Rachel's Precaution Reporter #35
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

From: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors ..............[This story printer-friendly]
April 3, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Board of Supervisors of Mendocino County, California has drafted a precautionary principle ordinance, which the Board will decide whether to adopt on June 27. For a bit of background, see the next story in this issue of Rachel's Precaution Reporter.]

The Board of Supervisors finds and declares that:

A. Every resident, present and future, of Mendocino County has an equal right to a healthy and safe environment. This requires that our air, water, earth, and food be of a sufficiently high standard that individuals and communities can live healthy, fulfilling, and dignified lives. The duty to enhance, protect and preserve Mendocino County's environment, community health, and quality of life rests on the shoulders of local government, residents, citizen groups, and businesses alike.

B. Mendocino County and its communities have a history of making choices based on the least environmentally harmful alternatives, thereby challenging traditional assumptions about risk management. Numerous protective county ordinances and policies include: 1) Barring the aerial application of phenoxy-based herbicides; 2) Protecting water quality by requiring an environmental impact statement when an industrial development is proposed for siting where quality impacts are likely; 3) Reserving adequate stream flows for protection of fish, wildlife habitat, and other instream use; 4) Maintaining an outstanding and award winning rural household hazardous waste program; 5) Restricting the cultivation of genetically modified crops and livestock; and 6) Reducing pesticide applications on school properties.

C. Historically, environmentally harmful activities have only been stopped after they have manifested extreme environmental degradation or major harm to people. The delay between first knowledge of harm and appropriate action to deal with it can be measured in human lives cut short and irreversible environmental damage.

D. The Precautionary Principle and its tenets provide overarching guidance for the County and its individual departments to maintain and develop policies and regulations for a healthier Mendocino County. The Precautionary Principle will not only strengthen the foundation of existing laws, policies and procedures but also assist in the development of a healthy environment for current and future generations.

E. A central element of the precautionary approach is the careful assessment of available alternatives using the best available science. An alternatives assessment examines a broad range of options in order to present the public with different effects of different options considering short-term versus long-term benefits and costs, and evaluating and comparing the effects of each option. This reveals options with fewer potential effects and/or greater potential benefits to health and the natural environment. This process allows fundamental questions to be asked: "Is the potentially harmful activity necessary?" "What less harmful options are available?" and "How little damage is possible?"

F. The alternatives assessment is also a public process because the public bears the ecological and health benefits and consequences of environmental decisions. A government's course of action is necessarily enriched by broadly based public participation when a full range of alternatives is considered based on input from diverse individuals and groups. The public should be able to suggest alternatives to be examined. For each alternative, the public should consider both immediate and long-term benefits and consequences, as well as possible impacts to the local economy. One of the goals of the Precautionary Principle is to include residents as equal partners in decisions affecting their health and environment.

G. Mendocino County looks forward to the time when the County generates more power from local renewable resources, when building and planning incorporates greater use of green building techniques, when more of our waste is recycled, when our rivers and streams adequately sustain our fisheries, when groundwater is free from contaminants, and when our foods are cultivated using less intensive methods. The Precautionary Principle provides guidance to help us attain these goals as we enact laws and develop policies in such areas as transportation, construction, land use, water, energy, health, recreation, community relations, purchasing, agriculture, and education.

H. Realizing these goals and achieving a society living respectfully within the bounds of nature will take a behavioral as well as technological revolution. A precautionary approach to decision-making will move Mendocino County beyond finding cures for environmental ills to preventing the ills before they can do harm. The Mendocino County Precautionary Principle The following shall constitute the Mendocino County Precautionary Principle Policy. All officers, boards, commissions, and departments of the County shall apply the Precautionary Principle in conducting County affairs. In adopting the Precautionary Principle policy, Mendocino County preserves the authority to protect the safety and welfare of its residents.

The Precautionary Principle requires a thorough exploration and a careful analysis of a wide range of alternatives. Based on the best available science, the Precautionary Principle requires the selection of the alternative that presents the least potential threat to human health and the County's natural systems. Public participation and an open and transparent decision making process are critical to finding and selecting alternatives. 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 County to postpone cost effective measures to prevent the degradation of the environment or protect the health of its residents. Any gaps in scientific data uncovered by the examination of alternatives will provide a guidepost for future research, but will not prevent protective action from being taken by the County. As new scientific data become available, the County will review its decisions and make adjustments when warranted. Where there are reasonable grounds for concern, the precautionary approach to decision- making is meant to help reduce harm by triggering a process to select the least potential threat. The essential elements of the Precautionary Principle approach to decision-making include:

1. Anticipatory Action: There is a duty to take anticipatory action to prevent harm. Government, business, and community groups, as well as the general public, share this responsibility.

