Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
For immediate release: July 11, 2007
Northern California Communities Defeat Bio-Warfare Agent Research Proposal
at Livermore Lab Site 300
Activists and Business Owners Rejoice as Dept. of Homeland Security Rejects Livermore Lab Application for National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF); Claim Public Opposition Tipped the Scales
for more information, contact:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Bob Sarvey, Business Owner and opposition leader in Tracy, (209) 835-7162
TRACY - Following a year of community outreach, meetings with elected officials, neighborhood "house parties", door to door petitioning, Tracy City Council action, and other escalating opposition, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) apparently got the message. There is no "community acceptance" for a bio-warfare agent research facility in Northern California.
Today, elected officials leaked the names of the 5 finalist locations for the Dept. of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF. Livermore Lab's Site 300 is NOT on the list, despite heavy lobbying by the Lab and the University of California, which manages Livermore Lab and submitted its NBAF application.
The NBAF will be one of the largest and most dangerous biodefense facilities in the world. Reportedly, the "finalist" contenders to house NBAF are located in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.
Local grassroots organizing carried the day in eliminating Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range from consideration. Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group that monitors Livermore Lab, and its allies generated more than 7,000 calls and letters to the Department of Homeland Security opposing a bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300.
The group collected more than 2,000 paper petitions against the bio-facility, many of them distributed from neighbor to neighbor and through Bob Sarvey's shoe store in Tracy. In addition, the group's members wrote numerous letters to the editor and spoke out at Tracy City Council and other key meetings.
On Tri-Valley CAREs' behalf, Working Assets Long Distance asked its local customers if they would be willing to pay a small fee to send a letter-gram telling DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to stop the bio-lab from locating at Site 300 -- and more than 3,000 did so. Hundreds more made phone calls.
A colleague organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, sponsored an Internet forum that enabled nearly 2,000 people to send their email messages opposing the facility to DHS.
And, following advocacy from community members, the Tracy City Council, Site 300's closest neighbor, voted in January 2007 to oppose the bio-lab. The City of Tracy then sent a letter to DHS announcing its opposition.
According to Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs, "The community opposition was impressive. So many bright lights came out to oppose this dangerous bio-warfare agent research proposal. I believe it was public outcry that caused Homeland Security to eliminate Site 300 from consideration."
Kelley continued, "I am ecstatic that we were able to achieve this victory and I salute all the community members who spoke out."
The proposed NBAF will cover 520,000 square feet, roughly the size of 5 Wal-Mart stores. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity.
Biosafety Level-3 facilities experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research at NBAF will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to test on large animals, according to the DHS request for proposals in the federal register.
Local businessman and resident Bob Sarvey said today, "I am glad that we in Tracy will not be subjected to both increased bomb testing at Site 300 and live anthrax, plague, bird flu and other pathogens. I am celebrating this victory while continuing opposition to further bomb testing with depleted uranium at the site. The end goal is to obtain cleanup of existing contamination and safe research at Site 300."
Moreover, building this research lab at Site 300 would have meant collocating bio-warfare agent research with nuclear weapons, sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Building this facility at Site 300 would have weakened the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)," stated Loulena Miles, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Today, there exists a bright line, with no country locating its advanced biological warfare research in classified nuclear weapons facilities. I am particularly joyful that the rejection of Site 300 by DHS preserves this clear and important distinction."
Miles elaborated, "If the line is ever breached, collocating 'bugs and bombs' will raise suspicions worldwide about the intent of the U.S. biodefense program. This will have a corrosive effect on universal acceptance of the BWC." The Biological Weapons Convention is the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons.
Additionally, the NBAF is part of what many community groups are calling an unnecessary and dangerous "biodefense building boom."
Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies have asked Congress and the Bush Administration for a national "needs assessment" to be undertaken. This logical first step would provide the government and the public with an accurate picture of what biodefense capabilities presently exist in the United States, and what if any additional capability is needed.
Stated Kelley, "It is shocking that no such overarching assessment exists and that each federal agency is moving forward willy-nilly with its own proposals for more labs."
This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan to stand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation of these exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles.
Homeland Security will make the final site selection for NBAF by October 2008. The Environmental Impact Statement process, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, is now slated to begin immediately.