Rachel's Precaution Reporter #30, March 22, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The City of Berkeley, California, formally adopted a "Precautionary Principle" ordinance March 21.]

The City Council of Berkeley, California formally adopted an ordinance entitled "Precautionary Principle" March 21. The Council had approved a "first reading" of the ordinance March 7 but final approval had to wait for a "second reading" March 21.

The ordinance, as passed, defines the city's "precautionary principle policy as follows:

"City of Berkeley Precautionary Principle policy: Where threats of serious or irreversible damage to people or nature exist, lack of full scientific certainty about cause and effect shall not be viewed as sufficient reason for the City to postpone measures to prevent the degradation of the environment or protect human health. Any gaps in scientific data uncovered by the examination of alternatives will provide guideposts for future research, but will not prevent protective action being taken by the City. As new scientific data become available, the City will review its decisions and make adjustments when warranted."

And the new ordinance defines the elements of a "precautionary approach" this way:

"Precautionary Principle approach" shall mean a course of action and decision-making by the City guided by the following tenets:

1. Anticipatory Action: Anticipatory action may prevent harm. Government, business, community groups, and the public share this responsibility.

2. Right to Know: The community has a right to know complete and accurate information on potential health and environmental impacts associated with the selection of products, services, operations or plans.

3. Alternatives Assessment: Examine a full range of alternatives and select the alternative with the least potential impact on health and the environment including the alternative of doing nothing.

4. Consideration of Significant Costs: Consider significant short-term and long-term costs in comparing product alternatives, when feasible. This includes evaluation of significant costs expected during the lifetime of a product, (e.g. raw materials, manufacturing and production, transportation, use, clean-up, acquisition, extended warranties, operation, supplies, maintenance, disposal costs, long and short-term environmental and health impacts); and that expected lifetime compared to other alternatives.

5. Participatory Decision Process: Decisions applying the Precautionary Principle should be transparent, participatory by including community input, and informed by the best available information.

The full text of the new Berkeley precaution ordinance can be found here.