-stakeholder initiative established at the World Economic Forum (WEF), where he served as its first interim director and policy director with a focus on establishing a global transparent data authentication system to scale up electric mobility and clean energy. He also led the establishment of the Platform for Accelerating Circular Economy at WEF. Mathy served for eight years as the Senate-confirmed Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Land & Emergency Management for the Obama Administration, leading programs to revitalize communities through the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites, hazardous and solid waste materials management, chemical plant safety, and oil spill prevention and emergency response. During this Administration, he led the establishment of the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency that focused on the opportunities in the supply chain to drive circularity and de-carbonization.

Register Now


 

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

On April 15, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced final product performance data requirements for products claiming efficacy against certain pests. 87 Fed. Reg. 22464. This action officially incorporates EPA’s already existing product performance standards requirements for certain invertebrate pests into the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  EPA states this action also increases the efficiency of its approval process and will save registrants time and money.

Product performance standards are intended to make it easier for pesticide registrants to know the efficacy data that EPA requires to demonstrate that a pesticide product works as claimed. By adding these requirements into the CFR, EPA states that it intends to help ensure that submitted data meet EPA’s needs and scientific standards and satisfy a requirement of the 2018 Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 4). EPA notes as part of the agreement between pesticide stakeholders and public interest groups reflecting the environmental and farmworker safety communities in the development of PRIA, “PRIA 4 specifically establishes a new maintenance fee set-aside of up to $500,000/year to develop and finalize rulemaking and guidance for product performance data requirements for certain invertebrate pests of significant public health or economic importance. Specific to this rule, PRIA 4 requires EPA to finalize product performance data requirements by September 30, 2021, for certain pesticides intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating specified invertebrate pest of significant public health or economic importance.”

This final rule includes product performance data requirements for the categories of invertebrate pests specified in PRIA 4, which EPA states it intends to satisfy the rulemaking requirement. EPA notes that this final rule covers some invertebrate pests in addition to those specified in PRIA 4 due to their public health, economic, or ecological significance (e.g., wood destroying insects).

EPA states that it believes this final rule will save registrants approximately $17,000 per data package submitted to EPA by reducing waste and unnecessary testing, and believes it will reduce burden hours by 4,683 annually, including 4,515 hours from reduced paperwork burden associated with data generation and 168 hours from reduced paperwork with the application process.

This final rule codifies product performance data requirements to support registration of products claiming efficacy against three categories of invertebrate pests: 

  • Those identified to be of significant public health importance (e.g., ticks, mosquitoes, cockroaches);
  • Wood-destroying insects (e.g., termites); and
  • Certain invasive invertebrate species (e.g., Asian long-horned beetle).

EPA states that the latter two categories are pests considered to be of significant economic or ecological importance.

The final rule is effective on June 14, 2022.

Commentary

Codifying the product performance data requirements for invertebrate pests should increase transparency to registrants regarding the efficacy data that they typically would need to generate and submit for products to make labeling claims against these specific pests. Registrants of the products at issue should monitor these requirements closely.


 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. (EDT)

Register Today

Register now to join Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) for “FIFRA Hot Topics,” a complimentary webinar covering key Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) priorities and what companies should know to avoid market delays.

Speakers include:

Program: 

With year one of the Biden Administration’s term in the history books, we have a clearer sense of how EPA is proceeding on all fronts. EPA OPP is focusing on long-standing challenges, especially a renewed effort to meet Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation requirements and determining how best to meet core pesticide registration review obligations in 2022. These program priorities must reflect special considerations for environmental justice and climate change, advance critical science and policy issues, develop a fifth Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) implementation framework, and display a renewed commitment to working collaboratively with state partners and other stakeholders to implement the program.

Topics Covered:

  • OPP and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Issues and Priorities
  • Climate Change and Environmental Justice
  • Trade and Import Issues
  • Recent Developments in EPA Efforts to Better Coordinate FIFRA Efforts and ESA Requirements
  • Reauthorization of PRIA
  • Additional Review of Chlorpyrifos and Dicamba
  • Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Pesticide Containers

Register Now


 

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

On February 25, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has issued a response denying the objections filed against its final rule revoking all chlorpyrifos tolerances (Response). EPA issued the August 18, 2021, final rule in response to the Ninth Circuit Court’s Order directing EPA to issue a final rule in response to Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council’s 2007 petition, which requested EPA to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances.

