HELIOS BIOFUELS Research
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Helios - Exposed in Berkeley
Excerpts from a Berkeley Public Hearing regarding the Helios - BP project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, LBNL. North Berkeley Senior Center, December 17, 2007. Speakers include: Marcella Sadlowski, Gray Brechin, Sylvia McLaughlin, Carol Schemmerling, Gene Bernardi, Terri Compost, Barbara Robben, Matthew Taylor, Zachary Runningwolf, Juliet Lamont, Any Beaton, Tom Kelly, L A Wood. Produced by Berkeley Citizen
Oil Giant BP to Give $500 Million to UC Berkeley for Biofuels Research
Amy Goodman Democracy NOW, November 12, 2007
" There is a controversy raging at the University of California, Berkeley, where British Petroleum, where BP — they’ve called themselves now Beyond Petroleum — has promised to give $500 million to the university over the next 10 years. The deal would fund the development of “sustainable, commercially viable, and environmentally friendly” sources of energy. The newly created Energy Biosciences Institute, or EBI, claims to promote research into biofuels, as well as bacteria that would increase energy production from oil and coal. Critics at UC Berkeley point to the corporatization of academic research, the ecological dangers of biofuels, and BP’s long history of environmental irresponsibility, they say. They call this an act of greenwashing by BP and have been protesting the deal since it was announced in February of this year. But supporters claim that the corporate-academic partnership allows the university to realize its renewable energy research agenda and provides the most effective and economical means of addressing the looming environmental crisis."
As transcribed from the video, “British Petroleum In Berkely, Helios Project” (Below) Berkeley Citizen Copyright 2007
1.) John Shively: I’m a registered professional engineer and a retiree from the University of California. My university work experience gave me a special insight into the problems of siting the proposed project like the Helios Energy Research Facility. In the 60’s, I was a development engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab working on nuclear accelerator design problems, except for two years I spent on leave at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich. In the early 70’s, I worked on the campus as principle engineer in what was then known as the Campus Office of Architects and Engineers.
I had design oversight responsibilities for the engineering construction projects on and off the Berkeley campus. Finally in the late 70’s until I retired in the early 80’s, I was the manager of the Richmond Field Station, which is the large off-campus 100-acre site that hosts about 10 different engineering laboratories. In my opinion, siting the Helios Project, as well as the companion CRT facility, in the Berkeley Lab would be a major mistake because of the serious transportation access problems. As it is now, LBNL has an existing problem transporting employees, visitors, and materials in and out of the Lab. The major construction phase for the proposed complex buildings, utilities, roads, and materials on such a difficult site, followed by a significant increase in the employees of subsequent operation would create a major and ongoing transportation access problem. Access to LNBL is restricted primarily to Hearst Avenue and Cyclotron Road which are already now at or exceeding capacity. I strongly recommend that before the Draft EIRs are approved, a draft transportation study should be conducted by a licensed transportation engineer, of the transportation problems these projects will create. The campus institute’s Office of Transportation Studies could recommend such an engineer either from the faculty or an outside engineer.
The rejection of the large Richmond Field station for these facilities based on the argument that there is insufficient electrical power available there is patently false. The Field Station is located to the north of Berkeley just off of Interstate 580 in an area adjacent to the San Francisco Bay with ample electrical capacity from the major PG&E substation nearby. I’m sure PG&E can confirm this. Rapid transit access to the field station is good. The University bus ride between the campus and field station is about 15 minutes. The University bus between LBNL and the campus takes about 10 minutes. Not a significant difference.
Finally, I hereby request that the public hearings on both the draft EIRs be continued at least until February of 2008 to give all the affected parties an adequate opportunity to comment on the proposed projects in compliance with the intended spirit of the California Environmental Quality Act, CEQA. In my opinion, it was no accident that these public hearings on these draft EIRs were scheduled in December when the campus community, the Lab community, and the citizens of Berkeley--all of whom would be seriously impacted by these projects--would be seriously distracted by the end of the academic semester or the pending holidays or would be out of town. In my opinion, it was not accidental. Thank you.
2.) Sylvia McLaughlin: Good evening, I want to thank you for extending the written comment period to February 1st. This should give those interested time to review the draft EIR and provide written comments. Since I have not heretofore had time to read the Helios Project Building EIR, my remarks will be general and as with the CRT Facility, be mainly concerned with the proposed location. As with the CRT building, I believe that with construction of the eight-story Helios building in Strawberry Canyon is totally inappropriate for the following reasons:
(1.) This is a high-risk fire area.
(2.) There is a water problem with various springs, aquifers, and tributary streams flowing into Strawberry Creek. Flooding has occurred and can occur in the future.
(3.) This area has unstable soil, which has been known to slide.
(4.) The proximity to the Hayward Fault.
(5.) The traffic down from the Rad Lab is already at capacity as we’ve heard, and the traffic along the Galey-Piedmont-Derby-Warring corridor is frequently congested now and will be more congested with UCB’s planned new construction, including the about 800-car garage under Maxwell Field.
Alternative, more appropriate locations do exist, especially along the recently designated
“Green Corridor” of the East Bay Cities. I recommend that the University ecological study area be extended to include this Strawberry Canyon area. There could be some detrimental effects of unknown consequences from the GMO research affluent getting into Strawberry Creek and going on down through the City of Berkeley. Although BP intends to study the socio-economic effects of their research, I recommend they also study the environmental effects of their research.
Thank you very much.
3.) Terri Compost: Have the oversight problems been studied and resolved since the tritium was released in Strawberry Canyon and the contamination of the Richmond Station? Has there been any attempt to cleanup or remedy this pollution and other contamination created by UC research? Has there been any concern or protections against the possible release of genetically engineered microbes that might digest cellulose and disrupt the ecosystem, not to mention our wood houses? Since some of what has been proposed is cutting edge research, do you have any way to insure that the public will have efficient and effective oversight of this research? Will the public have the access to the nature and dangers of experiments being done at the lab? Water is sacred. Strawberry Creek is our creek, our canyon. This is water from Strawberry Creek. I’m going to offer this. If you believe that UC Berkeley California is wise, I’m sure that they have protected our water source. This is, of course, the first rule of wisdom. I offer this to you guys. If you trust the University’s protection, feel free to enjoy our sacred water.
I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a folly of humanity here. I wish that the University of California could be doing research on green roofs, and heat islands, and public transit, and all those great things; but that’s not what’s being proposed here and that’s not what’s being planned. So I’m just hoping they don’t build it. If they do build it, they won’t build it in our sacred Strawberry Creek Canyon. If they do build it somewhere else, I’m hoping that this research will just get canned because if they start growing genetically engineered crops around the world so that we can have our fuel to drive SUVs and destroy ecosystems and people’s food supplies around the world. This is a grim future that the University of California is visioning, and I so wish that it would turn around, and we could do the right research and we weren’t working for British Petroleum here. That we were actually working for the future generations. So this feels a little bit like a folly, but perhaps a miracle will happen, and wisdom will come to the University of California.
4.) Barbara Robben: I’m a graduate of the University of California with a major in geology and soil sciences. So last week, I addressed the geology of the area and the unstable and steep soils and the hydrology about runoff and ground water. I’ll skip that for now. I think that same thing applies. The toxics [are] very important to me; the release of any hazardous materials, in either accidents that happen at the lab, or earthquakes, or some such thing like that. I’m also worried about the release of the escaped plants, and the science that is going on down there. It’s a Pandora’s Box that’s been happening. It’s an old story about Pandora, but it’s a common thing that people get into things [where] they really can’t foresee the results.
