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Reckitt Benckiser, Inc. v. Lisa P. Jackson

January 28, 2011

RECKITT BENCKISER, INC. PLAINTIFF,
v.
LISA P. JACKSON, ADMINISTRATOR, UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Following a remand from the Court of Appeals, see Reckitt Benckiser, Inc. v. EPA, 613 F.3d 1131, 1133 (D.C. Cir. 2010), the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the following issue of statutory interpretation: whether the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") has authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act ("FIFRA"), 7 U.S.C. §§ 136-136y, to bring a misbranding action in lieu of a cancellation proceeding against plaintiff Reckitt Benckiser's registered rodenticide products based solely on those products' non-compliance with the EPA's May 28, 2008 "Risk Mitigation Decision for Ten Rodenticide Products" ("RMD"). For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant plaintiff's motion, deny defendant's motion, and enjoin EPA from bringing an enforcement action against plaintiff or any of its products based upon a failure to satisfy the requirements of the RMD until defendants have completed the administrative cancellation procedures required by FIFRA Section 6, 7 U.S.C. § 136d.

BACKGROUND

I. STATUTORY FRAMEWORK

The following sections of FIFRA, 7 U.S.C. §§ 136-136y, are relevant to the question of statutory interpretation that is before the Court: § 136 (Definitions) (FIFRA § 2); § 136a (Registration of Pesticides) (FIFRA § 3); § 136a-1 (Reregistration of registered pesticides) (FIFRA § 4); § 136d (Administrative review; suspension) (FIFRA § 6); § 136j (Unlawful acts) (FIFRA § 12); 7 U.S.C. § 136k (Stop sale, use, removal, and seizure) (FIFRA § 13); and § 136l (Penalties) (FIFRA §14).

A. Registration (7 U.S.C. § 136a)

FIFRA requires that all pesticide products sold or distributed in the United States be registered with EPA. 7 U.S.C. § 136a(a). EPA is directed to approve the registration of a pesticide if "(A) its composition is such as to warrant the proposed claims for it; (B) its labeling and other material required to be submitted comply with the requirements of this subchapter; (C) it will perform its intended function without unreasonable adverse effects on the environment; and (D) when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice it will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment."*fn1 7 U.S.C. § 136a(c)(5) (hereinafter "Registration Standard"). "A FIFRA registration is a product-specific license describing the terms and conditions under which the product can be legally distributed, sold, and used." See Reckitt, 613 F.3d at 1133 (citing 7 U.S.C. § 136a(a), (c)-(e)).

B. Cancellation of a Registered Pesticide (7 U.S.C. § 136d) "A pesticide product remains registered until EPA or the registrant cancels it pursuant to FIFRA Section 6, 7 U.S.C. § 136d."*fn2 Reckitt, 613 F.3d at 1134. EPA may commence cancellation proceedings "[i]f it appears to the [EPA] Administrator that a pesticide or its labeling or other material required to be submitted does not comply with the provisions of this subchapter or, when used in accordance with widespread and commonly recognized practice, generally causes unreasonable adverse effects on the environment." 7 U.S.C. § 136d(b)*fn3 (hereinafter "Cancellation Standard"). The statute gives EPA the option of either issuing a notice of intent to cancel or issuing a notice of intent to hold a hearing to determine whether or not a registration should be canceled. Id. If the first option is chosen, the registrant may demand a hearing. Id. § 136d(b), (d); 40 C.F.R. § 164.20. Once a final decision to cancel has been made, the registrant may seek judicial review of that decision by filing a petition for review in a court of appeals. 7 U.S.C. § 136n.

C. Misbranding / Unlawful Acts / Enforcement / Penalties (7 U.S.C. §§ 136, 136j, 136k, 136l)

Under FIFRA, EPA has the authority to bring enforcement actions for "unlawful acts," one of which is distributing or selling a pesticide which is "misbranded." 7 U.S.C. § 136j, 136k, 136l.*fn4 A pesticide is "misbranded" under FIFRA if*fn5

(A) its labeling bears any statement, design, or graphic representation relative thereto or to its ingredients which is false or misleading in any particular;

(B) it is contained in a package or other container or wrapping which does not conform to . . . section 136w(c)(3) of this title [Child-Resistant Packaging requirements];

(F) the labeling accompanying it does not contain directions for use which are necessary for effecting the purpose for which the product is intended and if complied with, together with any requirements imposed under section 136a(d) of this title, are adequate to protect health and the environment;

(G) the label does not contain a warning or caution statement which may be necessary and if complied with, together with any requirements imposed under section 136a(d) of this title, is adequate to protect health and the environment.

7 U.S.C. § 136(q)(1) (emphasis added). The terms "protect health and the environment" and "protection of health and the environment" are further defined in section 136(x) to mean "protection against any unreasonable adverse effects on the environment," 7 U.S.C. § 136(x), the same language used in the Registration and Cancellation Standards. 7 U.S.C. §§ 136a, 136d.

When EPA concludes that a pesticide is "misbranded" in violation of FIFRA, it "may issue a written or printed 'stop sale, use, or removal' order to any person who owns, controls, or has custody of such pesticide," 7 U.S.C. § 136k(a)*fn6 ; it may commence an in rem seizure action against the pesticide product "in any district court in the district where it is found" 7 U.S.C. § 136k(b)(1)(a); it may seek civil penalties against "[a]ny registrant, commercial applicator, wholesaler, dealer, retailer, or other distributor who violates any provision of this subchapter," 7 U.S.C. 136l(a); and it may seek criminal penalties against "[a]ny registrant, applicant for a registration, or producer who knowingly violates any provision of this subchapter. 7 U.S.C. § 136l(b).

D. Reregistration of Registered Pesticides (7 U.S.C. § 136a-1)

In 1988, Congress enacted FIFRA Section 4, which established procedures for the reregistration of pesticides whose active ingredients were first registered in a pesticide before November 1, 1984. See 7 U.S.C. § 136a-1(a). The process involved five phases, 7 U.S.C. § 136a-1(b),*fn7 culminating in a determination by EPA "whether to reregister a pesticide by determining whether such pesticide meets the requirements of [the Registration Standard]." 7 U.S.C. § 136a-1(g)(2)(C). If EPA determines that a pesticide "should not be reregistered," FIFRA provides that it "shall take appropriate regulatory action" and that such action "shall be completed as expeditiously as possible." Id. § 136a-1(g)(2)(D).

II. FACTS

Plaintiff manufactures pesticides that are subject to regulation under FIFRA. On May 28, 2008, as part of FIFRA Section 4's "reregistration" process, 7 U.S.C. § 136a-1, EPA issued a "Risk Mitigation Decision for Ten Rodenticides" ("RMD"). (Pl.'s Mem. in Support of Mot. for Summ. J. ["Pl.'s Mem."], Ex. 1, Sept. 24, 2010; Pl's Statement of Material Facts ["Pl.'s SOMF"] ¶ 1.)*fn8 The RMD set forth EPA's "final decision on the reregistration eligibility of rodenticide (2) The second phase shall include the submission to the Administrator under subsection (d) of this section of notices by registrants respecting their intention to seek reregistration, identification by registrants of missing and inadequate data for such pesticides, and commitments by registrants to replace such missing or inadequate data within the applicable time period.

(3) The third phase shall include submission to the Administrator by registrants of the information required under subsection (e) of this section.

(4) The fourth phase shall include an independent, initial review by the Administrator under subsection (f) of this section of submissions under phases two and three, identification of outstanding data requirements, and ...


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