Victory in CEQA Lawsuit Challenging Statewide Pest Management

In 2015, EAC along with several other environmental groups filed a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), challenging the programmatic environmental impact report (PEIR) for pest management. The lawsuit was filed because of issues with the PEIR around lack of notice and public input, and the broad authority given to CDFA to spray 79 pesticides (many of which are known to be carcinogenic and toxic). The public has a right to know. The PEIR failed to evaluate numerous health and environmental risks including cumulative impacts. 

Thank you to Tom and Barbara Gaman, Scoby Zook and Kris Brown, Chuck and Alice Eckart, and Russell and Margaret Ridge who made generous contributions to EAC in 2015 supporting our legal action on this important issue.

 
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...the court has concluded that the Department’s certification of the PEIR was fundamentally flawed and must be set aside...”
— Honorable Timothy M. Frawley, 2018
The introduction of toxic pesticides into the environment threatens aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, human health, our local economy, and organic farms and gardens. We are ecstatic about the recent victory!
— Ashley Eagle-Gibbs, EAC's Conservation Director

legal victory and background

Following a hearing in December of 2017, the court rejected California's blanket pesticide spraying approval in January 2018, ruling on behalf of EAC and the other petitioners.  The ruling put a stop to the program until the state develops a program that provides adequate notice and protection for the public. 

The suit was first filed in Sacramento County Superior Court in January 2015. In May of 2015, a preliminary injunction was filed to try to force CDFA to comply with CEQA and publicly disclose and analyze any pesticide spraying it conducts that poses risks to people, the environment, etc. Briefing took place, and petitioners (EAC and other environmental groups) filed a reply brief in October of 2017. In sum, our reply brief asserted 5 main points, the majority of which the Court agreed with:

1) The PEIR’s tiering strategy failed to comply with CEQA and omitted site specific evaluation criteria

2) the PEIR’s baseline was ambiguous and misleading;

3) CDFA failed to notify and consult with other government agencies;

4) the PEIR failed to analyze the program’s biological, water quality, human health, and cumulative impacts; and

5) the PEIR improperly defered and concealed mitigation.  

EAC Role 

EAC became involved in this lawsuit due to concerns about negative pesticide impacts on the land, waters, and biodiversity of West Marin and California. The introduction of toxic pesticides into the environment threatens aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, human health, our local economy, and organic farms and gardens.

EAC was one of many petitioners/plaintiffs and was represented by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, & Hampton LLP in this matter.  We thank our donors, legal representation, and co-petitioners for making this win possible!

February - MAY 2018 UPDATES 

February 2018 - The court set aside CDFA's PEIR, prohibiting chemical activities by CDFA under the PEIR unless and until the agency prepares an environmental analysis that complies with CEQA, or unless they have some other CEQA approval outside of the PEIR. Review the court's final ruling and injunction

May 2018 - The latest development in our case challenging the CDFA's statewide pest management program is a petition that CDFA filed with the appeals court seeking to lift the lower court's injunction on chemical management activities under the PEIR.  Review CDFA's filing and our response in opposition.  


More information

Court Documents:
April - May 2018 - CDFA's Appeal, Environmental Working Group (Respondents/Petitioners') Response
Jan. 2018 - Court's Consolidated Ruling, Feb. 2018 Final Ruling and Injunction  
2017 - Petitioners' Reply Brief

Press:
2018 Press Releases: January, February  
2018 News Articles: Point Reyes Light: EAC and others win in suit against state over programmatic pest plan, LA Times, KQED
2015 Press Release

Other Resources/References: 
Statewide PEIR page

 

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The state’s spraying of toxic chemicals in our neighborhoods, over our waterways, and on our organic farms without opportunity for affected communities to have a voice in or stop state pesticide treatments is an egregious violation of environmental protection laws....”
— Amy Trainer, EAC executive director 2010-2015