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NGOs File Suit Regarding Inert Ingredients’ Disclosure
By Lisa M. Campbell, Lisa R. Burchi, and Timothy D. Backstrom
On June 24, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility (Plaintiffs) sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding a 2014 decision by EPA not to proceed with a rulemaking to require disclosure of hazardous inert ingredients on pesticide product labels under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This decision was characterized by EPA as a denial of a petition previously filed by the Plaintiffs.
Specifically, Plaintiffs and others previously petitioned EPA in 2006 to require label disclosure of some 370 substances used as inert ingredients in pesticide products that Plaintiffs claim are known to be hazardous to human health and the environment. In 2009, EPA decided to partially grant the 2006 petition and issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to require disclosure of hazardous inert ingredients on pesticide labels. When EPA did not pursue the rulemaking, the Plaintiffs filed a suit on March 5, 2014, alleging unreasonable delay. On May 22, 2014, EPA issued a letter explaining that EPA had decided not to proceed with a proposed rule and stating that “this amended response constitutes a denial of the  petitions.”
In the May 22, 2014, letter, EPA cited some legal arguments by registrants in opposition to the proposed rule, including a contention that inert ingredients are entitled to confidential treatment as a class, and that EPA cannot compel disclosure of inert ingredients based solely on hazard without considering exposure. In the letter, EPA stated that it has concluded that it “can achieve greater reduction in the risks from use of pesticides containing potentially hazardous inert ingredients through a series of non-rule actions designed to reduce the presence of hazardous inert ingredients in specific pesticide products.” EPA also set forth its plan to prioritize pesticide inert ingredients for increased scrutiny, as well as a list of voluntary and regulatory actions that could be used, as appropriate, to address potential risks from inert ingredients.
In the Complaint, Plaintiffs request that the court: (1) declare that EPA’s May 22, 2014, decision violates FIFRA and is arbitrary, capricious, and runs counter to the evidence in the record; (2) remand the case to EPA with instructions to consider the evidence weighing in favor of disclosure of inert pesticide ingredients, including the abundance of documentation regarding toxicity and potential risks of exposure to inert pesticide ingredients; (3) retain jurisdiction over this matter until such time as EPA complies with its duties to control unreasonable risk as set forth under FIFRA, including the risks posed by hazardous inert ingredients, and completes its rulemaking to increase disclosure of inert ingredients contained in pesticide products; and (4) award Plaintiffs their costs of litigation.