The Trinity Action Association announced in a press release Friday it is suing to compel Trinity County to follow state environmental laws spelled out in the California Environmental Quality Act when it comes to issuing commercial cannabis cultivation licenses.
The TAA lawsuit alleges that before the county issues a license to cultivate cannabis commercially, CEQA requires it to conduct a site-specific analysis to determine if a project has the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment.
It argues that if the answer is “yes,” further analysis and reporting to the public is required, similar to the process necessary for other types of land uses such as timber harvesting and construction. Instead, it alleges that the county has issued more than 200 commercial cultivation licenses without following these basic requirements of CEQA.
It says the CEQA process that TAA claims the county is improperly ignoring also requires certain public notice in order to give all voices, including other interested agencies and members of the public, an opportunity to be heard on possible adverse impacts that should be adequately mitigated before license issuance if such projects are approved.
The TAA lawsuit claims that since it began approving cannabis cultivation licenses, the county has allowed most applicants to bypass mandatory CEQA review, resulting in “wholesale disregard” of public review requirements and environmental safeguards. The suit also contends that the county’s “non-public licensing process has caused confusion and disharmony for both the license applicants and the public in general, and that compliance with CEQA would also address this local problem.”
TAA is a local grassroots organization formed in 2015 to influence the county on cannabis policies and enforcement. Its goals, as stated in its press release, are to protect the environment “and make Trinity County a safe, healthy place to live, to work, and to raise a family,” and its lawsuit “follows months of unsuccessful attempts to persuade county officials to comply with applicable California environmental review laws.”
TAA representatives indicated the lawsuit “has not been undertaken lightly, but rather as a last resort after repeated efforts to convince county officials to require compliance with CEQA. TAA hopes for a quick resolution to this problem that does not waste county resources.”
“Our goal is simply to get the county to follow CEQA because we don’t think they are. Several of us have met multiple times with county representatives and they have not heard us, leaving us no choice but to pursue litigation to try and get where we want to be,” said Paul Hauser on behalf of TAA, a group that he said numbers over 200 individuals.
The press release was issued Friday, and the county was notified that the suit would be formally filed on Monday, Dec. 31 in Trinity County Superior Court. Weaverville Attorney Jim Underwood is representing TAA in the litigation.