Agribusiness giant Syngenta has filed a complaint in Sacramento County Superior Court that alleges California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) withheld hundreds of pages of documents from a public-records request regarding its decision to list the chemical group referred to as triazines pesticides under Proposition 65.
According to a complaint filed on July 16, OEHHA had failed to include correspondence between it and third parties. The complaint took particular interest in correspondence between the agency and the Sierra Club while the environmental advocacy group was embroiled in litigation with OEHHA about its alleged failure to list chemical candidates under Proposition 65’s Labor Code mechanism.
Syngenta’s complaint said it does not know why OEHHA decided to reclassify the triazine pesticides as carcinogens.
While OEHHA officially decided to list triazines under Proposition 65 in 2014, agency officials had conversations with environmental groups years before its decision, Syngenta alleges.
“Importantly, it appears that these documents were generated during the period from 2007 through 2012, before OEHHA announced the Sierra Club agreement and its decision to initiate the listing process for the triazines,” the complaint states.
OEHHA settled a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club in 2013 to compel the agency to list dozens of chemicals under Proposition 65’s Labor Code listing mechanism. OEHHA also agreed to consider certain chemicals for listing under Proposition 65. But agency officials didn’t publicize certain aspects of the deal to consider listing triazine and other chemicals, according to the complaint.
OEHHA stated in its Notice of Intent to list the triazine compounds, a group of six chemicals used largely in pesticides, was based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criteria and studies proving the chemicals cause reproductive harm to humans.
Syngenta is one the world’s largest producers of agricultural chemicals and seed products, with U.S. revenue topping $15 billion in 2014. The company’s primary competitor is Monsanto.
Some of Syngenta’s pesticides include the active ingredient atrazine, which has been banned in the European Union and several other countries. Atrazine is part of the triazine class of chemicals that was recently listed as a “known carcinogen” under Proposition 65. The listing of the six triazine compounds takes effect on October 1.
OEHHA Deputy Director for External and Legislative Affairs Sam Delson told Prop 65 News that OEHHA is “confident that we have fully complied with the require-ments of the California Public Records Act and are reviewing the lawsuit and have not yet determined our legal response.”
Syngenta is suing for a writ of mandate directing OEHHA to release all records it has exempted from the records request.
The Case cited by this article is: Syngenta v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (Sacramento Superior Court Case No. 34-2015-80002140).