I’m worried about the construction traffic being foisted off on neighborhoods when UC is apparently not willing to have those heavy trucks going through their own campus. I’m worried about the security. There’s little in your report about how they have three to ten security officers at a time. I’m just wondering when BP gets their plant up there, how much security they’ll be having there. You see, we don’t know much about it now because it’s all fenced now, but I can imagine that that might be increased substantially when they have all their people in there. If you want to get a view about that, you can make a trip down to the stadium where you can see how ridiculous the security has gotten just for a little oak tree, not to mention half of a billion dollars worth of science.
In the meeting in August when we had a preparation for this, you were talking about arable soil--that we have plenty of arable soil on the planet. Well, all of the agriculture that will be done will either be displacing food or wildlife. The Great Plains, I happened to grow up there during the dust bowl. I don’t know about fallowing where you have to. It was government mandated that you couldn’t plow your field every year. You had to keep it in stubble and let the snow accumulate so that the wind wouldn’t blow it all away, because the soil that was supposed to stay in the ground was going around in the air and people were breathing it. I’m also wondering about other countries. I would also like to have it addressed in your report where would you grow these plants that you’re trying to do? What will you be displacing? If you want to grow miscanthus and switchgrass in your own back yards that would be one thing, you’d probably have enough to light your menorah, but I don’t think you should be jetting off to Paris with that situation.
5.) Phila Rogers: Thank you everybody. I am a retiree of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab where I worked for 20 years, part of the time as a science writer. I know the Lab intimately and I know the Canyon intimately because during the time that I worked at the Lab, I wrote a column for the Lab newspaper on nature and environmental issues. I also gave a class there. That was in a kinder, gentler time, I’m afraid. I think in a way we have an opportunity to take a fresh look at Strawberry Canyon as the precious resource it is. The University was built where it was because Strawberry Canyon and the Creek provided a substantial water source. In the last few years, I’ve been involved with the Audubon Society. I lead bird trips. Yesterday, interestingly enough, was the Christmas bird count in which 53 species were found in the Canyon, including the Golden Eagle. I think that the only truly green building for this site is no building at all. I certainly have much respect for what the Lab has done and considerable affection for it; however, I think this building is misguided, both because of its size and primarily because of its placement, and I suggest that serious consideration be given to other sites. I have a list here that was published on the front page of the Chronicle about three weeks ago about 50 Bay Area bird species placed on the National Watch List. Of that list, six of them use the slope where the proposed Helios building is for both their breeding and/or their nesting sites. So I suggest that we extend the ecological study area which was a wonderful concept in the 1970s, but it’s been largely ignored since that time, and that we reconsider this incredible riparian resource that can enrich our lives and those creatures that choose to live there. Thank you.
6.) Nancy Schimmel: I have been walking the fire trail in Strawberry Canyon since I came to Berkeley as a freshman in 1952. The big mistake [of] building the Stadium there had already happened, but in my time in Berkeley, I’ve seen the other buildings grow up the Canyon. This latest building I feel is not going to do enough good in the world to offset the damage it will do to our Canyon. I feel that climate change, which is a real and terrible problem, is being grabbed as an excuse by people who are promoting nuclear power, people who are promoting genetic engineering, and in this case by big oil. I think we need to find smaller, more local, better ways to address this problem than yet building another building in an environmentally sensitive area near an earthquake fault. Thank you.
7.) Peter Roufe: Good evening, I’m a student at Berkeley, and I have two main questions about this. The first one is that I bike down Strawberry Canyon pretty often. The location on the road that the access road is going to connect up to Strawberry Canyon is the most hazardous curve in terms of visibility and things on the whole. It sounds really scary to have all those construction trucks going in and out, and the extra traffic from the Labs. I don’t think it dealt with that very well in the report. The other thing that I think that the report ought to investigate more is some specific evaluations of the specific life forms that they’re thinking about working on there, and how they’re going to deal with containment, and the possibilities of them getting out [as] from the miscanthus invading the Canyon to what other microbes that they think about making. They make some vague things about the biohazard level, but I think they could do a lot more to specifically address those concerns. That’s all.
8.) Amy Beaten: I’m with the BP Bears, and you if can see some of the other bears in the front row and they’re here to do the “Nobel Challenge”. So they’re going to challenge the Nobel Laureates of the Lab to drink that Strawberry Creek water, because the BP Bears can. So if the water isn’t good enough to drink, then it’s still going to f low down the hill, and we have to do something about it. It says in here that you will apply for your NTDS permit that is for cleaning it up. I don’t really know to what extent we can be protected by the monitoring of the site, but I want to see the plans before the slope is further exposed. So we’re living with the legacy of the greatest, newest technology that the lab has come up with, and that’s in the form of PCBs and known contaminant plumes coming down our hill. So the post-construction control measures about monitoring the site, we would want to know ahead of time so we can make a proper decision about as to whether we should be doing this. Unaddressed impacts: You’ve squeezed the corporations yard. It’s not mentioned why of course, because the University is also the lead agency that is impacted by these projects, which is really a serious problem. So [concerning] the impacts to the Botanical Garden, the lead agency would be the University of California. They’ve squeezed the corporation yard. That is not addressed, as a cumulative impact, so there’s additional driving for all the people who used to be going to the corporation yard.
Now, I happened to get up there and take a little picture of what they call the mostly intact pristine site. Here are the springs, the seeps, the actual place where the water bubbles out of the ground, a sacred site for us living in California, water bubbling out of the ground. Let me repeat: water bubbling out of the ground. Now we cannot build a building there because we need to save that for us, in case we need it for what we may need it for. OK, I have another picture of the most pristine site, which shows that you’ve already graded the thing. OK, so the Molecular Foundry went in with a negative declaration, and they’ve already prepared the slope, but the report does say that the highest levels of tritium were found in the temporary wells--the highest levels of tritium to date. It’s in your report, and so we’d like to see a little bit more about that. So about the process with the integration of the monitoring of the future is what we need to know. New technology means new waste.
Basically, what you’re doing is creating a classified situation at the Lab where we consider it a public place, but you’re building a proprietary building. The site of the Helios project was 88,000 square feet in the draft environmental report of the Long Range Developmental Plan. With the BP money, it jumps up to 166,000 square feet. I don’t know. It seems as if you are really approaching the million square feet really quickly. Like maybe in the first of your 20-year plan. So I don’t know how things are going to be built out in the future, but we can’t make a huge construction site of a place where the water that’s coming down we should be wearing gloves on the campus.
9.) Phil Price: I live in Berkeley. I work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It’s almost painful to hear that we need to walk the talk. That we’re going to try to walk the talk with this building. We’re going to have a green roof and all that stuff, because first of all we’re not waking the talk now; for example, the shuttle, which is supposed to serve the new building. The Lab cut it’s shuttle service in the beginning of 2007, made it much less convenient for most people and has refused to increase it again, in spite of the fact that increased shuttle service is already a required mitigation in the Lab’s 2006 Long Range Development Plan. So we’re not walking the talk in that respect. It’s also painful to hear that we’re walking the talk with building a green roof and so on for a new building when there are so many infill opportunities at the Lab.
The Bevatron Building itself, the very large parking lot that used to house the Bevatron Instrument Bay. There are a whole bunch of one-story trailers including some in front of Building 90. There are several condemned buildings, a bunch of one story trailers up in the Old Town area, all of which you could build a building that does not require building on a pristine site. Building the best building you can on a pristine site is not nearly as good as building even a worse building on a site that’s already got something on it. Then, also the access road; I’m a little confused about the need for an access road for this building anyway, since there are several buildings there that are already served by a perfectly functional road that we all use every day. Why not serve this building with the same road?
