Court Nixes Challenge to Berkeley Lab Expansion

     (CN) – A California appeals court shot down a lawsuit from activists who say the expansion of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory violates state environmental law.




     Lesley Emmington Jones and four others claimed that the 660,000 square-foot expansion violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to consider all possible alternatives.
     The lab occupies 202 acres in the eastern hills of Berkeley and Oakland, at a popular recreation site that hosts threatened wildlife, such as the Alameda whipsnake.
     The plaintiffs claimed that the Board of Regents for the University of California failed to consider a non-hillside option, that greenhouse gas emissions weren’t fully vetted, and that the expansion would harm water quality, including from pesticide runoff.
     The 1st District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s partial ruling for the activists, writing that the regents didn’t have to consider the non-hillside option. The primary goal of the project is to develop clusters of buildings in a campus-like setting, and an off-site option simply doesn’t work for this, the court ruled.
     Because the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative options on the pesticide, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions claims, the court said the regents did not violate the Act by failing to recirculate a modified impact statement.
     The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court.
     A lawsuit alleging the laboratory expansion violates the National Environmental Policy Act is still pending. A federal judge last year halted construction at the site after determining that the development is subject to national environmental law because it receives federal funding.

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