After issuing the August 2021 final rule, and consistent with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), EPA provided an opportunity for any interested party to file an objection to any aspect of the final rule and request a hearing on those objections. Several objections were filed, with concerns ranging from the scope of the revocation of tolerances, the economic and environmental impacts of the revocation, and the implementation timeframe. EPA stated that after careful consideration, it denied all objections, hearing requests, and requests to stay the final rule filed during the period for submitting responses to the final rule.

In addition to its Response, EPA issued letters to the registrants of chlorpyrifos products with food uses confirming revocation of the tolerances and providing options for cancellation and label amendments. In particular, these options include the ability for registrants to submit registration amendments to remove food uses from product labels or submit a voluntary cancellation for products where all uses are subject to the tolerance revocation. For registrations not voluntarily cancelled, EPA stated it intends to issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances. A copy of its Response and the accompanying order in the chlorpyrifos final rule docket is available at EPA-HQ-OPP-2021-0523.

EPA states that this action will be incorporated into the ongoing registration review of chlorpyrifos and it will continue to review the comments submitted on the chlorpyrifos Proposed Interim Decision, draft Revised Human Health Risk Assessment, and draft Ecological Risk Assessment. These documents are available in the chlorpyrifos registration review docket at EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0850. After considering public comments, EPA will proceed with registration review for the remaining non-food uses.

Additional information on chlorpyrifos is available on our blog and on EPA’s website.

Commentary

It is not surprising that EPA denied all objections to its tolerance revocation decision. Since the earlier decision in 2009 to revoke the tolerances for the insecticide carbofuran, EPA, along with advocates of greater restrictions on pesticide exposures, have found a pathway for terminating pesticide uses while avoiding the significant procedural requirements of FIFRA’s cancellation provisions. The elaborate legal niceties of either approach will likely not quiet those grower groups and others who challenged EPA’s decision in this case.

Of note, in its lengthy Response (51 pages in the Federal Register, 87 Fed. Reg. 11222 (Feb. 28, 2022)), EPA again admits that some uses of chlorpyrifos on certain crops in certain areas are “high benefit” uses that can meet the required safety standards even when using EPA’s most conservative assumptions. Those eleven crop uses were among the many additional uses of the insecticide, and here EPA is explaining its case that as part of its decision, all of the uses on the current label are to be assessed together. At the point in time when EPA most recently assessed chlorpyrifos uses (the 2020 registration review Pesticide Interim Decision), some uses may have been able to meet the standard, but as explained in this notice: “In the final rule, EPA assessed aggregate exposure based on all currently registered uses of chlorpyrifos as required by the FFDCA and consistent with its guidance.”

This will likely be of little satisfaction to growers who produce those crops identified by EPA as meeting the standard.

To affected growers, the revocation of tolerances for the identified crop uses that nonetheless could meet the standard, along with the long-winded denial of objections citing the fine points of the legal procedures, amount -- to them -- as what Justice Scalia once described as “pure applesauce.” (Ironically, according to EPA’s 2020 assessment, applesauce sourced from New York and Michigan apples would have met the required standards according to EPA’s 2020 risk assessment.) Those groups may decide to continue the legal back-and-forth process for further review of the original decision and now the objection denials.

But the larger question for all registrants and pesticide users, not just chlorpyrifos, is what longer term issues are raised by EPA’s approach.


 

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) January 26, 2022, webinar “What to Expect in Chemicals in 2022” is now available for on-demand viewing at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/864194569862780944. During the 1-hour webinar, Lynn L. Bergeson, Managing Partner, B&C; Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry, B&C; and James V. Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant, B&C offered their best informed judgment as to the trends and key developments chemical industry stakeholders should expect to see from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2022.
 
