The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs has issued the following guidance to the registrants and producers of pesticides describing the impacts of the partial closing of the U.S. government, which includes EPA:
Due to the government shutdown, any submissions to EPA after December 28, 2018, will not be considered received or processed until after a change in EPA’s operational status for work to resume. Please note that the Pesticide Registration Improvement Renewal Act (PRIA 3) expired on December 21, 2018. Per phase out provisions described in FIFRA sec. 33(m)(2)(B), registration service fees for new applications received after that date will be reduced by 70% from the fiscal year 2017 levels. In addition, such applications will not be subject to the decision review time frames specified in PRIA 3. Pending a change in EPA’s operational status, applications received after December 21, 2018 will be subject to these new provisions, and applications received on or prior to December 21, 2018, will continue to be reviewed under the decision time frames specified in PRIA 3.
Aside from the obvious impact that work will not be performed while OPP employees are furloughed, the major impact will be on parties seeking new registrations or amendments to existing registrations. PRIA is a fee-for-service statute governing all major pesticide regulatory actions by EPA. Each covered action is assigned a review period and a processing fee. PRIA has added certainty to regulatory process, providing applicants with a firm decision date that facilitates regulatory and business planning. With PRIA now suspended, no deadline will apply to any applications filed during the closure, although a reduced fee will still apply. It is highly unlikely that many parties will continue with filings during this period, as there can be no estimate of when EPA might complete processing of the application.
A resolution of the closure will likely include the enactment of a new PRIA. Once PRIA is again operative, EPA will likely see a wave of applications filed, putting any application not subject to PRIA in further uncertainty. Depending upon EPA’s position on these applications once business resumes, parties who filed during this period of ambiguity may want to consider refiling in order to become subject to the new PRIA.
With the Supreme Court striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), the ruling opens the way for states to legalize sports betting. In wake of the ruling, many news organizations have been quick to compare how this ruling might affect future state legalization of cannabis. While on the surface the legal posture on each issue appears to share commonalities, the legislative differences mean this decision offers no route to state cannabis legalization.
To understand the differences between the two legislative efforts, one must understand the difference between Federal statutory directions to state versus private actors. As the name suggests, state conduct refers to state actions while private conduct refers to the actions of individuals. PASPA controlled state conduct, forbidding states from legalizing sports betting. The Supreme Court ruling on PASPA rested on the “anti-commandeering” principle, which dictates the Federal government is constitutionally precluded from dictating state conduct. Since there are no Federal statutes that contain a prohibition for private conduct on sports betting, legislatively state legalization on sports betting will face no impediment.
In the case of cannabis, there are multiple Federal laws that make private cannabis-related conduct illegal, rendering the PASPA legislative ruling fundamentally different. Due to these multiple Federal laws prohibiting cannabis-related private conduct, even if states move to authorize legislation legalizing cannabis-related private conduct, Federal criminal laws would still prohibit its criminal use.
Syngenta Seeds LLC (“Syngenta”), a subsidiary of Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta, reached a settlement with the EPA for violations of The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”) Worker Protection Standard. In a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) document, Syngenta agreed to a civil penalty of $150,000 and to implement a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) costing no less than $400,000.
The administrative complaint filed against Syngenta alleged that seasonal workers were exposed to chlorpyrifos and permethrin before the restricted entry interval (REI) of 24 hours had passed, were not warned by Syngenta employees before entering, and were not properly decontaminated after the incident. Exposure events occurred on two occasions in 2016 and 2017. The matter came to EPA attention through a worker reporting adverse reactions after working in the Syngenta field. The complaint goes further stating that the warning sign that notifies workers of pesticide applications was folded up, obscuring its full view from the workers and Syngenta employees failed to verbally inform the workers to not enter the restricted areas.
The resulting SEP will develop and help promote use of Worker Protection Standard (WPS) Compliance Kits, and train employees on how to comply with FIFRA Worker Protection Standards. Due to most of the violations occurring in-house, the SEP will focus on training Syngenta’s full-time employees. While the CAFO does not explain how the EPA came to the $400,000 figure, it explicitly notes the $400,000 “shall not include the following categories of Respondent’s costs: Respondent’s overhead, Respondent’s additional employee time and salary, Respondent’s administrative expenses, Respondent’s legal fees, and Respondent’s costs of oversight of the contractor who will develop and implement the SEP.” More details of the CAFO can be found here.
In an action brought by a major Latino farmworker union, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California overturned efforts by EPA to delay the implementation of the Certified Pesticide Applicator rule. In January 2017, the EPA determined to revise the rule and in the interim sought to postpone its effective date from March 2017 to March 2020. The judge ruled that the delay would cause the plaintiffs to suffer injury and that EPA failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act. The Court annulled the rulemakings postponing the rule and reinstated the original timeline for implementation.
This decision represents a major victory for agricultural and pesticide workers. Of these revisions, the most significant entail strengthening regulations on certified applicators. Certification is required for the use of restricted use pesticides (RUPs). RUPs are known to be highly toxic and responsible for acute toxicity issues in persons that apply and handle them. The rule requires states to update their certification plans in accordance with the updated regulations, and to combat poisoning issues and promote worker safety, establishes for the first time a nationwide minimum age for certifying pesticide applicators. The rule mandates that people be at least 18 years old to become certified, with a provision that allows family members at least 16 years old to become certified, effective only on the certified applicator’s family farm.
The budget bill which passed the House on March 22 contains the Rohrabacher (R-CA)-Blumenauer (D-OR) amendment, which prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds to take any enforcement action against anyone acting in compliance with a state medical marijuana program. Enactment by the Senate and signing by the President is anticipated. Assuming enactment the protection will continue until September 30, 2018, the end of the Federal fiscal year. Efforts by the Colorado delegation to extend protection to state recreational marijuana programs failed.
With state-level cannabis legalization for medical and recreational use sweeping across the United States, policymakers have found themselves limited in their ability to share developments and best practices within the cannabis industry. To alleviate this information bottleneck, the New York State Bar Association created a new Cannabis Law Committee to facilitate information-sharing amongst lawyers on developments within cannabis policy.
Telisport Putsavage, of Putsavage PLLC and EnviroReg LLC, has been appointed to represent the Environment and Energy Section on the Cannabis Law Committee, in which only 20 people out of 70,000 were selected. Mr. Putsavage will be joining ranks with other lawyers to discuss the conflicting state and federal cannabis laws and how best the state of New York can develop its cannabis industry. Mr. Putsavage’s specific connection to the industry is his representation on matters related to the use of pesticides in the cultivation of cannabis.
In a win for Monsanto Co. and U.S. farmers, California’s proposed labels warning that glyphosate is a cancer-causing chemical were suspended. Commonly sold under the moniker “Roundup”, glyphosate is the widely used herbicide in agriculture and is extensively used by consumers. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) listed glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” triggering California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Proposition 65 requires businesses to inform consumers of products that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.
While the IARC listed glyphosate as being “probably carcinogenic,” multiple organizations including the EPA have come out against the IARC, stating there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with Amazon Services LLC to settle allegations that Amazon committed nearly four thousand violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, including selling and distributing imported pesticide products that were not registered for sale in the United States. In addition to paying a penalty of $1,215,700, Amazon will develop a multi-language online training course on pesticide regulations available to the public and marketers. Amazon will require that all marketers that are planning to sell pesticides on their website complete this training course.
For more information go to https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/amazon-services-llc-fifra-settlement.