Finally, I think that EIR’s standard thing, that cynically the game that is often played with them is to come up with alternatives to investigate that just aren’t quite right. They’re not quite going to meet the requirements in some way or it won’t quite be better, so that means that what you want to do always turns out to be the best thing. I think that I see a little bit of that here. I approve a lot of what the Lab does the research. There is a lot of research on the heat islands. If you search the web on the heat island research, LBL is the leader in researching that. There is a lot of great research at the Lab. I think that this would be more of it, but it doesn’t have to go in a building in a pristine site in Strawberry Canyon. It can go elsewhere on the Lab or at the Richmond Field station. Thank you.
10.) Zachary RunningWolf: I’m a Native American leader and elder. This is a critical time in our world’s history. It’s actually a blessing that this project is coming to Berkeley because we have the ability to stop it. That is our world responsibility to actually stop this, because you see signs back here--Columbia, Brazil, all these countries--will be affected by this project, and it’s upon us to step in front of this project. And so, it’s like knowing two years before Baghdad was going to be bombed. This is our responsibility, and Berkeley needs to step up, to step up, and this is our responsibility.
I’ve announced my run, the candidacy for the mayoral campaign. I will do everything I can in my power to confront the University. The University is out of control. If you do not know by now, they’re proposing to not only basically rape, not only Strawberry Canyon, but the Amazon in South America, and Central America, and the University needs to be stopped. I am not that impressed with this University. I’m not impressed with a University that invents the nuclear bomb. That basically got the new contract for the new bomb when they arrested me on terrorism charges for saving 42 oak trees. Now, this entity needs to be confronted and halted, and hopefully after we win at the Oak Grove, you will have a mayoral candidate with a 2-and-0 record against this University. People laughed at my campaign last time when I wanted to ban genetically altered foods in the City of Berkeley, and now people are not laughing, and maybe it takes somebody like myself who’s willing to stand up against this machine. This machine needs to be stopped, period. And I’m not impressed with this higher education. With my community, it’s about reduction in use, and it’s upon each and every one of us. And that’s as an elder; that’s what I come and try to teach. To teach the young ones that we have a dark time coming up in this next world, and we need to face it. We need to face it, today, tonight, tomorrow morning. And that is it. I’d like to say “Eek-ah Ta-kee-ba Eee-ah Ho Ho Pee-sto-tou-ke. Ah-Ho.”
11.) Marcella Sadlowski: I’m a student at UC Berkeley and I wanted to talk a little about BP and what BP stands for. BP actually stands for “Bloody Profits”. It does not stand for Beyond Petroleum, and it also stands for “Bloody Profits”. People talk about where this stuff going to be planted once this research, this momentum starts to go and find arable land in the Amazon as Zachary RunningWolf said. In Columbia, British Petroleum has a bloody past, that’s why we call it “Bloody Profits”, because of the displacement it has created in areas rich in oil. It has displaced millions of indigenous peoples there, has massacred people. It has financed paramilitaries, so that they can go into this rich land and extract the oil. This is where this corporation is bringing this history to our community here to this University. And I wanted to touch upon that we should not have even taken this. No one is talking about how we should give this money back. This is all covered in blood. It’s covered in the blood of indigenous people. The University is continuing it’s prestigious history of disregarding land and disregarding indigenous people by wanting to build a stadium, a gym, at the Oak Grove, which is a memorial burial ground, and has built other buildings on Native burial grounds. It’s continuing this disrespect and this genocide. British Petroleum has brought a history of genocide to this community and that needs to be addressed and that needs to be talked about. Thank you.
12.) Tom Kelly: Good evening everyone. It’s nice to be among friends again. I was just thinking of the irony of the original Helios. He was actually able to pull the sun from the east to the west with a chariot and a horse. That made me wonder why we can’t get out of our cars and just get from home to work--and everywhere else we have to go--with some other means of transportation that doesn’t require fossil fuels and genetically modified organisms to transform switchgrass into ethanol. Al Gore, who just received the Nobel Peace Award for his work on climate change, said that’s its time for us we make peace with the planet. That to me means if you turn it around, it sounds to me that we’ve been at war with it all this time, and we’re finally waking up to the fact that if we’re going to survive as a species, and inhabit this planet with all the incredible creatures and plants that exist, then we are going to have to start changing the way we think about things and the way we do things. So I see this as kind of a skirmish in that ongoing war in an effort to degrade and despoil an area that we should be protecting. And I often wonder how it is that some of us see that area as such a beautiful place, something that should be protected, while others see it as an opportunity to construct something that actually diminishes the whole area. I’m with Phil. I mean, if this thing is going to be built, it should be built in somewhere like the Richmond Field Station, and it should be build to a Platinum Standard not a Silver Standard, and it should put people to work that need jobs, and it should also be protective of the environment that it sits on.
The other thing I’d like to say is that I thought we were on the way to a hydrogen highway. I mean, that would be great in some ways because then we wouldn’t have to worry about ethanol. I have to say that I read in the Chronicle that the problem with cellulosic ethanol that we’re going to be working on here at the Lab is that it is too firm. It stands up, and the way to really make that useful is to soften it up. I have this image of walking into Berkeley one day, and all the trees are drooping, and all the grasses look like it’s been hit with a hard rain. Someone else said it wouldn’t be the first time that something escaped that did more harm than we anticipated.
The last thing I’ll say is that I think that the state attorney general wants us to have a greenhouse gas emission inventory element in the EIR too, so that we can see what the total impacts are of the construction and the loss of the open space will be as part of the EIR will be, or otherwise I think he will bounce it back. Thank you.
13.) Gene Bernardi: I am with the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste. My father used to say that repetition is power, so I’m going to repeat a few things that other people have said. This is the last place where another building should be built in what should be our pristine Strawberry Watershed. There are far too many buildings already as you may or may not know. There’s been name changes to kind of fool us. This used to be called the Radiation Lab, that’s what it is. It was run by the Atomic Energy Commission, and they’ve changed that to the Department of Energy. So let’s not be fooled what this is all about. As I was saying, this is that last place where another building should be built. We have an area here with landslides. It’s crisscrossed with earthquake faults. It is very near the Hayward Fault, which we’ve been told how many years ago--0?--that it’s going to be the Big One in 30 years. So now we have only about 20 left or something like that. This is not where we should be building another building. Also, it’s being built right next to the Molecular Foundry because it’s going to be working in conjunction with the Molecular Foundry, I understand. There was no environmental impact report for the Molecular Foundry. This went ahead despite the fact that supposedly we’re supposed to be concerned with precautionary principles, yet it’s not known what the effects of this nano-science are, and that they will be working together.
I’ve heard the term “nanophotosynthesis”. What does that mean, and how many other things are they going to nano-size? They have stacks on the Molecular Foundry, but HEPA filters do not keep nano-particles from going out into the atmosphere, so putting this together with the genetically modified stuff that’s going to be going on, it sounds pretty scary. Of course, I agree with many people that we shouldn’t have British Petroleum privatizing our University and working together with the Lawrence Livermore Lab and making it more privatized and “corporatized”. Before this business of going in and invading other lands to take away their arable land and taking away their forests to build this is crass. What’s the difference? We shouldn’t be invading anybody for oil or to take away their land, which they could be using to grow crops. Thank you.
