Cities & Citizens Sue over Apple Moth Program

San Francisco — A coalition of cities and health, environmental and mothers’ groups filed suit Thursday challenging the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) light brown apple moth eradication program. The suit is a culmination of nearly three years of public outcry over state-sponsored pesticide spraying for a moth experts say has been here for decades without damaging crops. Central Coast counties were sprayed from the air in 2007 in an attempt to eradicate the moth. Bay Area counties, including the highly populated urban core, were next on the list until public opposition forced a temporary halt to aerial spraying of cities. CDFA maintains it has no current plans to use further aerial spray for the moth, but plans ground spraying in communities across the state. The coalition of groups filing suit includes: Our Childrens’ Earth Foundation, Mothers of Marin Against the Spray (MOMAS), Stop the Spray East Bay, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Stop the Spray San Francisco, Pesticide Watch, Pesticide Action Network, the Center for Environmental Health, and the cities of Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond. The coalition is represented by Kathleen Goodhart and Summer Wynn of Cooley LLP, and Deborah Reames of Earthjustice.
The apple moth program began in 2007 with a controversial “emergency” aerial spraying of an untested pesticide in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, after which hundreds of people reported illnesses. CDFA proposed to begin spraying Bay Area cities in 2008. The announcement was followed by an unprecedented public outcry and rulings by both the Santa Cruz and Monterey superior courts ordering CDFA to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before conducting additional spraying in those counties. CDFA was compelled to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) on its overall eradication program for the apple moth. That EIR was finalized last month. In the meantime, CDFA put urban spraying on hold.

The lawsuit filed today – the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day – charges that the EIR is not based on sound science, and is invalidated by a last-minute change in the objective of the program from eradicating to merely controlling the moth, a change CDFA made after the EIR was finished. As a result, the EIR does not examine a reasonable range of alternatives as required by law, including a "no-action" alternative as well as minimally toxic or non-toxic methods targeted as control and not eradication treatments, which were suggested by the public and other agencies.

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flickr image by jomike

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