By Lisa M. Campbell and Timothy D. Backstrom
On August 7, 2019, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Pesticide Action Network North America, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other petitioners (Petitioners) filed a new petition in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking judicial review of United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) orders denying their request that EPA revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos. On August 8, 2019, New York, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia (States) also filed a new petition for judicial review concerning the refusal of EPA to ban chlorpyrifos. The Petitioners and the States seek judicial review of the July 18, 2019, final order by EPA dismissing all objections to the initial decision by EPA to retain tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos, and of EPA’s March 29, 2017, order that initially denied a 2007 petition to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.
The Petitioners and the States also seek consolidation of their newly filed petitions for judicial review with currently pending chlorpyrifos litigation in LULAC, et al. v. Wheeler, et al. As part of rehearing in the LULAC case, the Ninth Circuit vacated a prior decision that ordered EPA to cancel chlorpyrifos registrations, and instead issued a writ of mandamus requiring EPA to respond to objections to the 2017 denial order within 90 days. EPA then issued the July 18, 2019, order denying all objections, along with a motion on July 19, 2019, to dismiss the LULAC case as moot. EPA seeks dismissal of LULAC because it contends that the 2017 initial order was never itself reviewable, and EPA has now done everything that the writ of mandamus required. The Petitioners oppose the motion to dismiss because it would require the Court to take a position on a jurisdictional issue which they contend was not decided during rehearing. The Petitioners and the States also argue that dismissal would be unnecessary and inefficient, requiring the challenging parties to reconstitute the record for review compiled in LULAC.
Petitioners also note that the Ninth Circuit retained jurisdiction when it issued mandamus in LULAC, and they request that their combined challenge to the EPA decision to retain the existing tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos be heard by the Court en banc as well.
The latest petitions for judicial review of EPA’s 2019 decision to retain all tolerances and registrations for chlorpyrifos pending registration review were anticipated by all parties, and all parties agree that the procedural requisites for a judicial determination concerning the legality of EPA’s final decision to deny the 2007 administrative petition have now been satisfied. The Petitioners and the States will likely argue that prior scientific determinations by EPA, including EPA analysis of epidemiology studies that purport to establish a link between exposure to chlorpyrifos and adverse neurodevelopmental effects in children, require that EPA proceed to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos, while EPA will likely argue that difficult scientific issues concerning chlorpyrifos remain unresolved and should be addressed by EPA as part of the pending registration review for chlorpyrifos.
In addition to the dispute about combining the new petitions for review with the LULAC case, an interesting element of the latest filing by the Petitioners is that they attempt to bootstrap en banc review of the 2019 order in which EPA finally denied the administrative petition to revoke tolerances and cancel registrations for chlorpyrifos. En banc review for an initial hearing (as opposed to en banc rehearing in a previously decided case) is allowed by the applicable appellate rules, but such review is disfavored and would be highly unusual. Petitioners argue that it is warranted here because the en banc panel in the rehearing in the LULAC case reserved jurisdiction. Given the motion by EPA to dismiss the LULAC case as moot, it can be presumed that EPA is likely to oppose this vicarious argument for en banc judicial review. EPA can argue that the only reason the en banc panel retained jurisdiction was to assure that EPA would timely comply with the writ of mandamus that required EPA to rule on the objections within 90 days.
For further information on the long history of litigation concerning the petition to ban chlorpyrifos, please review our prior blog entries.
By Timothy D. Backstrom
On April 19, 2019, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order following an en banc rehearing in League of United Latin Am. Citizens (LULAC) v. Wheeler, No. 17-71636. The February 6, 2019, Ninth Circuit decision to grant a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) request for rehearing effectively vacated an August 9, 2018, decision in LULAC that had ordered EPA to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos. After rehearing, the en banc panel issued a writ of mandamus directing EPA “to issue, no later than 90 days after the filing of this order, a full and fair decision on LULAC’s objections" to an initial EPA order denying a 2007 petition to revoke all tolerances for chlorpyrifos. The en banc order states that the court has discretion to construe the Petitioners' opening brief as a request for mandamus relief, even though the Petitioners sought judicial review of EPA's initial denial decision without waiting for EPA to rule on their objections and even though they did not file a petition for mandamus under the applicable procedural rule. The court then states that “[c]onsidering the history and chronology of this matter and the nature of the claims, we conclude mandamus is appropriate, and we hereby GRANT the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus.”