14.) Biff Stockon: I’m a student at UC Berkeley. According to the CEQA section 15360, EIRs are supposed to cover the area “in which significant effects would occur either directly or indirectly as a result of the project”. The EIR has not considered indirect effects of the project. The CEQA guidelines further state in Section 15358 it defines “effects” as “both direct and indirect, or secondary effects, which are caused by the project and are later in time or farther removed in distance, but are still reasonably foreseeable”. One of these indirect effects of the project is on climate change. Gary, you forgot to mention that the project would also involve “enhanced recovery of oil and gas” from the report. Why did you forget that? It would also include fossil fuel bio-processing. As you may know, BP just announced an investment in of ten million dollars in Canadian tar sands. This is known to be wasteful and polluting. This pollution will exacerbate climate change and have local effects. These are indirect local effects that need to be considered in the EIR, including water shortages, coastal inundations by rising seas, leeching of soil pollutants, large and more frequent wildfires and flooding. This is according to the Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission, which has already produced maps of the likely affected areas. The EIR does also not consider the indirect impacts of bio-fuel production.
The EIR failed to consider that the project does indirectly involve commercial biodiesel feedstock production from the EBI contract even though this is not an immediate and direct component of the project. The EBI contract states that “the early application of those results will likely be a reduction of renewable fuels from cellulosic feedstock”. It also states that “the EBI strategic investments are oriented to discover the enabling technology to make cellulous-based fuels in materially significant quantities”. These indirect impacts on commercial bio-fuel feedstock production need to be considered in the EIR. The EIR also does not consider the likelihood of previous earthquakes. I’m going to skip on because there’s more to say. We should be concerned about the preparation of the EIR by compact sciences. There are conflicts of interests, because impact scientists are also working on other CRT [at] UCSF. The project manager of the EIR, Saddam Bharati, who I think is here, previously worked for a URS corporation, which is under contract from UC. There have been other previous complaints about the impact sciences. In 2005, the LA County Planning Commission voted unanimously to remove impact scientists from the list of certified consultants to prepare reports, and there are several other complaints and I’ll continue later.
15.) Matt Taylor: One of the hallmarks of a fascist regime is its implementation of Orwellian doubletalk to mask its intentions. Another hallmark of a fascist regime is the ability of common sense to easily shatter these illusions. Let’s talk for example UCB’s first so-called “Manhattan Project”. Those behind it claimed that nuclear weapons will make us more safe, when common sense would indicate that exactly the opposite is true, that nothing on this planet makes life less safe than nuclear weapons and UC Berkeley’s continued management and design of those objects. So now let’s look at the second Manhattan Project, and in this case the Orwellian doubletalk is the about “addressing climate change and saving the environment.” Well, the empirical evidence is that bio-fuels have had exactly the opposite effect, that there has been enormous and widespread environmental devastation especially in the global south. Indonesia has gone from something like Number 17 to Number 3 in global greenhouse emissions since the introduction of mass bio-fuel plantations and the resultant deforestation.
So, one of my questions that I have for all of you is that if the stated goal for this particular project was to accelerate deforestation, environmental degradation, and increase greenhouse gas emissions, would those impacts be analyzed as part of the so-called “Environmental Impact Report”? Well, those are not the stated goals of the project. The stated goals are the opposite, but because of the Orwellian doubletalk, we know that in fact that’s what is going to happen. I’m also curious whether or not unleashing genetically modified organisms on the world-- and specifically on the Canyon--is a relevant environmental impact and should be considered in the EIR. Another question is that if the stated goal of this project was to exploit indigenous peoples and commit human rights violations, would those impacts be analyzed in your report? Those are very likely to ensue from the previous record of what has happened in the Third World when bio-fuels have been introduced. I’m also curious whether or not the green roof is an attempt to make this project seem green when it’s in fact it’s the opposite. Another hallmark of a fascist regime is that it would create a rigged process by which the real impacts would never be analyzed, and then create a show in which people pretend to participate but are not taken seriously. Recently, the independent newspaper in the UK--this was within the last two weeks--said that British Petroleum had just committed the environmental crime of the century. Notice the timing that this took place: Just one month after the signing of the EBI deal, which is clearly a greenwashing for this environmental crime of the century.
Another hallmark of the fascist regime would be not to allow people significant and sufficient time to comment of these fascist regimes’ crimes. One of the things I was saying earlier is that recently, the Independent newspaper of the UK reported that British Petroleum had just “committed the environmental crime of the century” and this involved it’s plans to go into Canada and commit terrible environmental destruction, so as to turn tar sands into oil. Not only is it enormously environmentally destructive immediately, it also is much, much worse than standard oil extraction in terms of normal greenhouse emissions. So one of the questions I have for this so-called “Environmental Impact Report”: Is UC Berkeley an accomplice in the environmental crime of the century? I think I have heard one of the previous speakers state that tar sand research is actually part of the EBI’s mission. Even if it’s not the case, even if this building has nothing to do with that, the point is that this is an opportunity for British Petroleum to greenwash itself to make it seem like it is an environmentally friendly company, when obviously it is not. So I think this needs to be stated in this Environmental Impact Report.
You claim that there will be only significant impacts in the area of visual air and traffic. What about the trees that will be affected? What about the wildlife? What about the watershed? What about erosion? What about release of genetically modified organisms? What about the value and environmental value of the culture of the Canyon to the people of Berkeley, and also to the Native community? On the subject of the Regents’ property, when it was presented to us at the very beginning, it was stated that this was the Regents’ property. It was almost from this framing statement flows almost all of everything else. I’d like to say that if the Regents were planning to build a concentration camp, a death camp, up in Strawberry Canyon, would it being the property of the Regents be an excuse for that? I imagine that some of you who are sitting there right now wouldn’t allow yourself of be part of that program and you would tell everybody in this room to stop the construction of ovens and gas chambers. Well guess what everyone? It’s too late for the ovens--the ovens being the nuclear weapons in this metaphor--and the gas chambers is what’s going to happen with the enormous deforestations, because our planet is on it’s way to becoming a gas chamber with it’s enormous deforestation. The EBI is actually going to accelerate that. It’s not the property of the Regents, its public property. In any case, the earth does not belong to the people. We belong to the earth. In any case, if it’s anyone’s property, it’s the Native Americans’ and not ours, not any one of us white people. Thank you.
16.) Juliet Lamont: I am an environmental consultant by profession. I am the out-going chair of the Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, but for all reporters in the room I am not speaking on the behalf of the Sierra Club tonight. I am also a UC Alumni, and I am a past LBNL employee having worked in Building 90 for a full summer on transportation issues, and I’m a Berkeley resident. So you can pick which hat you want, but under any of those hats I’m going to say that my familiarity with environmental consulting and siting is that the first thing you do in good ecologically sensitive design is [that] you look at the site and you say, “Does this make sense?” And if we are going to design something on a site you design, as UC Berkeley preaches in it’s own departments, you’re supposed to design with nature, not against it. Global climate change issues that have come up in the last 20, 25 years that we are now so painfully aware of, make this imperative even more critical. The buildings that were put in the Canyon in the first place for Lawrence Berkeley Lab, despite all the good things that you do up there--and I was spending a summer there doing what I thought was pretty good research on transportation and public transit--they were put in a bad place to begin with, just as the Memorial Stadium was put in a bad place. Just as the things that were crammed up in that sector of our foothills, which are the most inaccessible places, the places closest to our seismic areas. Those were all bad siting decisions at the start. We made a mistake.
Why, why, with all of the intelligence that we have now, with all of the knowledge, ecological and physical knowledge, and with all of the scientists we have right there at LBNL, why are we continuing that mistake? Why make that mistake again? And I challenge all of you at LBNL. I agree that there are very good things that can be done in terms of research and at university institutions, but there is no way even if we were doing research on creek restoration--which I happen to love--and that was the supposed rationale for this building, I wouldn’t say it’s OK and go ahead to put that building there. That doesn’t make it OK. That’s the wrong approach. What we should be doing is going in and truly walking the walk, not just talking the talk, and that means making the difficult decisions of siting things in places where they make sense. Making sure that we do account for all of the environmental impacts, cumulative and otherwise, and that we don’t leave our decisions to a final comment of: “I’m afraid that some of these impacts are unavoidable.” I’m going to be submitting extensive written comments and I urge every one of you in this audience under the CEQA process to please submit your comments in writing, because they carry much more weight once they are there on paper and have the details of that weight. So thank you.
