Nano-Berkeley, revisited

A word of clarification from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

By Andrew Leonard
Published December 13, 2006 9:00PM (EST)

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Don Medley rightly upbraided me this morning for relying only on the minutes of one civic meeting to characterize LBNL's position on Berkeley's nanotechnology ordinance. With his permission, I am publishing his comments to me in full:

This morning I read your column about Berkeley's Nano ordinance. I know it is cliché to say that a journalist took my statements out of context, but you did. I do wish you had contacted me to clarify what I said in the context of the discussion that night. Berkeley Lab has worked closely with the City in the development of their understanding of nanoscale science and of health and safety issues -- and, we purposefully did not oppose the ordinance when it came before the Berkeley City Council. We take health and safety issues very seriously at the Lab, and want to ensure that the City is acting from a position of knowledge and understanding.

Now to the specifics of your column......

1) As for opposing the nano ordinance -- the quote you pulled from the minutes was referring to the version of the ordinance that was on the table at that time. Additionally, I was in no position to issue a statement of support from the Lab without sharing it with experts and staff responsible for nano research and health and safety issues. After that meeting, our scientist and health and safety officials reviewed the different versions of the ordinance and offered input, advice and suggestions. The Lab did not oppose the ordinance as it was considered and approved by the City Council.

2) The comment quoted about funding for research into the health and safety issues of nanoscale science was made in reference to the limited amount of funding at the federal level -- not about whether the lack of funding creates an excuse for opposing the City ordinance. We support more research in this area and have let the City of Berkeley know this, as well as our primary funder, the U.S. Department of Energy. It is an issue that needs to be more aggressively addressed by the Administration and the Congress by providing new and significant funding for nanoscale science and technology health and safety research at NSF, DOE, NIH and EPA.

Finally, as a Berkeleyan, I am very proud of the City's progressiveness on issues of health and safety for its citizens. It's one of the reasons why I moved to Berkeley in the first place.

Many thanks for the column -- it's good that the word is getting around and that your voice is added to those calling for more funding. And, thank you for considering my comments.

All the best,

Don Medley
Manager Government and Community Relations
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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