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News :: Environment : Organizing : Politics : Social Welfare : Technology
Bu Bio Lab Update
22 Feb 2006
Feb. 22, 2006

These are excerpts from the Stop the Bio Terror Lab campaigin's latest dispatch.
BU Bioterrorism Lab News

is difficult to keep up with all that's been happening in the campaign against the BU BSL4 bioterrorism lab. As we report in this issue, the case in Massachusetts Superior Court moves forward. On another front, the claim that the lab's location in a low income community of color violates federal civil rights law is under review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights.

There was an op-ed in the February 10 Boston Globe explaining that the lab would violate the Boston regulation that prohibits rDNA use that requires BSL4 containment -- and urging the city to retain the prohibition. BU had a letter published in the Globe earlier this week that does not refute the statements in the op-ed but claims that BU would not violate the prohibition. The Boston Public Health Commission has put together a panel of outside experts to look into the issue. We are monitoring the process.

Outreach and public education about the lab continues. If you have the time, we urge you to attend the forum in Brookline this Sunday where experts will discuss various aspects of having a BSL4 bioterrorism lab in Boston.

On the state level, we remain optimistic that State Representative Gloria Fox's legislation to regulate high containment biological labs will receive a favorable report from the state legislature's Joint Committee on the Environment. The Committee has redrafted parts of the legislation and we are monitoring and have spoken with Committee members about whether the redraft is adequate to do the job.

Nationally, there are more questions being raised about whether the U.S. needs so many BSL4 labs and how the proliferation of such labs are the wrong approach to bioterrorism. We wonder why our local newspapers are not reporting on this issue and that instead we need to read reports and op-eds in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times. There is also more activity across the country in opposition to the siting of high containment biological labs, including a recent emergency lawsuit to block operation of a new biodefense lab at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The message from all of this is that there is a growing national movement to introduce sanity to the Bush administration's insane and profligate biodefense program -- and in metro Boston the movement to stop the BU BSL4 lab continues on all cylinders. It is not too late to contribute to these efforts. Let us know what you can do!

Lab Location Focus of Court Hearing

On February 17, lawyers for 10 residents, BU, the BRA, and the state presented oral arguments to a state Superior Court judge. The 10 residents’ lawsuit claims that the state's approval of the environmental report and transfer of property for the BSL4 bioterrorism lab violated the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).

During the 2 ½ hours of oral argument, the judge asked about the facts and questioned the lawyers about whether the state should have approved the environmental report for the lab that did not analyze other locations for the lab or the impact of a release from the lab on people who live near the lab. He seems to understand implications of having a BSL4 lab in Boston.

The state has admitted that the land transfer violated MEPA, but claims that it fixed the problem after the lawsuit was filed. The judge has not decided what remedy he might impose for the MEPA violation. The 10 residents have asked that the land transfer be voided and the property transferred back to the state.

Douglas Wilkins, who represents the 10 residents, did a great job in oral argument. The judge said he would try to issue his decision within 6- 8 weeks.

Lab Forum in Brookline on Sunday Februrary 26, 1-4 PM

On Sunday, February 26, 1:00—4:00 PM, Brookline PeaceWorks will present a Forum: Boston, The New Hub of Ebola Research? The Forum will take place at Brookline High School (115 Greenough Street) in the Martin Luther King Room.

Speakers will present information concerning public safety and health risks of high containment biological research labs. Mishaps at other BSL4 labs will be reviewed. In addition, speakers will discuss whether the current vast expansion of BioContainment labs is a reasonable national strategy, environmental justice, lack of specialized expertise at the BU BSL4 lab, misallocation of funds, improper siting, conflicts of interest, lack of binding regulations, and lack of transparency and community oversight. PeaceWorks will then lead a discussion about what can be done.

Speakers will include:
Sujatha Byravan, Director, Council for Responsible Genetics
Michael Cohen, Brookline PeaceWorks
Daniel Goodenough, Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School
Patricia Hynes, Professor, Boston University School of Public Health
Lynn Klotz, Center for Arms Control and Non- proliferation
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