Lab Sets EIR Hearings on EBI, Computer Labs

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday December 04, 2007

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will hold hearings on draft environmental impact reports (EIR) on two major buildings in coming weeks. 

The first hearing, set for Dec. 10, will focus on the 140,000-square-foot Computational Research and Theory (CRT) Building. 

Planning Commission Chair James Samuels criticized the design during the commission’s meeting two weeks ago, but he had praise for the second structure, the Helios Energy Research Facility (HERF). 

The hearing on the second building, which is designed to house the controversial $500 million biofuel research program sponsored by BP, plc, the former British Petroleum, is set for Dec. 17. 

Both hearings will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

The 160,000-square-foot Helios building will house the Energy Biosciences Institute, the name BP has given the research effort the multinational oil company hopes will develop crops to be farmed in the tropics for transformation by genetically engineered microbes into vehicle fuels. 

The draft EIRs are both available online. For the CRT building, see www.lbl.gov/community/CRT, and for the HERF building, see www.lbl.gov/community/helios. 

The two structures are located at opposite ends of the 200-acre lab property in the Berkeley hills. 

The Berkeley Planning Commission will hear a lab presentation on the projects Dec. 19, when the commissioners will offer responses of their own. 

Debra Sanderson, the city’s land use planning manager, said her boss, city Planning and Development Director Dan Marks, will be providing an official response as well. 

The final EIR must address concerns raised during the current comment period, which extends through Jan. 4 for the CRT Building and Jan. 11 for the Helios/EBI facility. 

The final EIRs will be issued later in January, with the UC Board of Regents slated to approve the EIRs in March. 

If the regents approve, construction on the Helios building is to begin in spring 2008, with completion by fall 2010. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged $40 million in state bond funds towards construction costs. 

Work on the CRT building should begin in June 2008, with completion set for May 2011.