17.) Carole Schimmerling: I’m helping form a group called the Strawberry Creek Watershed Council. I’m also involved with the Urban Creeks Council. Everything that has been said so far is absolutely right on. I can’t begin to say anything that’s better, except that I just want to do a personal thing. I went up--Mr. Philliber was very kind--I went up and had a tour of what is one of the ugly or least unattractive industrial complexes that I have seen, and there it was on top of the hill, on earthquake faults, on fire zones, with a stand of eucalyptus trees that’s impregnated with tritium. And I was shocked at how many buildings there are. How big it is and ugly it was. And how it has to be one of the worst things we could have done to that Canyon in the hills, along with the stadium. Then, on another occasion, I went to look where they were building the nano-tech Molecular Foundry, and we were standing below it, which is where they now want to put the Helios Building on, and this sort of tells you why a lot of people don’t really have a lot of confidence in scientists. There was a scientist with us, and he was talking about how wonderful this Foundry was going to be. He didn’t talk about The Helios Building. This was more about than two years ago. One of things he said was that there’s not a problem here, because there’s no water here. There was a hydrant gushing water that the University was allowing to go down the hill, creating gullies, creating [erosion on] the hillside. There was Chicken Creek very close by on the west side that was very nearby, and I looked down at his feet and my feet, and there was water seeping up around of our shoes, but he said there was no water here.
Now when people who are willing to make stupid remarks like that because they don’t notice--or they’re just into denial--it’s hard to take what they have to say very seriously. Their reassurances are not very reassuring. And a representative group of widows of scientists is from the Lab who all died from a very rare form of brain cancer. Needless to say the Lab has denied that there is any chance that it might have happened because they worked at the Lab. I don’t know what work they were doing, but they did work at the Lab and they all died from the same thing. What Gray says is true about the health of our community; but don’t you people ever question whether you’re being exposed to things even in greater concentration than perhaps some of us down the hill might be? Don’t you think of these things? What does the Lab do about it? What kinds of records are there? What kinds of reports are made? Are they made public?
18.)Leuren Moret: I’m a geoscientist. I’m speaking this evening as official diplomatic representative of the former prime minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir. I’m also speaking for the Kapuna Pule, the elders of the Hawaiian priesthood who’ve asked me to speak for them and as an expert witness on depleted uranium for the Canadian Parliament. The University of California is a weapon of mass destruction. It always has been, and it will be known forever as the University that poisoned the world. I worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. I’m a UC Berkeley and a UC Davis alumni and I’m a whistle-blower at the Livermore Lab. The corporate University of California, which is busy privatizing itself right now because in the last Regents meeting that I attended, it came out that UC is getting 30% of their revenue from businesses, $4.63 billion dollars from their medical centers, $1.247 billion from auxiliary enterprises and extension--that means the football stadium up there--and $1.79 billion from museums, theatres, clinics and other activities.
So the nuclear weapons program is also being privatized just as they did in Britain in the 1980’s, and it’s now under the control of the City of London bankers, the international bankers. That’s really who British Petroleum represents. The reason we’re having so much trouble in courts is that all the judges are Masons. The Masons run the world. Climate change is a total hoax. It’s an absolute hoax, which the New World Order, the City of London and the Wall Street bankers are using to implement their goals. A lot of people don’t know that Gilman and Dwight--Gilman, who was the first president of UC, was a Skull and Bones man. UC was started and run and set up for Skull and Bones. Oil. The Manhattan Project was for oil. Henry Stimson and Alfred Loomis were Wall Street bankers. They were doing research on atomic weapons on their estates in the 1930’s. Vietnam was about depopulation and oil. Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Lebanon--that was all about oil. They used depleted uranium, which is a covert nuclear weapon. The DU is a global nano-particle doomsday machine. And this is the first image in October Nature, nanotechnology of nano-particles entering the nucleus of cells within 48 hours of exposure. It’s affecting and killing every single person on this earth--in fact, every living thing--because the military has released the equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombs since 1991. That’s 10 times more than during atmospheric testing.
19.) L A Wood: I am a Berkeley resident. Back in 1993, this particular site at the Chicken Creek was designated for a hazardous waste site. UC at that time chose not to build there because our City fire chief came out and said, “ You cannot defend the Canyon.” His name was Gary Cates. He said, “You can’t defend the Canyon. If you have an earthquake, you can’t get up there. You can’t build up there.” The Department of Transportation also saw the folly of that, and so they chose to put the waste facility down at Edwards. David Brower, who was an advocate against the project, basically said that it was a monument to stupidity to put that project up there. I would suggest to you today that to put the BP project up is comparable. I think UC has a terrible history of environmental management and environmental stewardship going back some sixty years up on the hill. A year ago, they went to the Department of Toxic Substance Control, the state agency. And this is a federal agency. Mind you, DOE is federal, but they went to the state agency and said, “Hey, we don’t want to clean up Old Town. We don’t want to clean up the ground water. We want a deed restriction.” I don’t believe you should ever be able allowed to any type of additional development up on the hill until you learn stewardship, until you start to clean up, and that’s not what you’re doing up there.
With the Chicken Creek up there, it didn’t happen a couple of years ago with the Nano-Foundry that they mowed down that area that used to be called Animal Husbandry Area. It was a beautiful area back in 1992, ’93, but systematically they pushed the corporation yard into the creek. They knocked down trees, as they have with little regard for the environment. And so when it’s come to this project, I’m absolutely against it. I think that enough people have said what the impacts will be locally. I think in a sense it’s bad science. I don’t think it should be on an island anywhere. I don’t think it should be done anywhere. That’s very, very clear. I think that LBNL should be building on their footprint, and I think that alternative sites should be the call and not to build in the Canyon. But we have this notion that we can continue to build in the Canyon, and that we can continue to ignore the geology, the de-watering. What’s LBNL going to do about the de-watering on the hill? Are they going to continue to do that?
My final comment is that we talk about this little project, and then we also talk about the Nano-Foundry, that each one of these projects on the hill demands a 100-year flood zone. It requires an infrastructure up there, and that causes you to dig into the ground and devastate the Canyon. I think that that is what it not being talked about. I would like to see you talk about the cumulative impact of all the developments that you are going to put up there in the next 20 years, and what that’s going to demand of you legally in the infrastructure, in storm drains and such. Two quick comments: One of them has to do with the Lab and the fact that it doesn’t have a buffer to the community. If you look around the country, you see these national labs doing this kind of work pretty unobstructed because they aren’t located in an area, like Berkeley, with no buffer to the community.
So I look at this particular facility and you’ve heard where people talk about the Nano-Foundry. I was on the Environmental Commission, and we asked that many of those questions be answered about its research we still don’t know. So you need to tell us in your reports just how far a buffer you think you need in order to have this work done up there, including if you think you’re going to combine it with the Nano-Foundry, then maybe you should be doing an evaluation of both of those together, and maybe a CEQA. Also, when I first got here, you said there wasn’t going to be a NIPA Investigation here, and then I heard someone from the public say something to the effect that there was a waiver of some sort. I know that the laboratory is allowed to do things because it’s a federal facility, and hence the NEPA also with the USEPA and its oversight. So is USEPA going to be doing oversite with this facility once it’s put in, or is it going to be a California agency? Is the California Department of Health Services going to deal with this radiation and other types of information? We need to know those things. I believe D.O.E. is a federal facility. It’s always been a federal facility. It’s sits up there. If you tear down the Bevatron, you do a NEPA. If you tear down a building on a University property up that LBNL uses NEPA? Why not a NEPA here, and I ask that you have one. We should have an in-depth look.