The court states that “EPA represented that it could issue a final decision with respect to petitioners’ objections within 90 days of an order issued by this court” during oral argument on March 26, 2019. The en banc ruling, however, does not discuss the jurisdictional issues presented when the Petitioners sought judicial review of EPA's initial denial decision without waiting for EPA to rule on their objections. Moreover, the ruling does not discuss the substantive dispute concerning EPA's authority to decline to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos based on the current administrative record.
The procedural questions presented in the LULAC litigation are unusual and reflect a long and contentious history. EPA’s April 5, 2017, decision to deny a 2007 petition to revoke the tolerances and cancel the registrations for chlorpyrifos came after issuance of a prior writ of mandamus that required EPA to take action on the pending petition, an EPA proposal to revoke the tolerances for chlorpyrifos issued in response to the prior writ, and a subsequent decision by EPA during the early days of the Trump administration to reverse course on the proposal and keep the tolerances in place while EPA completed the registration review process. The Petitioners in LULAC duly filed objections to the initial denial of their tolerance petition, which was a necessary statutory prerequisite to pursuing further judicial review. In addition, however, they elected to file for judicial review of EPA's initial denial of their tolerance petition on the same day as they filed their objections. The Petitioners could not yet reasonably seek mandamus at that time because EPA had not been afforded any time yet to respond to their objections. Instead, the Petitioners argued that requiring them to follow the normal administrative process would be futile.
Although the Ninth Circuit's decision after en banc rehearing may appear to a procedural victory for EPA, it can also be seen as a solution to the quandary created by the Petitioners' actions and the first court decision. The Ninth Circuit as a whole was apparently not comfortable with the decision by the first panel that the Petitioners should be allowed to obtain review of a non-final order because waiting for final and reviewable EPA action would be a futility. Nevertheless, by issuing a new writ of mandamus, the court seems to be sending a clear signal that it will not countenance further delays in EPA’s taking final action on the petition to revoke the chlorpyrifos tolerances. In the relatively brief time remaining before the court deadline for final action, EPA confronts a significant challenge of ensuring all relevant data have been adequately and appropriately considered, particularly given the many controversies concerning the data that EPA used to support its initial decision to revoke the tolerances.
More information on the protracted litigation concerning chlorpyrifos is available on our blog under key words chlorpyrifos and ninth circuit.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On February 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued an order granting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s (collectively EPA or Respondents) September 24, 2018, petition for an en banc rehearing concerning the Ninth Circuit’s August 9, 2018, decision that vacated an EPA order maintaining chlorpyrifos registrations and remanded the case to EPA with directions to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days.
The Ninth Circuit’s order granting the Respondent’s petition that the case be re-heard en banc does not provide an explanation for its decision. The Ninth Circuit evidently found the arguments offered by Respondents and other interested parties that filed amicus curiae briefs more persuasive than Petitioners’ brief (including the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)), who argued against submission of certain amicus curiae briefs and also that, with limited exception, Respondent’s petition for rehearing lacked merit and should be denied.
The en banc oral argument will be held March 26, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. (PST).
Arguments for Rehearing
Prior to the February 6, 2019, order, on October 15, 2018, three amicus curiae briefs were filed in support of EPA’s petition by CropLife America (CLA), Agribusiness Council of Indiana (Agribusiness), and Dow Agrosciences LLC (DAS). Despite Petitioners’ objection to the motions of Agribusiness and CLA for leave to file amicus curiae briefs in support of Respondent’s petition for rehearing, on November 13, 2018, the Ninth Circuit granted the motions for leave to file amicus curiae briefs.
EPA’s petition for rehearing made multiple arguments as to why an en banc and panel rehearing should be granted, including the Panel’s lack of jurisdiction, the Panel’s order conflicting with applicable Supreme Court precedent, and specific modifications to be addressed to the order to comply with Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requirements. More information regarding EPA’s petition is available in our blog item “EPA Petitions for En Banc and Panel Rehearing in Ninth Circuit Chlorpyrifos Case.”
The amicus curiae briefs supported EPA’s arguments and also made arguments supporting rehearing in addition to those previously set forth by EPA. CLA’s brief focused on the fact that the Panel’s decision disregarded FIFRA’s cancellation process, stating: “if EPA ultimately were to determine that any chlorpyrifos registration would need to be cancelled, such an action could not be accomplished in the way the panel majority prescribed: by circumventing the procedures Congress required to ensure that pesticide cancellation decisions are not made unless and until these harms and the best science available are properly vetted.” DAS’ brief addressed in detail the Panel’s violation of administrative law in dictating how EPA must act (i.e., cancel the chlorpyrifos registrations) and the potential violation of FIFRA by EPA if forced to comply with the Panel’s order regarding the timing for cancelling such registrations. The amicus curiae briefs also sought to provide information on the practical consequences that chlorpyrifos registrants and users would face if the panel opinion is not revised. For example, DAS discussed its proprietary interest in protecting its registrations and defending its product, while Agribusiness in its brief provided some background on the use and benefits of chlorpyrifos, the lack of viable alternatives, and the ramifications of the order on insect pest resistance and the ability to combat new invasive pests.