2. Right to Know: The community has a right to know complete and accurate information on potential human health and environmental impacts associated with the selection of products, services, operations or plans. The burden to supply this information lies with the proponent, not with the general public.

3. Alternatives Assessment: An obligation exists to examine a full range of alternatives and select the alternative with the least potential impact on human health and the environment, including the alternative of doing nothing.

4. Full Cost Accounting: When evaluating potential alternatives, there is a duty to consider all the reasonably foreseeable short and long- term costs and benefits to public as well as private sectors of the community, even if such costs are not reflected in the price. Some of these costs and benefits may include raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, cleanup, eventual disposal, labor, energy, health, safety, and job-creation.

5. Participatory Decision-Making Process: Decisions applying the Precautionary Principle must be transparent, participatory, and informed by the best available information. The County will make a reasonable effort to include the public in an appropriate manner when making decisions that may affect the environment, health, and quality of life.

Policy Implementation and Three-Year Review

The implementation of this policy will begin with a pilot project utilizing two (2) County Departments to be selected by the County Executive Office. Implementation guidelines for the precautionary principle will be developed during this initial phase that will then be disseminated to other county departments for use and implementation. During this phase the participating departments will report to the CEO on a quarterly basis as to their progress in developing and use of precautionary principle guidelines. No later than three years from the adoption of this policy the Executive Office shall submit a report to the Board of Supervisors on the implementation and results of the Precautionary Principle Policy. Thereafter, the Executive Office will conduct and present an annual report of the County's application of these principles and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. The evaluation will be presented on a date as determined by the Chief Executive Officer.

Policy Limitation

The Board of Supervisors, in accordance with the policy implementation requirements set forth above, directs all officers, boards, commissions, and departments of the County to take a precautionary approach and evaluate alternatives when making decisions that could impact health and the environment, especially where those actions could pose threats of serious harm or irreversible damage. This policy does not impose on its officers and employees, an obligation for breach of which it is liable in monetary damages to any person who claims that such breach proximately caused injury nor may this policy provide any basis for any other judicial relief including, but not limited to a writ of mandamus or an injunction. In adopting this policy, the Board of Supervisors does not intend to authorize or require the disclosure to the public of any proprietary information protected under the laws of the State of California.


From: Environmental Commons ..............................[This story printer-friendly]
April 17, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: This note from Environmental Commons offers some background on the Mendocino County, California, precautionary principle ordinance, and urges citizens to attend the June 27 meeting in Ukiah, California to support a "Yes" vote on precaution by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors.]

On June 27, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors will hear and vote on whether to adopt a Precautionary Principle Policy for the County. The final draft is available here: MendoPrecaution.org/2 006-04MendocinoPrecautionary.pdf

Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 Time: 1:30 PM Location: Supervisors Chambers, 501 Low Gap Rd., Ukiah, CA

The Precautionary Principle has been 'in study' since October 2005. The study process has been enlightening for all involved and many department heads, staff, and members of the public are in favor of the Precautionary Principle's adoption. The hearing on June 27 presents an opportunity to voice your support for Mendocino County's first environmental policy -- and one that states the value of public input, transparency, full-cost accounting, and guidance towards an alternative with the least potential impact on human health and the environment.

What You Can Do

1. Please plan on attending the Board of Supervisors hearing on this issue. If you cannot attend the hearing, please consider faxing or emailing a letter of support to the Board of Supervisors, Cc:ing your district Supervisor.

Board of Supervisors Fax: (707) 463-4245 Email: bos@co.mendocino.ca.us

2. If you can attend the hearing on June 27th, plan on speaking in support of the Precautionary Principle. You will be be provided 2-3 minutes or you can simply state your support for the Precautionary Principle.

3. Endorse the Precautionary Principle in Mendocino County decision- making!

Who Supports the Precautionary Principle?

For a list of those who have endorsed the Precautionary Principle, please see our website, http://MendoPrecaution.org (click on list of endorsers in left margin).

For more information: See MendoPrecaution.org or contact: info@EnvironmentalCommons.org, (707) 884-5002.

