Court of Appeal Rejects California’s Blanket Approval of Pesticide Spraying

Press release Center for Biological Diversity

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In a major victory for health and environmental groups, California’s Court of Appeal has ruled that a statewide pesticide-spraying program violates the law by failing to study and minimize the threats from pesticides and to properly inform the public about the risks of spraying.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) statewide “pest management” program that was the subject of this case used, on private residential property, public property and agricultural and wild lands, pesticides known to cause cancer and birth defects and to be highly toxic to bees, butterflies, fish and birds.

The ruling points to numerous instances where the department evaded its responsibility to analyze and disclose the health and environmental harms of the more than 75 pesticides that the agency proposed to use statewide into the indefinite future. The court decision also highlighted that the proposal was made largely without public notice and without evaluating local impacts or allowing opportunity for affected communities to opt out.

In its complex opinion, the court found that CDFA’s Statewide Plant Pest Programmatic environmental impact report (PEIR) violated the California Environmental Quality Act in numerous fatal ways, specifically regarding:

  • CDFA’s bogus “tiering” strategy that does not provide for evaluation of site-specific impacts of the program;
  • CDFA’s insufficient description of the baseline pesticide use to which CDFA’s statewide spraying would be added;
  • CDFA’s failure to evaluate and mitigate the effect of their pesticides on water bodies and pollinators;
  • CDFA’s failure to do an adequate cumulative impact analysis;
  • CDFA’s failure to give public notice of activities carried out under the PEIR.

The suit was brought by the City of Berkeley and 11 public-health, conservation and food-safety organizations, including NEC member group Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment (SAFE)