20.) Merrili Mitchel: My name’s Merrili Mitchell. My first point is--I have 4 points--is that the Helios Computer (CRT) should stay in Oakland. I don’t think it should be down in the Bay or some of these other places too close to the water. They need the jobs, new infrastructure, and improved housing, and the labs should spend their time not building new buildings that are going to make problems, like the Nano-Tech [Molecular Foundry], but cleaning up what’s already there, the things we’ve heard about the tritium, the PCB’s.
I have a little thing that I would like to read real quick about the nano-tech. This is from the Daily Cal, and they said that the Lawrence Berkeley Lab failed to meet the City’s new reporting requirements, and they were supposed to submit details of substances that they use, what they are used for, potential risks along with safety procedures, and how to deal with nanoparticles, and they didn’t do that. [Dr.] Nabil Al-Hadithy, head of toxics, said that the nanoparticles can pass through your skin, and Gene Bernardi from the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste, mentioned that they can get stuck in your lungs. I’d like to see more of this, but I want to see less of nano-tech. They don’t belong in a populated area. They need to go, too.
The Lab shouldn’t be making more pollution. They should be cleaning up what they have. The Helios Computer (CRT) seems to be there to measure effects of global warming. They seem to be there to measures the effects of global warming, the effects of the tides on hurricanes, and how fast it’s advancing, but I don’t think we need to measure it. They’re really scary things. I can’t begin to mention them in a minute. We know our country is the major cause of global warming, and so I believe that the Labs need to return to their original mission, which was energy conservation. That’s what we need all over, because whatever they make, they say, ‘This is good.” Because if we don’t conserve, that’s the best thing they could do for global warming. Since I have more time, I’ll just say that I’m very saddened because some of us were talking after the last meeting, that the folks here are not the folks who are going to vote on it. You guys are the PR people, nice smiling faces, and you’re getting an education; but, what about the people that are going to be voting on this?
21.) Redwood Mary: Hi, I’m Redwood Mary and I’m proud to be a resident of Berkeley. A city whose residents voted for Measure G, leading the nation on what steps a city can do to mitigate climate change. I am also involved at the UN level as an NGO delegate to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development for the past 10 years, and my colleagues have just returned from Bali, and I’ve been on Internet communications with them about the climate change talks. I’m going to put those comments in written comments later, but I can’t impress upon you how important it is to include the public voice, the local community, who are going to be impacted by new projects that are brought onboard. With Berkeley’s Measure G and climate change, what we are trying to do to change that? Does this project really fit in with our values and local laws? When we have a University that exempts itself from our own local laws, and continues to insist that their developments have no negative impacts, when we keep living with the outcomes, day after day, year after year. CEQA requires a thorough investigation of environmental impacts, not listing probable mitigations. How can you justify destroying the environment to create projects that that are mitigating climate change? Yes, we need to harness the sun’s energy for a secure sustainable future, but the agendas of this project are not all known, are not all subject to public scrutiny, therefore do not meet CEQA regulations for transparent assessment of environmental harm. Unfortunately, corporations such as BP are hiding under the skirts of this public University under the guise of providing a public benefit, when a corporation is actually benefiting at our expense and at the expense of the environment.
I think that this hearing is a joke. CEQA is very specific on what is required. We have some really huge environmental concerns, and there should be several hearings. There’s a lot of scientific unknowns. I also suggest looking into Section F in CEQA under energy. There’s also impacts on the effects on environment that have not even been paid attention to under that section. I think this project should be moved. I think it doesn’t belong in Strawberry Canyon, and as a resident of Berkeley, I think the University needs to start paying attention to people like me. I don’t want to have to sit in trees. I don’t want to have to lock down buildings to be heard. I don’t want to have to stand as a citizen to protect our environment, and also to have you follow our own laws. There has to be a change.
What’s missing from the agenda what’s missing from the reports, etc., etc. What’s really missing big-time from this is the public’s viewpoint. CEQA was passed not to be an obstacle to projects, not to be an obstacle to solutions, but to protect something that we find precious: the environment, our biosphere. We can not take these projects anywhere else except on this planet and what we’re doing here is leaving out the very species, the very biological systems, that we depend upon for life. They’re not given a say. They’re being destroyed, and no one is speaking up for them. And I think that’s immoral. I think that’s a shame. In 1996, the United States signed a very important document called Habitat Agenda in Istanbul. I suggest that everybody get a copy of that, because it talks about civil societies participation with government and with the private sector. Because governments alone cannot find solutions to the problems that are destroying the very thing that gives us life, and this CEQA demands of us a higher scrutiny that we’re not doing here.
I’m not against the University. I’m not against public/private sector partnership. What I’m against is being left out. You have a room here that is full of people, who are citizens of this city, who come from different disciplines, that have important on-the-ground experience, knowledge, and want to help, and we’re being left out. We’re given 3 minutes-- maybe 6 minutes--in one meeting to be part of this solution, and I think that’s criminal. So I want you to all to rethink about what you’re doing here, to rethink what the ramifications are. Because we have maybe one shot to do something different in the next maybe 10, 20 years. Thank you.
22.) Janice Thomas: Good Evening. I’m just going to riff off of the comments that I’ve heard tonight. The first thought that comes to mind is that the study of impacts has been way too narrow, way too local. In fact, there should be a global environmental impact analysis. That’s quite clear from hearing people talk. Since I live in the canyon, I’ve been following pretty closely Lab activities since 1993. I’m flooded with details. One of the things that occurs to me is that I saw Tom Klatt in the audience earlier. For those who don’t know, Tom Klatt is with UC Berkeley. He’s with the Office of Emergency Preparedness. He’s in charge of making sure that the vegetation in the Canyon is reduced to the extent possible. He was here because even though as the earlier Lab representative said, “This was the UC Regents’ land”, I’m afraid that that was obfuscating the issue. It’s very interesting that you brought that up because in fact LBNL land, I believe, has extended its boundary a bit into UC Berkeley jurisdiction. So that’s one of my questions: to clarify the history, because I do know that it’s happened over the past maybe five years, where UC Berkeley has given up some of its land to the Lab for purposes of vegetation management. So this brings up the question: Why do you need vegetation management more than UC Berkeley does? That’s because of the research you do. That is because you are in a wild fire area, and so clearly there’s a relationship between what you do, and wild fire, and hazards. That, in turn, has an effect on biological resources.
So a second question then is: Have you looked at the impact to biological resources, not just from the building, but from vegetation management? I would like to know that too. The clustering concept is very offensive, because it is based on its location and proximity to the Molecular Foundry, yet as it was previously stated, the Molecular Foundry was tiered off a 1987 document, and now we have this project that’s a stand-alone. So, please explain what relationship to any plan this has, and why therefore it has to be clustered in this location. This is very bogus reasoning. If it weren’t as serious as it were in terms of unknown health effects, unknown toxics, [and] unknown hydrology impacts--all of this is uncertainty because this is research that is uncertain. We do not know even what research is going to be done, do we? And tell me you do, and that’s a question. Do you know exactly what research you will be doing--exactly, with no impacts?
