A coalition of cities and health, environmental and mothers' groups filed suit challenging the California Department of Food and Agriculture's 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 Children's Earth Foundation, Mothers of Marin Against the Spray, 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, and Deborah Reames of Earthjustice.
Courts ordered CDFA to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act before conducting additional spraying in those counties. CDFA was compelled to prepare an environmental impact report 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 in Alameda County Superior Court – on 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.
CDFA currently plans treatments across the state ranging from ground spraying of pesticides and use of chemical "twist tie" diffusers to mass releases of irradiated moths and predatory wasps. In fact, the area CDFA describes as "needing treatment" includes most of the state, including the Central Valley.
CDFA says that aerial spraying will not be used against the moth "at this time." However, the EIR includes large aerial spray areas in 11 counties, and provides for possible aerial spray in any area where the population is less than 100 people per square mile. The EIR makes clear that CDFA is prepared to use warrants and law enforcement to force pesticide spraying of private property if owners refuse.