Many of the readers of this site are aware that trees and habitat are threatened, not just in San Francisco, but across the Bay Area, due largely to the same kind of sentiment vilifying introduced species as the “Natural Areas Program.”. The immediate threat is in the East Bay, where three land managers (including University of California at Berkeley) are seeking FEMA funding to destroy hundreds of thousands of trees. (We wrote about that HERE.) Most people oppose these plans, and have found the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) inaccurate and incomplete. Over 5700 people have signed the East Bay Hills petition.
We’re pleased to note that the Environmental Protection Agency (yes, that one!) has also written a comment on the DEIS. This article describing their concerns is republished with permission and minor edits from Death of a Million Trees.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY EVALUATES THE EIS FOR FEMA PROJECTS IN THE EAST BAY
by Million Trees
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the FEMA projects in the East Bay. It is available here. We are pleased to tell you that the EPA shares many of our concerns about the environmental impact of these projects and they consider the evaluation of those impacts by the DEIS inadequate. The EPA has rated this project “Environmental Concerns – Insufficient Information.” These are the definitions of those terms:
- “Environmental Concerns: The EPA review has identified environmental impacts that should be avoided in order to fully protect the environment. Corrective measures may require changes to the preferred alternative or application of mitigation measures that can reduce the environmental impact…”
- “Insufficient Information: The draft EIS does not contain sufficient information for EPA to fully assess environmental impacts that should be avoided in order to fully protect the environment…”
EPA SAYS: THE PROJECT COULD RESULT IN DEGRADATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES
The EPA shares our opinion about the probable outcome of the proposed project:
“The document assumes that areas will naturally regenerate, once rid of non-native species. We are concerned that some of the aspects of the project would result in degradation of natural resources and may not provide for natural regeneration. Further, while the DEIS includes a discussion of climate change, it does not include a detailed discussion of the potential impact of climate change on the Project area. Current research indicates that climate change could impact the amount, timing and intensity of rain and storm events; increase the length and severity of the fire season; modify the rate and distribution of harmful timber insects and diseases; and aggravate already stressed water supplies. A significant change in the weather patterns could have important implications for the management of the Project area.”
The EPA recommends that the final EIS take into consideration the impact that climate change will have on the success of the project. For example, as plants and animals move in response to climate change, they may no longer be viable in their historic ranges, which this project attempts to replicate. Ironically, the project contributes to climate change by releasing tons of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The DEIS does not acknowledge or analyze these factors.
EPA SAYS: WE NOTE THAT EXTENSIVE USE OF HERBICIDES IS PROPOSED
Yes, indeed, this project will require thousands of gallons of herbicide and we are delighted that the EPA has noticed this as well as the serious deficiencies of information in the DEIS regarding herbicide use:
- There are many different formulations of Roundup with different properties, yet the DEIS does not identify which formulation of Roundup will be used. Therefore we cannot evaluate its toxicity.
- The DEIS does not clearly state which herbicide products will be used for what purpose and in what locations.
- The DEIS does not clearly state the method of application of herbicides.
- The DEIS does not acknowledge that both triclopyr and imazapyr “can migrate through the soil” which will damage the native trees and vegetation this project claims to promote.
- The DEIS evaluates the impact of herbicides only on endangered species which may or may not be the most sensitive species to herbicides. The final EIS must evaluate the impact of herbicides on the most sensitive species of animals, whether or not they are endangered.
The EPA is equally concerned about the impact of herbicides on human health and safety. It therefore notes the following deficiencies in the DEIS in that regard:
- Reports of toxicity of herbicides in the DEIS are incomplete and inaccurate.
- The DEIS does not acknowledge the “possibility of people and or animals entering the treated areas and coming in contact with herbicides already applied.” The Final EIS (FEIS) should therefore “clarify that there is potential for human exposure even if the chemicals do not move from the application site.” Further, “The FEIS should include a mitigation measure to remove fruiting or other edible vegetation.”
The EPA also noted many of the troubling inaccuracies and contradictions in the DEIS that were also a concern to us:
- The DEIS claims as “mitigation” the requirements on the labels of the herbicide products that will be used. These are mandatory requirements for legal use of the products, not voluntary measures that can be described as “mitigation.”
- Likewise, the DEIS claims that requiring applicators of herbicides to wear protective clothing is a “Best Management Practice.” Wearing protective clothing is required for legal application of herbicides, not a voluntary measure.
- Several contradictory statements are made in the DEIS regarding maximum wind speeds beyond which herbicides should not be applied.
- The DEIS claims that the “Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Levels” of herbicides can be estimated from an experimentally derived “No-observed Adverse Effect Level” without providing any supporting reference. The EPA asks, basically, where does that claim come from?
- The EPA points out inconsistent and incorrect use of the phrase “Certified Pesticide Applicator.” That may seem a small quibble, but it means that we have no idea what the qualifications will be of the people who will apply herbicides.
- The DEIS announces that a specific adjuvant or surfactant will be used without telling us anything about the properties of that product. The adjuvant or surfactant is the inert ingredient in a formulated herbicide product that delivers the active ingredient (the poison) to the plant.
- The DEIS uses an outdated EPA study about the effect of glyphosate on rabbits to report the toxicity of the product on rats. Whoops! Old data about the wrong animal! Picky, picky.
EPA ASKS: ARE THE TREES BEING REMOVED FOR DEVELOPMENT?
The EPA has apparently noticed that the DEIS mentions the long-term plans to build on some of the project areas of UC Berkeley. Therefore, it wants to know if that’s why the trees are being destroyed:
“Given that development is not included in the purpose and need for this Project, it is unclear whether the trees in these overlap areas would be removed for construction purposes regardless of whether they are removed as part of the proposed Project or not.”
GOVERNMENT IS DOING ITS JOB!
We are amongst the slim majority of voters who believe that government has an important job to do. We are often disappointed by government, but we aren’t inclined to kill it because it is sometimes incompetent. We are therefore very pleased to tell our readers that the EPA has apparently read the DEIS published by its sister/brother agency, The Federal Emergency Management Agency. Although they did not identify many of the important issues in the DEIS, they identified some of them. For that we are grateful as well as hopeful that the sponsors of these destructive projects will be forced to at least modify them, if not abandon them altogether. Thank you, EPA!