May 12, 2008
A judge ruled Monday that aerial spraying to eradicate an invasive moth in Monterey County may not go forward in populated areas without a full environmental review. Superior Court Judge Robert A. O’Farrell ruled that state officials had not demonstrated there is an emergency that warrants immediate spraying on the Monterey Peninsula and surrounding areas. The judge said there are no records of the light brown apple moth causing significant enough damage to justify an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act. Secretary of Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura said the state would appeal the ruling quickly.
“The light brown apple moth infestation is, in fact, an emergency that threatens our nation’s food supply and our state’s environment,” Kawamura said in a statement. Hundreds of people complained of feeling sick when planes applied the first round of spray in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties last fall. State environmental health experts have said those reported illnesses can’t conclusively be tied to the pest eradication efforts.
“This is a total and complete win,” said Alexander Henson, an attorney who argued the Monterey case for the nonprofit Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment. “It’s the nail on the coffin for the state going forward before they’ve fully exposed the pros and cons and analyzed this program’s environmental impacts.” The state’s draft environmental impact report is slated to be completed by January, according to the judge’s ruling.
State agricultural officials announced earlier this year that spraying over several Northern California counties including Monterey, would begin this summer. A Santa Cruz County judge issued a similar ruling in April barring the state from spraying until the chemical’s potential effects on people and the environment were further evaluated.