Thanks for the opportunity to speak again. Hearing the comments I’ve heard tonight, I just want to say to folks that I think that the Regents should be fired if they certify this EIR. I also think that we should lobby our legislators and change the UC mission statement if it allows this kind of co-operation with industry. The impacts, I believe, are underestimated. You mentioned that there were three significant and unavoidable impacts, and you mentioned that one of them was the view impact. The view generally is Strawberry Canyon. I think it can be argued that there is a cultural landscape. If the view is negatively impacted, then one could infer that the cultural landscape of the canyon is impacted. So I certainly hope that you define Strawberry Canyon. I think part of your argument might be that you will take pictures of this proposed structure from again Panoramic Hill or certain parts of Centennial. But, if you look at Rim Road--if you take a picture from Rim Road and you simulate the facility instead of just putting an arrow, which is what you’ve done in the draft EIR, I think people would be astonished, and I don’t see how any reasonable person could argue that there would not be a cumulative cultural resource impact. So, I really hope that you address that.
I also really object to your aerial view of the site. It was a fake green. If you looked at the initial study aerial view, it was much more yellow, and if you look at Google [satellite maps] it is much more yellow. That’s a small thing, but it’s really an example of how the record gets to create a narrative of how this is a wonderful project that’s sustainable in design. I’ve been listening to people and I’ve been thinking about the access road and blind curve. Do you intend to put a stoplight there for safety sake? If so, I think, that in itself is a negative impact. I’m thinking too of lighting at night, and whether or not there’s going to be impacts on the wildlife from [the] lighting of those buildings at night. Already that’s a problem with the Molecular Foundry, and it’s only compounded by this. Finally, in the one to two seconds I have left, how do you measure ecosystem? You’ve got to look at ecosystem impacts because, as it is, you define the nearest “wildlife” is 50 feet from the project site. You’ve got to get away from this quantified approach and get more holistic and gestalt, and look larger and more sensibly. Thank you.
23.) Leslie Emmington-Jones: I have had the privilege of serving on the Landmarks Preservation Commission. I was on the commission the evening that it made a motion, with an understanding that Strawberry Canyon has an eligibility for the National Registry for Historic Places. In the EIR, that’s rather “poo-pooed”, but the fact of the matter is that the canyon has been assumed by all of us to be a kind of public trust. And ownership may be appropriated by an entity that we can’t get to--or that can discount us--but I would put forward that we all understand it as a special place in the whole Bay Area, and certainly [for] anybody who comes to the Bay Area. I didn’t get very far in this EIR for whatever reason, but the first two pages is where I stopped. Because there [are] some assumptions in the first two pages that just bears some explanation. I’m just going to pose them to you in terms of two questions.
One is that CEQA law says that a public agency reviews the effort to explain the environmental impacts. It seems to me that there’s a huge conflict of interest here. Our country is very involved in conflicts of interests. As we get more and more corporate, and bodies of interests and economics merge continually to save their economic skins, the University is becoming merged with a world that is happy to self-approve itself. And I would ask you please tell us why you have the right to self-approve you own project?
The next question I would like to ask is the mission of the University. In the second, so many paragraphs down, you do as all these EIRS do, you flaunt that there is a mission given you from 1870, and I would say to you--and would please tell us--why are you are following the education of the student to become a civilized person in the state? Please answer the mission, how you understand the mission, and how it relates to this project, and why you have the sole right to be the public agency that reviews this project? Thank you.
24.) I’m Gray Breckin. I’m a historical geographer, and I’m a visiting scholar here at the University where I got my BA, my MA, and my PHD, so I’ve been around here for 40 years as a matter of fact. I first came to UC Berkeley in 1967, and that was about four years after I read a book that had a profound influence on the rest of my life. It was written by a woman named Rachel Carson. It was called Silent Spring. I’m sure many of you have read it. You might remember that the beginning of Silent Spring is an eloquent 691-word parable which encapsulates the idea of a world in which everything is dying or has died. Rachel Carson wound up the beautiful and terrifying vision up by saying the people had done it to themselves.
Many people think that Silent Spring is about pesticides. In fact, what it’s really about is Carson’s understanding that once you produce toxics, there is no way that you can contain them. They will get into the environment, that there is no way that you can contain them. When those toxics are biological, or nano-technological, or radiological, it becomes even more terrifying. As a resident of Berkeley, I was worried that we have an industrial zone on the West side of the City along the railroad tracks. I discovered that there is a much larger and more worrisome zone up in the hills, which Carole Schimmerling talked about. It’s huge. It’s terrifying when you get up there
. I went to hear a talk at the Molecular Foundry. It was not easy to do so. And I found that this is not only a facility that, as people have said, that was built up there with little notice and with a negative declaration. I discovered when I was up there that they are venting experimental nano-particles over the Bay Area, and almost nobody that I know of in the Bay Area understands that this material is being vented. I don’t think that there is any way that we can control it or to contain it as a matter of fact. I am extremely scared about this stuff, and the idea that it will be joined with a bio-technological facility, which is how I understand it from this presentation, is why these two must be together. This is a very good reason I think for everybody in the Bay Area to be extremely concerned about what this means for all of us. Thank you very much.
25.) Gianna Ranuzzi: I hesitated to talk because I hadn’t prepared anything. I do appreciate all of the sage comments that we have had tonight. One thing is that when you talk about the reasons for rejecting alternative sights, I don’t think they are very profound, because I think you can meet the requirements if the projects--the CRT and the Helios--were built elsewhere. It says here for the CRT that the alternative outside location wouldn’t work because “the objective is to expand the functionality of the Lab’s facilities, provide for cross-disciplinary research, or foster collaborative work environments among researchers, since it would result in a division of resources between locations.” Mr. Shively talked about the inadequate power supplies, which you can always build power supplies, and it said that the “location of the CRT could be considered, but was rejected because it wasn’t considered in the UC 2020 LRPD.” Well, I think it could be amended. I think that we don’t have to be in the same location to foster collaborative research. As I mentioned before with the CRT public comment, there’s such a thing as telecommunication. He [Mr. Shively] talked about a shuttle bus.
What I’ve heard tonight is when people are talking on a global perspective, there’s been some snickering from some people in the audience, and they’re missing the point. I think the main point has been about location. I don’t want to be an activist. I don’t want to be here, but sometimes we have to take a stand, and we have to be responsible, even though I am not a scientist. I want to understand why you want to build in Strawberry Canyon. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. I think that we have to talk about the cumulative report and the cumulative aspects versus the divide-and-conquer ideas. Divide-and-conquer is to have the projects be stand-alone. Divide-and-conquer is when we were told there would be an extended comment period for the Helios Project, but no reasons are given for the CRT project. I want to know what reasons, why the CRT Project comment period is not extended, and I would like that to be of public record. I would also like to be of public record the written comments, which were for the preparation of the draft EIR [for the CRT]. I worked on my comment, and would also like to hear other people’s comments. This is on file, but not of public access. This makes no sense. Thank you.
26.) Terri Compost: I just want to note that the fine citizenry of Berkeley has come out, and I’ve been listening carefully and I’ve heard unanimity--complete consensus--from this crowd that we don’t believe this lab should be built as proposed, and that it should not be built in Strawberry Canyon. So if we have a democracy, and if we have a process that’s meaningful, I would imagine that plan would not go forward as it is. Actually, I would like to echo Janice Thomas, that if it does, we should fire the Regents of the University of California. Thank you.
-transcribed by G. Ranuzzi
Helios, BP Program Draw Fire from Public During Environmental Hearing
By Richard Brenneman, Berkeley Daily Planet, Friday December 21, 2007
Berkeley environmentalist Sylvia McLaughlin, who turns 91 next week, spoke at a public hearing Monday to criticize the Helios building planned for LBNL and the research that will happen there. Photograph by Richard Brenneman.
The planned BP biofuel lab, designed to house a multinational oil giant’s $500 million research program, means profits without honor, Berkeley residents declared Monday night.
