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Center for Environmental Health v. McCarthy

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 15, 2014

CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GINA McCARTHY, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS Re: Dkt. No. 23

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

In 2006, the plaintiffs petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") to initiate rulemaking requiring labeling of inert ingredients on pesticides. In 2014, the plaintiffs filed suit against the EPA, alleging that the EPA's unreasonable delay in acting on the petitions violates the Administrative Procedure Act. The EPA denied the petitions after the plaintiff's complaint was filed, and now move for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the matter is moot. The EPA's motion is GRANTED. As the EPA has acted on the plaintiffs' underlying petitions-by denying them-there is no relief that I can grant the plaintiffs and their action is moot.

BACKGROUND

The EPA requires that active ingredients be disclosed on pesticide labels. It does not require that inert ingredients be disclosed. In 2006, the plaintiffs petitioned the EPA to initiate rulemaking requiring labeling of inert ingredients on pesticides. Dkt. No. 24-2, Mann Decl. Ex. 2.

Because the EPA had not acted on plaintiffs' petition, on June 25, 2009, the plaintiffs filed suit against it. They alleged that the EPA's unreasonable delay in acting on the petitions violated the Administrative Procedures Act.[1] See Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief, Center for Environmental Health Californians for Pesticide Reform v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et al., Case No. 09-cv-02868-PJH (N.D. Cal. June 26, 2009), Dkt. No. 1 (the "2009 Unreasonable Delay action").

The EPA issued a response to the petitions on September 30, 2009. It stated that:

In response to these petitions, EPA is initiating rulemaking to increase the public availability of hazardous inert ingredient identities for specific pesticide formulations. In connection with this rulemaking EPA will also be discussing ideas to increase the disclosure of inert ingredient identities to an even greater degree than requested by the petitions, for example, by requiring disclosure of all inert ingredients, including ingredients not deemed hazardous.
(...)
[T]he Agency is initiating this rulemaking via an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR).

Dkt. No. 1-1 at 3. The EPA stated that it was "not committing, and indeed legally cannot commit, to any particular outcome for rulemaking." Id. at 3. Nonetheless, the EPA "regard[ed] its commitment to issue an ANPR as a partial grant of the petitions, in that the ANPR will announce the Agency's intention to pursue rulemaking to achieve the type of disclosure described in the petitions." Id. (emphasis added). The EPA also noted that it was not proceeding in the manner requested by the petitioners, which included issuing rules requiring that specific substances listed in the petitions be disclosed on product labels. Id. at 4. The EPA did not commit to any action aside from issuing the ANPR. The ANPR was published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2009. 74 Fed. Reg. 68, 215-01.

On February 16, 2010, following the issuance of the ANPR, the EPA filed a Notice of Mootness and Request for Order of Dismissal of the 2009 Unreasonable Delay action, stating that "the relief Plaintiffs seek-action on Plaintiffs' petition to require the disclosure of inert ingredients on pesticide product labels-has been taken by EPA." See 2009 Unreasonable Delay action, Dkt. No. 26. The plaintiffs did not oppose the request. Id. at 1. Instead, they filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of the 2009 Unreasonable Delay action on March 3, 2010, and the action was terminated by court staff the same day. See 2009 Unreasonable Delay action, Dkt. No. 27.

Four years later, the plaintiffs filed the present suit against the EPA, asserting that the EPA "has taken no further action to follow through on its commitment to adopt a rule" since it published the ANPR in December 2009. Dkt. No. 1, ΒΆ 5. The plaintiffs allege again that the EPA's unreasonable delay in concluding action on their petitions violates the Administrative Procedure Act.

On May 22, 2014, over two months after the plaintiffs filed this action, the EPA amended its 2009 response to the plaintiff's 2006 petitions. It updated plaintiffs on its efforts since issuing the ANPR and described potential future ...


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