Strawberry Growers Going Organic Should Utilize Preserved Land

Many strawberry farmers in California have relied on methyl bromide because it is considered “the most effective chemical to control soil-borne pathogens and weeds.” But using this pesticide also comes at a cost: the pesticide is hazardous to humans and the environment, namely because of its negative impact on the ozone layer. Although these consequences have been known since 1987, and its’ use has been restricted in the United States, California farmers continue to depend on the pesticide legally as a result of EPA’s “critical use exemption.” To qualify for the “critical use exemption,” methyl bromide users must believe they have “no technically and economically feasible alternatives” and fill out the required application.

However, California strawberry farmers who continue to use methyl bromide need to consider alternatives to this pesticide because it can no longer be used after this year. Some California famers are considering going organic because of the profitability of organic produce, but they worry about the increase in costs associated with going organic while not reaping the benefits during the requisite transition period and the lack of affordable land in the area.

One option that addresses both issues is for strawberry growers in the Bay Area to acquire land that has a conservation easement attached to it. Many NGO’s, including Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), purchase land and resell it subject to a conservation easement in order to ensure that the land continues to be open space and undeveloped. The restrictions placed on the land allow land users, including farmers, to purchase or rent it at a reduced price. Other organic farmers have utilized this approach and find it beneficial and cost-efficient. Acquiring land at a reduced price will also lessen the financial issues associated with transitioning to organic farming because money is being saved on land-use costs. Strawberry farmers who are considering going organic should work with NGO’s in order to secure affordable land in the Bay Area.

-Courtney Eggleston, SCU Law 3L

Fines for Record-keeping Failures Key to Continual Success of RCRA

Recently, Whole Foods, a health foods grocery chain was fined $3.5 million for violating hazardous waste reporting requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company failed to adequately record and catalog its hazardous waste in stores in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The store issued a statement explaining that it failed to properly report some of the returned products, which qualify as hazardous waste (nail polish, bleach, hand sanitizer, etc.). The company has agreed to pay the fine, in addition to implementing training and providing funding to educate other businesses.

Although this fine may seem harsh or unwarranted, given that the company was not accused of improperly disposing of hazardous waste, and the violation was limited to inadequate record keeping, the fine is warranted nonetheless given how the hazardous waste statute was designed to work. In order to protect human health and the environment from improper treatment or illegal dumping, as well as to reduce the amount of hazardous waste that is generated nationwide, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) gives the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) the power to regulate hazardous waste “from cradle-to-grave.” This means that hazardous waste is tracked throughout its life-cycle, primarily by way of record keeping by multiple parties, including generators and transporters of the hazardous waste.

For this tracking safeguard to work effectively against illegal dumping or other improper disposal, fines must be sufficiently serious to ensure compliance and to discourage a company’s choice to simply opt for paying the fine. Otherwise, RCRA’s “cradle-to-grave” approach would fail. In the Whole Foods case, the substantial fine issued unambiguously signals to other entities the importance of record-keeping and the significant costs they may face if they do not comply with RCRA’s reporting requirements.

Courtney Eggleston, 3L

Joining Forces: Protest at Standing Rock a Modern Day Warren County

Although 43 years later, the current pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota parallel the activism that spurred the environmental justice movement in Warren County, North Carolina. These protests have additional distinctions aside from their difference in time and location. For example, the minority group that faces or faced immediate harm from development (African Americans in Warren County and Native Americans in North Dakota) and the type of land alteration proposed (construction of a landfill in Warren County and a pipeline in North Dakota). However, aside from these differences, both instances of activism share an important similarity.

Both groups utilized other contemporaneously occurring groups and movements to strengthen the effectiveness of their demonstrations. In Warren County, civil rights groups and religious leaders joined local residents. In North Dakota, the Sioux tribe has the support of other Native American tribes, environmentalists, and leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement among others. The Black Lives Matter organization issued a statement on their website equating the threat of contamination into the Missouri River by the proposed pipeline to the current lead contamination in Flint Michigan drinking water.

In this way, both instances of activism gained momentum and power by banning with movements and groups with complimentary beliefs and ideologies. These sets of protests demonstrate the power of unity, particularly for minority groups; when able to unite, minority groups can enact change that might not be possible individually.

The Black Lives Matter organization goes a step further in their statement on the Standing Rock activism. They assert that the protest in North Dakota is a protest for all of us because it is “[a] movement for the recognition that water is life.” By framing the issue in such general terms, the Black Lives Matter Movement has made the Standing Rock movement a human-rights issue and by doing this will likely garner even more widespread support. Both the Warren County and the North Dakota movement have drawn upon support of others to effect change, specifically in the form of environmental awareness. The Sioux tribe should utilize environmental arguments that frame the pipeline issue in broad terms, such as the right for all to have access to clean water, in order to maximize their support.

Courtney Eggleston, 3L