Momentous changes initiated in 2021 will continue to influence policy development and rulemakings in 2022. For EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP), emphasis on science integrity, reviewing decisions made by the Trump Administration in both the pesticide and industrial chemicals programs, meeting statutory deadlines looming over the work of both programs, and dealing with the constant problem of EPA-wide competing priorities will drive the OCSPP program budget and regulatory priorities. We encourage you to view the webinar and read our comprehensive Forecast for U.S. Federal and International Chemical Regulatory Policy 2022 to learn more about these competing priorities for which companies should now prepare.


 

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

On January 20, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is extending supply-chain flexibilities for registrants of certain conventional and biopesticide products to alleviate a supply-chain issue facing the pesticide industry.

This is an extension of EPA’s July 2, 2021, action when EPA implemented supply-chain flexibilities that allowed registrants to substitute a combination of pre-approved alternate inert ingredients for inert ingredients derived from propylene oxide (PO) feedstocks. This was intended to address the limited supply of PO feedstocks due to weather events that occurred in the U.S. Gulf Coast in February 2021. This action was originally set to expire on December 31, 2021, but EPA has extended these supply-chain flexibilities until December 31, 2022, due to continued disruptions to production.

EPA emphasized in its initial July 2021 action that this relates only to non-antimicrobial pesticide products and that EPA will handle “not in-kind” substitutions for antimicrobial pesticide products on a case-by-case basis.

The pre-approved alternates for propylene glycol, a derivative of PO feedstocks, include:

  • glycerin (Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number (CAS RN) 56-81-5);
  • diethylene glycol (CAS RN 111-46-6);
  • ethylene glycol (CAS RN 107-21-1); and/or
  • 1,3-propanediol (CAS RN 504-63-2).

These substitutions can be added to a product formulation or a brand name mixture.

Registrants must self-certify that the substitute inert ingredients will:

  • Serve the same function in the product as propylene glycol;
  • Maintain the validity of product-specific data submitted in support of the registration;
  • Maintain the product’s acute toxicity category and physical/chemical characteristics such that no label modifications are required; and
  • Maintain the product’s fitness for its intended purposes in terms of efficacy, phytotoxicity, and any other factor.

EPA states that any registrants that wish to make the substitution permanent will have to go through the standard amendment process outlined in Pesticide Registration Notice (PRN) 98-10.

Commentary

Supply-chain issues have become a national concern whether one is shopping for furniture or manufacturing pesticides. The Biden Administration across government agencies and programs has sought ways to ease difficulties as part of a national response to economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pesticide ingredients may not be subject to as much media coverage as consumer products, but in the end, could have impacts affecting availability of disinfectants and other pesticide products. In the broader economy, supply-chain issues have been identified as a factor affecting the availability of pesticides used to help meet the food and fiber production needs of the nation, along with concerns about freight capacity limiting the normal distribution of crop inputs and ultimately affecting the movement of finished crops.


 

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

On January 11, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is implementing a new policy regarding the evaluation and registration of new conventional pesticide active ingredients (AI) to comply further with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (ESA Policy). EPA also issued a Question and Answer document regarding its ESA Policy. Effective immediately, EPA will evaluate the potential effects of new conventional AIs on federally threatened or listed endangered species (Listed Species) and their designated critical habitats, and initiate ESA consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) if necessary before EPA registers any new conventional AIs. The new ESA Policy will apply to all new conventional AI applications, including applications already submitted to EPA but not yet completed.

Under the ESA, EPA must ensure that its actions are not likely to result in jeopardy or adverse modification of designated critical habitat or Listed Species. To determine whether the action may affect Listed Species and their designated critical habitats, EPA makes one of three types of species-specific effects determinations: No Effect (NE), Not Likely to Adversely Affect (NLAA), or Likely to Adversely Affect (LAA). EPA states that historically it did not “consistently assess the potential effects of conventional pesticides on listed species when registering new AIs.” This, EPA states, “resulted in insufficient protections from new AIs for listed species, as well as resource-intensive litigation against EPA for registering new AIs prior to assessing potential effects on listed species.” EPA believes its new ESA Policy should assist in reducing these types of cases against EPA and improve the legal defensibility of new AIs.

