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Monsanto Agrees to Plead Guilty to Illegal Use of Methyl Parathion and to Pay $10.2M in Penalties and Restitution, Thereby Avoiding Felony Convictions for Related Hazardous Waste Violations

On November 21, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Monsanto Company (Monsanto) in which Monsanto agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of illegally using the pesticide Penncap-M, a methyl parathion product that was cancelled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 27, 2010.  This settlement of several criminal counts by Monsanto followed an investigation by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division.  Under the existing stocks provision in the EPA cancellation order, continued use of Penncap-M became unlawful after December 31, 2013.  In the settlement documents, Monsanto admits that its employees knowingly violated this order by using Penncap-M on July 15, 2014, to treat corn seed research crops at Monsanto’s Valley Farm research facility in Maui, Hawaii. Monsanto also admits that Monsanto employees directed other employees to re-enter the treated site seven days after the July 15, 2014, application, although the re-entry period established for this pesticide prior to its cancellation was 31 days.  Monsanto further admits that it stored stocks of Penncap-M after December 31, 2013, when unused stocks of this product became an acute hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), at several locations in Hawaii without obtaining the required permits.

As part of the settlement, Monsanto agreed to pay a total of $10.2 million in fines and penalties, which includes a maximum fine of $200,000 for illegal use of a cancelled pesticide, $6 million in fines for the hazardous waste violations, and $4 million in community service payments to Hawaii governmental entities for various environmental remediation programs.  Monsanto also agreed to be sentenced to two years of probation.  If Monsanto adheres to all of its obligations under this settlement, at the end of the two-year period of probation, the criminal felony counts for the RCRA hazardous waste violations will be dismissed with prejudice.

Commentary

Although the agreement reached with Monsanto will allow Monsanto to escape any felony convictions, it is clear from the stiff penalties imposed (which include the maximum fine permissible for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) violation) that EPA considers the violations at issue to be very serious.  Pesticide research facilities often handle dangerous pesticides, and EPA typically affords such research facilities wide latitude to use unregistered active ingredients in small-scale research projects, but Monsanto has admitted that its personnel deliberately violated a FIFRA cancellation order, and did not comply with the restrictions on re-entry that were in place before the product in question was cancelled.  Monsanto also has admitted that it stored stocks of a cancelled pesticide at several sites after they became acute hazardous waste without obtaining the required permits.  The substantial penalties imposed may not seem surprising to some given those admissions.

©2020 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 331
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Lisa Campbell, Bergeson PC, Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act attorney, TSCA lawyer, environmental statutes legal counsel, regulation compliance law
Partner

Lisa Campbell founded Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) with Lynn Bergeson. Today her practice focuses on many aspects of pesticide and chemical regulation. She counsels clients on a wide range of issues pertaining to exposure and risk assessment, risk communication, and related legal and regulatory aspects of pesticide programs under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). She also counsels B&C clients on various chemical-specific programs under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) as well as chemicals regulation and...

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Timothy Backstrom, Bergeson Campbell PC, Endangered Species Act attorney, EPA litigation, FIFRA lawyer, Clean Air regulation legal counsel, FOIA law
Of Counsel

Timothy Backstrom spent some 25 years in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of General Counsel (OGC) working on pesticide, toxic substances, and air quality issues before coming to Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®). He offers an extraordinary understanding of how EPA operates, as well as established relationships with many key players at EPA. He brings substantial litigation experience in both federal courts and administrative adjudications. He served for many years as the OGC’s designated administrative law expert and, among many accomplishments, he headed the trial team when EPA intervened in a hearing concerning a request for an exemption from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the northern spotted owl.

Besides insider knowledge of EPA, Mr. Backstrom delivers an unusual depth of expertise on pesticide registration issues and air toxics regulation, and a unique understanding of the EPA program requiring registration and testing of fuels and fuel additives. Having a technical background has allowed Mr. Backstrom to develop significant scientific expertise in toxicology and risk assessment. In the context of pesticide adjudications, he has presented and cross-examined numerous scientific witnesses. For many clients, he has identified additional options or theories that were not previously under consideration to resolve regulatory issues and to advance their business objectives.

202-557-3819
James V. Aidala, Bergeson, Senior Government Affairs Consultant, Toxic Substances Lawyer
Senior Government Affairs Consultant

Jim Aidala, Senior Government Affairs Consultant with Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. is a critical ally for any client addressing chemical policy, legislative, and related issues. He has been intimately involved with the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) legislative reauthorization and key regulatory matters for over two decades. Mr. Aidala brings extensive legislative experience on Capitol Hill and past experience as the senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for pesticide...

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