Public Outrage Disrupts PG&E’s Toxic Spray Plan

Susan Bower, Founding Member of Safe Alternatives for Our Forest Environment (SAFE)

On September 29, 2022, PG&E alerted Humboldt County that it was going to spray herbicides, including glyphosate, along its easements across the region, but failed to alert landowners or tenants of this new threat. Due to public outcry, PG&E postponed the plan. The NEC, EPIC, Safe Alternatives for Our Forest Environment, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Humboldt Baykeeper, Humboldt 350, The Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities and Friends of the Eel River are opposed to herbicide spraying without consent and are working to prevent similar incidents in the future. If you are concerned about herbicide application on your property, please contact PG&E at 1-800-564-5080 and email treesafety@pge.com.

In human history, throughout the world the most applied plant killer (herbicide) is glyphosate and still is, with even more sales of it since the invention of genetically modified crops, especially of corn, soybeans, sugar cane, and potatoes.  Considering that so much of this poison has been spread on land since the mid 1970s when it was first formulated and sold as Roundup, we wish PG&E’s assertion that glyphosate is relatively safe when applied according to the label was true.  But it is not!   

There is a legion of scientific evidence and experience that refutes claims of glyphosate’s safety.  Agrichemical manufacturers of glyphosate, first in the USA and now including some in China and elsewhere, are busily defending this seemingly cheap, easy killer for the big money it makes them. But increasingly the evidence is rolling in that not everything in the Roundup corral is A-OK.  Rather than endlessly argue the studies presented by each side, we urge you to familiarize yourself with the scientific biochemical evidence about its harmfulness to human life and the environment and why glyphosate’s use should be discontinued and certainly not used anywhere in Humboldt County for any reason. 

 An excellent place to do a deep dive into this killer is Toxic Legacy: How the Weedkiller Glyphosate Is Destroying Our Health and the Environment, written by Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Seneff takes us on a ‘genial’ biochemical journey through the harmful effects of glyphosate on humans from autism, gut microorganism damage, liver, kidney, fertility, autoimmunity malfunction to obesity.    Glyphosate is pervasive in air, rain and groundwater, and soil, causing die-off of toads, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that live in symbiotic relationships with plants for mutual benefit and for ours also.

For a short read with many related topics go to Pesticide Action Network (www.panna.org) which is an international network.  PAN North America is one of five regional centers worldwide linking agricultural, consumer, labor, health and environmental groups “working to create a just, thriving food system.  For too long, pesticide and biotech corporations have dictated how we grow food, placing the health and economic burdens of pesticide use on farmers, farmworkers and rural communities.”  PAN’s ‘state of the science’ documents are an extensive review of glyphosate studies detailing harmful human health effects and environmental disruption tied to it.  Some of these, in addition to  Seneff’s findings, are “cancer, genotoxicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental reduction, neurological damage, and immune system dysfunction.”

This time we cannot afford to again wait decades for more studies and legions of lawsuits because of harm to health by these other herbicides PG&E is planning to use: “Esplanade 200SC”, (Indaziflam) and “Milestone” (Aminopyralid). Included also will be “Liberate Adjuvant” a surfactant, which adds to the persistence and penetration into soils in the environment.  At some point we need to stop blanketing land with ‘cides’– agents designed to kill life forms almost always affecting more than the targets.

Finding a ‘so-called natural’ herbicide that is effective and cheap is not the answer for PG&E either.  Their power-lines go near people, other living beings, water, and air all of which are already being negatively impacted by ‘forever’ man-made chemicals. We need to perfect and create life affirming methods, as is being done in agroecological farming on a large scale worldwide. Already some kinds of goats and sheep are used along some power-lines, in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, and for clearing land in nearby Shasta County, and elsewhere  to convert unwanted vegetation into fertilizer rather than dead and dried carbon emitters. And these sheep and goats help supply a market for goat and mutton meat.

 Here in Humboldt some residents could perform this service with stewardship contracts that are fair and well designed for success, even around power poles.  These wholesome jobs for people would likely cost PG&E and their rate-payers less if compared to an accurate calculation of all their costs of using herbicides for vegetation management.  May PG&E approach their needs for vegetation management as opportunities to develop good public relations and to contribute to civic well being.

Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment (S.A.F.E.) was begun in 1979 in response to massive helicopter spraying pesticide on public and private timber lands in Trinity County. Local citizens became active and formed S.A.F.E. to promote alternatives to pesticide spraying. S.A.F.E. has since branched out into advocating and informing the public about environmentally sound forest management.