Every speaker who commented during the 150-minute Draft Environmental Impact Report hearing had harsh things to say about the Helios building at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
Critics targeted the lab’s location on the hillside above Strawberry Canyon, its impacts on the city of Berkeley and the potential local and global impacts of the research planned there by one of the world’s leading oil companies.
The principal tenant of the $150 million facility will be the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), the research program funded by BP which draws on researchers from UC Berkeley, LBNL and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Using genetic technology, BP hopes the program will develop patented crops they can plant in Third World nations to be converted by genetically engineered microbes into fuels to power the world’s cars, trucks, buses and planes.
Other projects planned under the EBI banner include microbes to harvest otherwise inaccessible oil from nearly depleted wells and to transform coal into vehicle fuels.
Many speakers referred to the existing problems of soil and water contamination by radioactive tritium and the toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Leading off the criticism was retired UC Berkeley engineering professor John Shiveley, whose credentials included stints at the lab and as the university’s principal engineer, with design responsibility for projects on- and off-campus. He said that the choice of sites was “a major mistake” that combined with a second imposing structure planned for the lab would be certain to create significant transportation problems.
The university’s Richmond Field Station offered a far better site, he said, and travel times from the main campus would be only five minutes longer to the Richmond site than to the hillside location.
“Totally inappropriate,” said Berkeley environmentalist Sylvia McLaughlin, commenting on the Strawberry Creek site for the Helios lab, citing fire danger, unstable soil, the proximity to the Hayward fault and overburdened streets.
McLaughlin, who turns 91 next week, also cautioned about potential contamination from research with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) at the lab, and said the facility would be better located along the new regional “Green Corridor” closer to the bay shoreline.
Terri Compost brought a pitcher of Strawberry Creek water, which she offered to the lab officials. If you trust the university to protect the environment, she said, “feel free to partake of our water.”
She also asked if the public would have access to the nature and dangers of research being conducted at the laboratory, predicting “a grim future” in a world with GMOs.
New Dust Bowl?
Besides questions raised by the site itself, Barbara Robben said, other environmental impacts domestically could be a move now underway in Washington to open up formerly closed fallow lands to fuel crops, which raises the specter of a new Dust Bowl, and she said global planting raises even more questions.
During the drought years in the 1930s , vast dust storms swept the American heartland, triggered in part by erosion spawned by the farming of environmentally senstive areas. Subsequent federal programs created reserves for the land, and compensated farmers with payments.
“I would like you to address where you are going to grow these crops,” Robben said.
Phila Rogers, who retired from LBNL after 20 years of part-time work as a science writer during “a kinder, gentler time,” said that the Audubon Society’s annual bird survey the day before had found 53 species in the canyon, including the Golden Eagle. Six endangered species nest in the area, she said.
Locate the lab somewhere else, she urged, rather than in “this incredible riparian resource that can enrich our lives and those of the creatures that choose to live there.”
Nancy Schimmel, who has been walking trails in Strawberry Canyon since she first came to Cal as a freshman in 1952, said the building “is not going to do enough good in the world to offset the damage to the canyon.”
“Climate change is being expropriated by Big Oil,” she concluded.
UC Berkeley student Peter Ralph asked for a specific evaluation of the life forms to be engineered at the lab and an account of what steps would be taken to prevent plants like miscanthus—a fast-growing relative of sugar cane—and GMO microbes that play a key role in research plans from escaping into the canyon environment.
Amy Beaton, who regularly appears at protests clad as a cheerleader for the “BP Bears,” asked to see specific plans “before this world is further exposed.”
Phil Price, another lab employee, said it was painful to hear the lab boasting of its role in developing energy-saving technology when LBNL had cut the shuttle service mandated in its earlier Long Range Development Plan as a mitigation for the facility’s environmental impacts.
He said other sites with buildings already earmarked for demolition would be better options than a pristine site, and accused the institution of manipulating its EIR by posing intentionally unworkable options as the legally required alternatives.
“I approve of the research,” he said, “but the lab can go elsewhere, or to the Richmond Field Station.”
“This machine needs to be stopped, period,” said Zachary Running Wolf, the Native American activist who inaugurated the ongoing tree-sit at Memorial Stadium. “They’re proposing to rape” the Amazon and Central America, he said, referring to possible sites for planting the fuel crops developed at the lab.
“I am concerned that a public school is being influenced by a corporation,” he said.
“BP actually stands for Bloody Profit,” said Marcella Sadowski, a UC Berkeley student. “Where is this stuff going to be planted?” she asked. BP has already displaced indigenous peoples in Colombia in its search for oil, and more would be displaced in that country and throughout the Amazon basin by GMO fuel crops, she said.
“This money is covered with the blood of indigenous people,” she said, adding that BP’s past record in other countries needed to be addressed.
Tom Kelly said the lab—if it’s built at all—should be sited in the Richmond Field Station. And when it is built, construction should be to the highest, Platinum, environmental certification, not the easily obtained lower Silver ranking as currently planned.
“This is not the place another building should be built in what should be a pristine Strawberry Creek watershed,” a site with a history of landslide and “crisscrossed with earthquake faults,” said Gene Bernardi of the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste.
She said British Petroleum—BP’s earlier corporate name—was working with lab officials to make the lab and university “more privatized and corporatized than it was before.”
“We shouldn’t be taking away land used by indigenous people to grow crops,” she concluded.
Another UC Berkeley student who identified himself only as “anonymous 22” said that LBNL was legally required but failed to examine all areas where the project would have both direct and indirect impacts—including global warming.
Noting that EBI research also aimed to develop microbes to recover otherwise inaccessible oil and gas reserves, further climate impacts should be examined. He cited the recent announcement that BP planned to extract oil from the tar sands of Canada, a project one British newspaper, the Independent, headlined “‘The biggest environmental crime in history.’”
Another student, Matthew Taylor, said reality itself refuted promises of climate improvement raised by agricultural fuel boosters. “Indonesia has gone from 17th to number three” in greenhouse gas emissions, he said, due to forest burning to clean land for palm trees grown for biofuels.
Juliet Lamont, a UC Berkeley graduate and former lab employee who now works as an environmental consultant, said the decision to build the lab in Strawberry Canyon “was a bad idea to begin with,” one that shouldn’t be reinforced with even more new construction.
Carole Schemmerling, a member of the Urban Creeks Council who is now forming a group called the Strawberry Creek Watershed Council, said the idea of siting the lab, “one of the least attractive industrial facilities I’ve ever seen” was “one of the worst things we could have done to the canyon.”
She said lab scientists have ignored the serious problems posed by the site’s abundant groundwater.
One speaker pushed the rhetoric over the top, depicting UC Berkeley as the tool of a cabal of British bankers, Freemasons and Skull and Bones members, and declaring that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been put in place by a prominent Jewish banker from London.
Down to earth
Janice Thomas, a neighborhood activist from Panoramic Hill and a near neighbor of the project, said the draft EIR’s focus had been “way too narrow, way too local” when the focus should have been on the project’s global environment impacts.
Thomas asked the lab to explain why the buildings had to be grouped in what officials called the nanotechnology cluster—referring to work with microscopic-sized particles, and asked: “Do you know exactly what research you will be doing?”
Lesley Emmington, a preservationist and former member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, faulted the draft report for dismissing the notion raised by the commission that the canyon was eligible as a cultural landscape for entry into the National Register of Historic Places.
“We all understand it as a special place in the whole Bay Area,” she said.
Emmington said the fact that the same institution that proposed the project also served as the body to certify its environmental status raised serious questions: “I urge you please to tell me why you have the right to self-approve” the project.