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Greens Fight California Pesticide Spraying

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Eleven environmental groups claim in court that the California Department of Food and Agriculture intends to spray toxic pesticides statewide in violation of the state's Environmental Quality Act.

The department issued a final environmental impact report for its proposed Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Program on Christmas Eve of 2014, the groups claim in the 53-page lawsuit in Alameda County Court.

According to the Jan. 22 complaint, the program contains a problematic "tiering strategy" by which the department intends to spray pesticides without site-specific environmental review, and without notifying the public or providing public opportunity to comment.

The state does not intend to file notices of determination about the pesticides, depriving the public of its right to timely notice of agency decisions to carry out projects, the groups say.

Lead plaintiff, the Environmental Working Group, claims the environmental impact report for the program is "deficient and legally inadequate" and does not provide the amount of detail required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

"The importance of this requirement is heightened here because the program's proponent and the reviewing agency are one and the same," the complaint states.

It calls the environmental impact report riddled with "vague, unenforceable and ineffectual management practices."

Among these practices are the unlawful tiering strategy, which defers analysis of site-specific environmental effects, and the department's failure to provide concrete information such as maps or timing guidelines about the pesticide treatments, according to the complaint.

The groups also claim that the report fails to adequately analyze potential significant environmental impacts such as water contamination, air pollution, adverse effects on human health and detriment to organic farms.

"The CDFA prejudicially abused its discretion," the groups say.

The state declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs seek a writ of mandate and declaratory and injunctive relief. They are represented by Arthur Friedman, with Sheppard Mullin in San Francisco.

Here are the plaintiffs: Environmental Working Group; City of Berkeley, Center For Food Safety; Pesticide Action Network North America; Beyond Pesticides; California Environmental Health Initiative; Environmental Action Committee of West Marin; Safe Alternatives For Our Forest Environment; Center For Biological Diversity; Center For Environmental Health; Californians For Pesticide Reform; and Moms Advocating Sustainability.

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