California has one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching pollution prevention statutes in the nation, but the state court of appeals recently ruled that the state’s pest prevention program run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture violates the state’s much broader Environmental Quality Act (EQA).
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argued that the DFA’s use of spraying to carry out its pest prevention program violated the CQA. The court ruled that the DFA violated the CEQA by failing to conduct a site-specific study of environmental risks before it conducts a specific spraying program. The court also ruled that the DFA failed to properly consideration contamination to water bodies within the area of spraying or take any measures to mitigate possible harm to bees in the spraying area.
The background to the ruling
In 2014, the DFA adopted a single environmental review process for all pest prevention and management projects. The Department justified its action as necessary for “efficient and proactive” management. Rather than conduct a separate environmental review for each planned spraying, the DFA merely compared the proposed spraying plan against its general guidelines and procedures. The court ruled that this approach fails to take into account local conditions and the spraying’s potential effect on specific lakes and rivers in the spraying area. The court also noted that this approach does not take into account the possible effects of the spraying on water, bees and other pollinators, and human beings.
The next step
The DFA is deciding whether to appeal that portion of the ruling that has the greatest effect on the department’s overall spraying programs. The DFA also has the option of modifying its spraying procedures to comply with the appellate court’s ruling. Finally, the DFA can appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs in this case prevailed on appeal because they retained competent and knowledgeable environmental attorneys. Anyone who is facing an environmental problem caused by government action or inaction may benefit from conferring with a knowledgeable environmental attorney for an evaluation of the facts and an opinion on whether the evidence will support a variable court decision.