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Woodstream Corporation, and v. Lisa P. Jackson

February 28, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara J. Rothstein United States District Judge


This case concerns the extent to which the Environmental Protection Agency may place conditions on registrations for rodenticide products under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, and whether certain particular conditions were arbitrary and capricious. Plaintiff is Woodstream Corporation (hereinafter "Woodstream"), a manufacturer of rodenticide; defendants are Lisa P. Jackson, in her capacity as Administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (hereinafter "EPA" or "the EPA"), and the EPA itself.*fn1

This case was reassigned from Judge Boasberg on January 27, 2012. Before the court at this time is plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [dkt. #11] (hereinafter "Pltf.'s Mot.") and defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment [dkt. #13] (hereinafter "Def.'s Mot."). Although styled in the alternative as a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, EPA's motion plainly turns on the consideration of materials outside the scope of the pleadings, and both parties effectively treat the motion as one for summary judgment. Accordingly, the court treats the motion as one for summary judgment. See Ebling v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 796 F. Supp. 2d 52, 55 (D.D.C. 2011).


The parties have cross-moved for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, which provides for entry of summary judgment if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The facts in this case are undisputed, and the key issues are questions of law, so summary judgment is appropriate.


A. Registration Provisions

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. §§ 136-136y, requires all pesticide products distributed or sold in the United States to be registered with the EPA. 7 U.S.C. § 136a(a). The EPA is directed to approve the registration of a pesticide if, inter alia, "(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." 7 U.S.C. § 136a(c)(5). "A FIFRA registration is a product-specific license describing the terms and conditions under which the product can be legally distributed, sold, and used." Reckitt Benckiser, Inc. v. EPA, 613 F.3d 1131, 1133 (D.C. Cir. 2010).

In 1978, FIFRA was amended to add Section 3(c)(7), which allows for registration of products under special circumstances. Subsections (A) and (C) of Section 3(c)(7) were drawn from the Senate version of the bill, S. 1678. H.R. Rep. No. 95-1560 at 34. The purpose of the amendment was to address the backlog that existed in the registration process. S. Rep. No. 95-334 at 3. One of the "serious impediment[s]" identified in the registration program at that time was "EPA's inability to issue registrations on a conditional basis." Id. at 4. In particular, there existed a "double standard" between producers with older registrations and those seeking new registrations. As the EPA requirements for new registrants grew more stringent, new registrants could find themselves held to higher standards than producers who held older registrations, even if their respective products were nearly identical. Id. The "unforeseen and undesirable twists to the law would be eliminated" by giving the EPA "authority to conditionally register pesticides." Id.

B. Administrative Review

The procedure for administrative review is set forth under Section 6 of FIFRA. 7 U.S.C. § 136d. "A pesticide product remains registered until EPA or the registrant cancels it pursuant to Section 6." Woodstream Corp. v. Jackson, Case No. 11-cv-867, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151994, at *3-4 (D.D.C. June 3, 2011) (citation omitted). EPA may commence cancellation proceedings if it appears that a pesticide does not comply with the provisions of FIFRA, or that it generally causes unreasonable adverse effects on the environment. 7 U.S.C. § 136d(b). EPA may issue a notice of intent either to cancel the registration or to hold a hearing to determine whether the registration should be canceled. Id. If EPA chooses the first option, the registrant may demand a hearing. 7 U.S.C. §§ 136d(b), (d); 40 C.F.R. § 164.20.

Cancellations of conditioned registrations fall under Section 6(e). While a hearing may be requested, it has a slightly narrower scope than a hearing under Section 6(b). The only matters for resolution at a Section 6(e) hearing are whether the registrant has satisfied the condition (or initiated and pursued the appropriate action to comply with the condition) within the time provided, and whether EPA's determination with respect to the disposition of existing stock is consistent with the subchapter. 7 U.S.C. § 136d(e)(2). Existing stocks of a pesticide canceled under Section 6(e) may continue to be sold for as long as EPA specifies, as long as it will not have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment. 7 U.S.C. § 136d(e)(1)(B).


A. RMD for Rodenticides

On May 28, 2008, the EPA issued a Risk Mitigation Decision for Ten Rodenticides ("RMD"), which imposed "risk mitigation measures" for products containing certain rodenticides, including bromethalin and difenacoum. The RMD set June 4, 2011 as the "Last Day for 'Release of Shipment' of Product Not Complying with Risk Mitigation Decision," and stated that products released for shipment after that date which were not in compliance with the RMD "would be considered mislabeled." The RMD further stated that "should a registrant fail to implement any of the risk mitigation measures identified in this document," the EPA "may take regulatory action to address the risk concerns from the use of the affected products," which may include "cancellation actions." Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (hereinafter "Pltf.'s SOF") ¶¶ 9-11.

The RMD required each affected registrant to submit a letter within ninety days stating whether the registrant would agree to voluntarily cancel or amend its product registrations to comply with the risk mitigation measures set forth in the RMD. Pltf.'s SOF ¶ 13.

B. Initial Registrations

Woodstream manufactures and distributes certain rodenticide products under the VICTOR® brand name that are registered with the EPA pursuant to FIFRA. Pltf.'s SOF ¶ 1. Five products ...

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