On March 29, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an order announcing the Agency’s decision to deny a 2007 petition filed by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) seeking the revocation of all tolerances for chlorpyrifos and the cancellation of all product registrations for the chemical. The order appeared in the April 5, 2017 Federal Register. Among the claims asserted by the petitioners was that EPA failed to adequately assess the potential for chlorpyrifos to cause neurodevelopmental effects in children at exposure levels below the Agency’s existing regulatory standard (10% cholinesterase inhibition). In an effort to resolve the scientific issues surrounding the potential risks associated with chlorypyrifos, EPA committed to completing the expedited registration review of the chemical several years in advance of the October 1, 2022 statutory deadline. Although EPA had expedited its registration review, the petitioners were not satisfied with the Agency’s progress in responding to the petition and filed a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to compel EPA to either issue an order denying the petition or to grant the petition by initiating the tolerance revocation process.
In August 2015, the Court issued a ruling in favor of the petitioners. Following the judicial ruling, in November 2015 EPA issued for public comment a proposal to revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances citing the uncertainties pertaining to the chemical’s potential to cause neurodevelopmental effects. Subsequently, the 9th Circuit announced that it would retain jurisdiction over the chlorpyrifos matter and on August 12, 2016 directed EPA to issue a final decision on the petition no later than March 31, 2017. In so doing, the Court made it clear that no further extensions in responding to the petition would be granted. Pursuant to the Court order, in November 2016 EPA published for public comment notice of availability of its revised risk assessment for chlorpyrifos.
In its March 29, 2017 decision to deny the petition seeking a ban on the use of chloryprifos, the Agency states:
“Following a review of comments on both the November 2015 proposal and the November 2016 notice of data availability, EPA has concluded that, despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos. EPA has therefore concluded that it will not complete the human health portion of the registration review or any associated tolerance revocation of chlorpyrifos without first attempting to come to a clearer scientific resolution on those issues. As noted, Congress has provided that EPA must complete registration review by October 1, 2022. Because the 9th Circuit’s August 12, 2016 order has made clear, however, that further extensions to the March 31, 201 7 deadline for responding to the Petition would not be granted, EPA is today also denying all remaining petition claims.”
EPA’s denial of the petition was applauded by Sheryl Kunickis, director of USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy who called it “a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science.” Kunickis added, “It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation and the world. This frees American farmers from significant trade disruptions that could have been caused by an unnecessary, unilateral revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances in the United States. It is also great news for consumers, who will continue to have access to a full range of both domestic and imported fruits and vegetables.”
It is very likely that the petitioners will turn to the courts in an effort to overturn EPA’s recent decision. CPDA will report on further developments on this issue as they occur. The Agency’s decision denying the petition may be accessed by clicking here.