-- Britt Bailey, Director Environmental Commons PO Box 1135 Gualala, CA 95445 (707) 884-5002 environmentalcommons.org


From: International POPS Elimination Network ..............[This story printer-friendly]
February 6, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: POPs are persistent organic pollutants -- nasty chemicals that persist in the environment, enter food chains, and poison living things. Starting on a shoestring in 1998, the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) succeeded -- against enormous odds -- in getting an international treaty adopted, banning a short list of POPs, and the door is open to add more POPs to the list. (Naturally the U.S. chemical industry has refused to allow the U.S. government to ratify the POPs treaty.) Here is a recent statement from IPEN, describing what remains to be done to achieve a Toxic Free Future by 2020. Read carefully -- many good ideas here.]

United Arab Emirates -- On the occasion today [Feb. 6, 2006] of the decision by governments and stakeholders to adopt a Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) declares our expanded commitment to work for and achieve by the year 2020 a Toxics-Free Future, in which all chemicals are produced and used in ways that eliminate significant adverse effects on human health and the environment, and where persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and chemicals of equivalent concern no longer pollute our local and global environments, and no longer contaminate our communities, our food, our bodies, or the bodies of our children and future generations.

As IPEN Participating Organizations, we declare our firm resolve to work for and achieve a Toxics-Free Future by the year 2020 by joining communities, workers, and other relevant civil society organizations, and in cooperation with governments and intergovernmental organizations, to:

1. Phase-out and ban the production and use of POPs and other chemicals of equivalent concern, and materials, products, and processes that generate and release POPs and other toxic byproducts, including those that contribute to significant health effects such as reproductive and developmental disorders (including birth defects and neurodevelopment problems such as behavioral and intellectual disorders), cancers, genetic mutations, and immune and endocrine dysfunctions;

2. Promote children's health as a paramount goal, recognizing that developing fetuses, infants, and children are uniquely vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals during all stages of their development;

3. Promote and require substitution of cleaner products, materials, processes and practices, including clean production, clean technology transfer, and green chemistry, that avoid generation and release of toxic byproducts, giving priority to non-chemical alternatives whenever feasible;

4. Identify, secure, and properly destroy obsolete stockpiles and wastes containing POPs and other chemicals of concern by means that ensure complete destruction (i.e., chemical transformation) and that do not themselves generate or release toxic pollutants or otherwise cause injury to the health, safety, or well-being of workers and surrounding communities; clean up and remediate contaminated sites and environmental reservoirs; take measures to prevent the future accumulation of obsolete stockpiles of POPs and other chemicals of concern;

5. Halt combustion and other environmentally inappropriate methods of treating wastes and contaminated soils and sediments;

6. Ensure timely, full, and effective public participation by affected communities, local governments, and public interest NGOs and other civil society sectors (including the most vulnerable groups) in all decision-making processes related to chemical safety including, but not limited to, the implementation of internationally agreed conventions, programs, codes of conduct, and plans of action; promote cooperation between governments, public interest organizations, academia, industry, and others to ensure transparent multi-stakeholder approaches to decision-making, including through the provision of readily-accessible information, capacity building, awareness raising, public right-to-know, and other mechanisms essential to relevance at the local level;

7. Provide for a just transition whenever hazardous chemicals, polluting practices, or dirty technologies are phased out to ensure that special attention is given to the protection of impacted workers including women, peasants, and indigenous and other local communities, especially those in developing countries and economies in transition;

8. Achieve fundamental reform of current national chemicals laws, policies, and practices in all countries that is consistent with or exceeds the standards expressed in this declaration, and that includes provisions to, inter alia:

** Incorporate the precautionary principle into all decision-making related to chemical safety, ensuring that preventive measures are taken when there are reasonable grounds for concern, even when the evidence of a causal relationship between an activity and its effects is inconclusive;

** Implement the principle of "no data, no market" by requiring comprehensive data, including hazard, use, and exposure data, to be produced for all chemicals on the market and in products that is sufficient to permit an informed evaluation of the safety of the chemical for human health and the environment;

** Reflect considerations of intergenerational equity by taking into account the effects of chemicals-related decisions on future generations, noting especially that many chemicals persist in the environment for generations, and noting also that many chemicals disrupt the healthy development of the human embryo and fetus, damage genetic structures, and impact reproductive outcomes;

9. Adopt and implement comprehensive right-to-know laws in all countries, including laws establishing Pollutant Release and Transfer Registries (PRTRs), that ensure full, free, ready, and timely public access to information about all chemicals in commerce and in products and wastes, including data on their intrinsic properties and their effects on human health and the environment, information on their safer alternatives, and information on waste transfers on- and off- site; these laws should clearly state that any information pertinent to the health and safety of humans and the environment may not be regarded as confidential;

