UC Reseach Facility Will Move Ahead as Planned

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Plans to launch a state-of-the-art supercomputing facility co-sponsored by the U.S. government and the University of California system can move forward, a federal judge ruled, rejecting environmental claims.
     Monday’s ruling also rejects an attempt to supplement the record with other environmental reports proffered by Save Strawberry Canyon, a citizens’ group dedicated to preserving watershed lands in the east Bay Area.
     In recent years, Save Strawberry Canyon has set its sights on thwarting a project to build a 140,000 square-foot Computational Research and Theory facility in the hills above Berkeley and Oakland.
     The environmental group claimed that developers failed to conduct a federal environmental review, despite the involvement of a government agency.
     In earlier proceedings U.S. District Judge William Alsup found that a state review was insufficient and ordered the Department of Energy to conduct a study under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
     But a subsequent review of 14 environmental impacts, including biological, cultural, and visual resources, air quality, traffic and noise, found no significant changes. The DOE released an environmental assessment in February, without conducting a full environmental impact study.
     Save Strawberry Canyon asked for summary judgment, claiming the developers violated NEPA rules by releasing an assessment instead of conducting a full study.
     But Alsup disagreed Monday, siding instead with the DOE and the University of California. “DOE’s finding of no significant impact and preparation of an EA was not arbitrary or capricious and an EIS is not required,” he wrote.
     The Computational Research and Theory facility will be built at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on land owned by the University of California. It is designed to meet gold standards under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program. Three hundred people will be relocated to staff the $113 million facility.

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