Despite its registration having been upheld by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the insecticide chlorpyrifos continues to face multiple challenges to its continued use. The continued EPA registration is again being challenged in Court by a collection of states, while California is moving ahead to administratively cancel all registration and New York awaits the Governor’s decision on whether to sign legislation phasing out all use.

Petition to Cancel EPA Registrations

A Petition to Cancel the registration of chlorpyrifos was filed in 2007. Its history and related litigation is recounted in the prior blog entry EPA Obtains Stay of Execution for Chlorpyrifos from 9thCircuit Court of Appeals.On March 29, 22017 EPA denied the Petition (See 82 Fed. Reg. 16581) although it expressly reserved decision on several issues. EPA stated that those issues would be addressed in registration review, due to be completed by 2022. Petitioners sought to overturn the denial by filing a Petition for Review in the 9thCircuit U.S. Court of Appeals. On April 19, 2019, the Court had ordered EPA to respond to the merits of the Petition within 90 days, making the deadline approximately July 19.

On July 24 EPA published its final order denying all aspects of the Petition.  EPA contends that the science addressing the risks of chlorpyrifos remains uncertain, and thus there is no legal basis for canceling the registrations and revoking the tolerances. One particular point of contention is epidemiological data developed by the Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Mt. Sinai Hospital.  EPA asserts that the data is not valid, complete and reliable data unless EPA is granted access to the underlying raw data.  The study sponsors have refused to supply such information, claiming that to do so would violated subject confidentiality.

In response to the Petition denial, six states – California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington – have again filed a Petition for Review in the 9thCircuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

California and New York Direct Actions

Following up on its earlier announcement, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (“CDPR”) on August 14, 2019 issued cancellation notices to all California chlorpyrifos registrants. CDPR stated expressly that it was relying on five animal studies as the basis for the cancellation. It remains to be seen whether registrants or agricultural interests challenge the proposed cancellations.  On the same day CDPR also appointed an Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos Workgroup to address the ramifications of the withdrawal of chlorpyrifos from the market.

In New York, the legislature passed a bill which would in three stages eliminate all uses of chlorpyrifos by December 1, 2021. See S. 5343; A-2477B. Aerial application would be prohibited as of January 1, 2020, following which all uses except applications to apple tree trunks would end as of January 1, 2021. The apple tree use would then end December 1, 2021.

The Legislature has yet to send the passed bill to the Governor. Once the bill is transmitted to the Governor,

the bill must be signed within thirty days, or it will automatically lapse in a so-called “pocket veto.” While the New York Farm Bureau is on record opposing the legislation, the Governor has given no indication of whether he will sign the bill. If he does so, opponents would likely have no recourse. Section 24(a) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”), 7 USC §136v(a), expressly authorizes states to regulate pesticides more strictly than EPA. That authority leaves opponents with little ground upon which to mount any challenge to a legislative action.