10. Implement the polluter pays principle, especially through the establishment of accessible, affordable, and effective liability and compensation mechanisms, to ensure that those who produce, use, and dispose of chemicals must pay the full costs of any harms to human health and the environment that they cause, and that victims of such harms are quickly and fully compensated;

11. Require chemical-producing industries to bear all legitimate costs that governments and others incur in establishing and sustaining robust chemical safety programs; further require such industries to contribute to mandatory, government-administered funds that pay for the remediation and clean-up of toxic spills and chemical stockpiles and wastes when the costs of remediation and clean-up are unrecoverable from the persons responsible for such harms;

12. Minimize and phase-out anthropogenic sources of mercury and methyl mercury in the environment;

13. Ensure that all governments establish and sustain effective national integrated chemical safety programs and infrastructure, especially governments of developing countries and countries with economies in transition, with full cooperation and coordination by all relevant ministries, including Environment, Health, Labor, Agriculture, Industry, Development, Education, and others; provide new and additional bilateral and multilateral financial assistance to help achieve this objective;

14. Promote the integration of chemical safety considerations into the poverty reduction strategies and development agendas of developing countries and countries with economies in transition, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups, including women, children, and indigenous and other local communities;

15. Adopt a life-cycle approach for all chemicals that includes promotion of cradle-to-cradle strategies and that considers the impacts of chemicals at every stage in their life-cycle, including not only the chemical itself, but also its by-products, break-down products and reaction products; that considers these in the course of a chemical's design, production, use, and re-use; in a chemical's presence in products, wastes, ecosystems, and human bodies; and in the chemical's ultimate environmental fate;

16. Promote sustainable, ecological agriculture, including organic farming, progressive substitution of pesticides and other chemical inputs in agriculture, community integrated pest management, agro- ecological methods of pest control and other sustainable agriculture techniques aimed at achieving good yields through practices that are healthy, environmentally sustainable, and financially affordable, especially for low-income groups, peasants and indigenous communities;

17. Substitute lower impact and integral methods of pest and vector control to achieve effective public health practices that are economically affordable, environmentally sound, and take into account timely, informed community participation;

18. Reduce and aim to eliminate the generation of wastes by promoting waste reduction at source; by changing the design, manufacture, purchase, use, and consumption of materials and products (including packaging) to reduce both their volume and their toxicity; and by promoting maximum reuse and recycling of non-toxic products and materials;

19. Acknowledge the common but differentiated responsibilities of all governments and of industry, NGOs, labor, and other stakeholders in view of their different contributions and vulnerabilities to global environmental degradation and health impacts from chemicals and the different financial and technical resources they command.

20. Encourage donor countries and donor agencies to provide new and additional financial and technical assistance that enables developing countries and countries with transitional economies to implement fully all of their commitments under international chemicals and wastes agreements and initiatives; provide additional assistance to identify and support chemical safety initiatives at the local level;

21. Establish a chemical safety focal area within the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with new and additional funds to encompass not only the GEF's present POPs Operational Program, but also to include additional operational programs that support implementation of other chemicals conventions, as well as integrated approaches to chemicals management called for in the SAICM;

22. Secure the ratification by all countries of the Stockholm Convention and other chemicals and wastes agreements including the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent; the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, including its Ban Amendment; the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention); the ILO Convention 170 Concerning Safety in the Use of Chemicals at Work; and others;

23. Expeditiously expand the Stockholm Convention's current list of twelve POPs to incorporate other POPs of global concern and to establish appropriate commitments and obligations leading toward the elimination of all chemicals that exhibit POPs characteristics;

24. Expeditiously expand the list of chemicals covered by the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) to include all chemicals and pesticides that present a hazard to human health or the environment under their ordinary conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition, including but not limited to chrysotile asbestos; discourage and prohibit the export to developing countries and economies in transition of obsolete, polluting technologies and chemical products that are banned in the country of origin;

25. Promote full and effective national implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), with special emphasis on its implementation in chemicals-importing countries and on the rights inherent in the GHS to prohibit the importation of chemicals that are improperly classified or labeled.


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org


To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution Reporter send a blank Email to one of these addresses:

Full HTML edition: join-rpr-html@gselist.org
Table of Contents edition: join-rpr-toc@gselist.org


Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160
New Brunswick, N.J. 08901