EPA Wins Dismissal of JCM Farming Signage Suit

On Monday, the Southern District Court of California granted the EPA’s motion to dismiss the complaint brought against them by JCM Farming Inc., originally filed in June 2020 where they alleged that the EPA had violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by failing to put up signs about pesticide use in the Coachella Valley.

JCM stated that the agricultural ranch that they run in the area “was subjected to repeated low and dangerous hot air balloon overflights … balloon operators were exposing their passengers (adults and children alike) to toxic chemicals by continuously contour flying just above ground level and by landing in hot fields where chemicals had recently been applied … Despite the fact that tons and tons of FIFRA regulated chemicals were being used throughout the Coachella Valley,” Despite all of these potentially hazardous chemicals, plaintiff has not found any “chemical use warning signs ” posted in the area. The signs, according to the complaint, should have been placed by the state of California.

However, the defendant contended that the plaintiff failed to cite a reason for why the EPA, as a part of the federal government, would not enjoy sovereign immunity. They also reasoned that “Any purported failures on the part of EPA to refer alleged violations—that EPA was not even made aware of—to the State for prosecution or to determine whether the State is carrying out its enforcement authority do not constitute ‘agency actions’ under the APA,” meaning that these alleged failures are not subject to the guidelines of the APA.

In the matter of the FIFRA violation, the court asserted that the plaintiffs argument was invalid since they relied on the act’s Workers Protection Standard. According to the court this is not a valid complaint because the legal standard states that “FIFRA does not provide for citizen enforcement suits.  Such enforcement actions may be brought only by specified agencies of federal and state governments.”

As for the APA violation, the court sided with the defendant, stating that “the APA does not waive sovereign immunity for Plaintiff’s claims because there is no “final agency action” at issue, and any purported agency action at issue is committed to the discretion of the EPA.”

The plaintiff was represented by Equity AG Financial.