SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. District Court of Northern California granted CropLife America’s (CLA) motion to lift the stay in Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America v. Environmental Protection Agency (“Mega” lawsuit) effective November 1, and did not change CLA’s status as an intervenor and full party to settlement discussions. The court stated that it would not allow the lawsuit to continue unresolved for a prolonged period of time. Lifting the stay will allow the court to hear CLA’s motion to dismiss all claims based on lack of jurisdiction and other grounds. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit seek to restrict uses of EPA-approved and registered crop protection and public health products in ways that would drastically and negatively alter agriculture and public health protection in the United States. CLA is committed to opposing restrictions on crop protection products that are not necessary to protect the species in question, that would cripple farmers’ ability to effectively operate their businesses, and that disregard EPA’s findings that these valuable agricultural tools are safe when used according to their labels.
The Court denied without prejudice CLA’s motions to dismiss the case in order to allow the parties more time to reach a settlement before hearing the motions, but at the hearing expressed appreciation for the CLA filing of the motion and indicated that it anticipates that the motion will eventually be heard. The motions argue that plaintiffs filed their complaint too late and in the wrong court, and that plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead to support any claims under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). CLA’s jurisdictional argument has been successful in leading to the dismissal of other lawsuits challenging registration decisions under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), most recently in federal district court in Arizona.
“CLA is encouraged that the court saw merit in the filing of our motion to dismiss, but that the parties will need more time to discuss settlements before the court would re-consider our claims,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. “As the settlement discussions continue, it is crucial that the crop protection industry remains engaged on this issue. This is an important case that could impact all of agriculture due to the potential strict limitations on crop protection products.”
In order to determine the pace of discussions, the court has ordered all parties in the case to be present for a status conference in 90 days. Accordingly, CLA and its co-intervenors, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), Mid America CropLife Association (MACA), Southern Crop Production Association (SCPA), and the Western Plant Health Association (WPHA), will continue to be actively involved in all discussions between the plaintiffs and government. Additional intervenors include American Chemistry Council (ACC) and Reckitt Benckiser, and the American Farm Bureau Federation. The lawsuit, filed January 19, 2011, alleges that EPA has violated the ESA by failing to consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (“the Services”) on the potential effects of over 380 active ingredients pesticides on 214 threatened and endangered species across 49 states. The broad scope of the lawsuit raises the possibility of potential product restrictions through a wide swath of U.S. agriculture.