Critics Ask for More Time to Consider Lab Projects

Tuesday December 11, 2007

A prominent environmental attorney and a Berkeley neighborhood activist are asking UC Berkeley to extend the review period for two projects at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

Michael Lozeau made his plea in a letter Dec. 4 to UC President Robert Dynes, UC Board of Regents President Richard Blum, lab director Steven Chu and two other lab officials. 

He asked for additional hearings on the environmental reviews of the Helios Building—the site of the $500 million BP agrofuel program and the Computational Research and Theory Facility. 

The lab held one hearing—on the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for CRT building—Monday night. The Helios DEIR hearing will be held on the 17th, in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave., starting at 6:30 p.m. 

As currently scheduled, the public comment periods end on Jan. 4 for the CRT building and Jan. 11 for the Helios building. 

Lozeau wrote that additional hearings should be held in January because many concerned Berkeley residents will be out of town during the holiday season. 

“The timing of the EIRs and respective comment periods does not serve the community well and breeds substantial distrust and wariness amongst the interested community,” he wrote. 

Lozeau asked the lab to extend the comment period by 30 days and to schedule two additional hearings, one on each project, in January. 

The attorney, who specializes in environmental law cases, represents the Panoramic Hill Association in their suit challenging the gym planned for a site along the western wall of Memorial Stadium as well as other building plans included in what the university calls the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects. 

A decision in that case, which also hinges on questions involving an EIR, is expected within the next few weeks. 

His letter to the land and UC officials was sent as a private citizen, said Janice Thomas, a PHA member who is also seeking an extension of the environmental review for the lab buildings. 

Thomas said the two projects represent 31 percent of a planned 980,000 square feet of new construction planned at the lab through 2025, and should be considered in the context of the cumulative impacts of the lab’s building plans. 

“To get a sense of the amount of construction proposed, consider a large resident development in the suburbs, on undeveloped land, that would be the equivalent of 150 houses, each of 2,000 square feet,” she said. 

Asked for the lab’s response, Chief Public Information Officer Ron Kolb e-mailed, “I don't believe Steve Chu has had a chance to respond yet, but when he does, we will share it with you.”