EPA states that under the new ESA Policy, if EPA makes an LAA determination through its analyses of a new conventional pesticide AI, EPA will initiate formal consultation with the Services before granting a new AI registration. As part of its analysis and under its existing authorities, EPA will consider the likelihood that the registration action may jeopardize the continued existence of Listed Species or adversely modify their designated critical habitat and provide its findings to the Services. To determine or predict the potential effects of a pesticide on these species and habitats, EPA will use appropriate ecological assessment principles and apply what it has learned from past effects determinations and the Services’ biological opinions. EPA states it is determining whether any new information would be useful for assessing the potential impacts on Listed Species from a new AI, and it will specifically contact registrants that have a new Al application currently under consideration to discuss whether additional information is necessary for EPA’s ESA assessment for the new conventional AI.

If EPA determines that jeopardy or adverse modification is likely for a designated critical habitat or Listed Species, it will only make a registration decision on the new conventional AI after requiring registrants to implement mitigation measures that EPA determines would likely prevent such jeopardy or adverse modification. If EPA finds that a new AI is likely to affect adversely a Listed Species or its critical habitat, but that a jeopardy or adverse modification is not likely, it may nonetheless require registrants to include mitigation measures as part of their registration and product labeling to minimize the potential effects of incidental take to Listed Species that could result from use of a pesticide. In both situations, formal consultation with the Services would still be necessary, as EPA states final jeopardy or adverse modification determinations must be made by the Services. Regarding timeframes, EPA states in the Q&A that it “strives to complete new AI applications within PRIA timelines,” but will work with affected registrations to “renegotiate” PRIA deadlines if EPA believes additional time will be needed under the ESA Policy.

EPA states that it has prioritized conventional pesticide AIs but that it is continuing to explore applying these new ESA approaches to new biopesticide AIs and new antimicrobial AIs. EPA also is developing a comprehensive strategy to address ESA for pesticides at all stages of the registration process. EPA is currently developing a detailed work plan to outline additional improvements to further its compliance with the ESA, including steps to implement protections for high-risk species more efficiently, provide growers with more flexible mitigation measures, and increase stakeholder engagement.

Commentary

This announcement represents the next attempt by the Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) to comply with ESA requirements in a way that, as the ESA Policy points out, will be more legally defensible while continuing its work to review and approve new pesticide AIs. In recent years, EPA has tried various arguments, mostly futile, to convince courts that past attempts to comply with ESA were sufficient.

This ESA Policy hints at important changes both in EPA’s past rhetoric regarding compliance and possible changes to the ways ESA assessments have been conducted in the past. On the record, EPA has maintained it complied with ESA when registering a new product. The courts have found this claim unsupported and almost always agreed with groups that challenged that claim. There have been a few exceptions where EPA, while not entirely resolving ESA concerns, had more “up front” consideration of ESA issues. Such earlier attention to resolving any ESA concerns, however, can add significantly to the time spent and data requirements to evaluate and address ESA issues.

Any relatively successful cases over past years complement the renewed and explicit commitment by the Biden Administration with the ESA Policy to attempt to resolve the long-standing problem of establishing a registration process that better addresses ESA issues with, among other things, improved coordination between EPA procedures and the review process (and conclusions) of the Services. Past Administrations have expressed similar rhetoric, but so far, many have tried, and all have failed.

In various forums, EPA has dryly described the efforts generally as -- “EPA is currently developing a detailed work plan to outline additional improvements to further the Agency’s compliance with the ESA.” More importantly, perhaps, and new to the mix is that EPA now has a senior political appointee (Jake Li as Deputy Assistant Administrator of OCSPP) especially tasked to lead efforts regarding the ESA-FIFRA integration process.

For applicants and registrants of new conventional AIs, these revised efforts may lead to some delays in the current expected timeframes to “work out” ESA concerns earlier in the process. And importantly, EPA’s ESA Policy describes how new approvals will include more “up front” mitigation measures designed to protect threatened and endangered species to a sufficient, or at least better, degree -- which appears to be a key change designed to reduce the litigation risks that have dogged new registration decisions in recent years.


 
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