Petitioners’ response to the petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc argued that there was no basis for rehearing. Petitioners noted that en banc review is “disfavored” and appropriate in limited “extraordinary circumstances” and in the face of “an irreconcilable conflict between the holdings of controlling prior decisions of this court.” Petitioners argued that the Panel decision was in accord with precedent and that a request for rehearing “would only result in further delay.” Petitioners did concede on two points: (1) modifying the order to direct EPA to cancel the registrations under the FIFRA cancellation process, which necessitates more time than the 60 days set forth in the order; and (2) clarifying that the order is limited to cancelling registrations that can result in residues on food.
EPA, chlorpyrifos registrants and users, and industry generally should be encouraged by the decision to grant an en banc rehearing in this case, but the outcome is far from certain. Given the issues at stake, registrants should monitor this hearing closely.
By Timothy D. Backstrom and Lisa M. Campbell
On September 24, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit), respondents U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler (collectively EPA) petitioned for an en banc and panel rehearing concerning the Ninth Circuit’s August 9, 2018, decision that granted judicial review of EPA’s initial order denying an administrative petition by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos, and that specifically directed EPA to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days. More information regarding the August 9 decision is available in our blog item “Ninth Circuit Directs EPA to Revoke all Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for Chlorpyrifos.”
EPA’s petition for rehearing sets forth three discrete procedural arguments as to why rehearing should be granted. The first argument is that the panel erred because “an initial decision denying an administrative petition under 21 U.S.C. § 346a(d)(4)(A)(iii) is simply not within the jurisdiction of this Court to review ….” EPA contends that the decision to grant judicial review of the initial EPA order, without waiting for EPA to respond to objections or to issue a final order, conflicts with the applicable precedent in both the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Second Circuit).
EPA’s second argument is that, even if the initial EPA order is deemed to be reviewable, the panel’s decision directing EPA to take specific actions on remand “exceeded the remedial authority granted the courts by Congress” and conflicts with applicable Supreme Court precedent. EPA identifies some other actions that EPA could hypothetically have decided to take on remand, including denying the administrative petition based on a finding that the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) safety standard is met, reducing the affected tolerances, or revoking only certain tolerances. EPA argues that the court was not empowered to direct EPA to take specific actions, but should have instead remanded the matter to EPA “for further consideration in light of the panel’s holding that EPA may not ‘decline to revoke chlorpyrifos tolerances [without] mak[ing] a finding of reasonable certainty that the tolerances were safe.’”
EPA’s third argument is that, in the event a broader rehearing is not granted, a rehearing by the panel should nonetheless be convened to modify the relief ordered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). EPA argues that revocation of the chlorpyrifos tolerances would not lead automatically to cancellation of all chlorpyrifos registrations, because there are also some non-food uses for chlorpyrifos. EPA states that “FIFRA incorporates the safety standard of the FFDCA only with respect to food-use pesticides …” (emphasis in original). EPA also notes that EPA lacks authority to comply with the court’s order to cancel all chlorpyrifos registrations within 60 days, because EPA must follow the statutory procedure for cancellation under FIFRA Section 6(b), which requires EPA to forward a proposed cancellation first to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), and to afford the affected registrants and other adversely affected persons an opportunity to request an adjudicatory hearing to contest the proposed cancellation. EPA states that the panel should provide at least a limited rehearing, because it granted relief without the benefit of any prior briefing on remedy in which these significant problems would have been identified.
Although parties to appellate litigation often seek rehearing or rehearing en banc, federal agencies represented by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are considerably more selective about the circumstances in which they will file a petition for rehearing. There are some compelling arguments supported by precedent that judicial review is not available under the FFDCA for the type of initial order concerning which the petitioners in this case sought review. Moreover, EPA has identified some practical factors which make it literally impossible for EPA both to adhere to mandatory statutory procedures under FIFRA and to comply with the terms of the court’s order. For this reason, even if a broader rehearing is not granted concerning the jurisdictional question or the authority of the court to order EPA to take specific actions, a narrower rehearing before the appellate panel may be ordered, which would allow the parties an opportunity for further briefing on remedy and permit the court to modify its order.
More information on chlorpyrifos issues, including further proceedings in this case, is available on our blog under key word chlorpyrifos.