Age of Consent

DTSC Acting Director Maziar MovassaghiIn a major move to shore up the shaky Santa Susana Field Laboratory cleanup in Simi Valley, the California EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control released a new version of the draft order requiring the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) site to be in strict compliance with California law (SB 990). The new draft order is based on comments received during a recent public comment period for previously released draft orders.

“This draft order brings us one step closer to the long-sought-after cleanup of the Santa Susana site,” said Maziar Movassaghi, DTSC Acting Director, in a statement released to the media late yesterday. “DTSC is firmly committed to implementing SB 990, and this document puts the safety of the community and the environment front and center as we move forward to reach an agreement to clean up decades of contamination.”

The new “Draft Consent Order for Response Action” includes The Boeing Company, owner of 84% of SSFL, as a “Responsible Party” (RP) to the cleanup of the sprawling 2,849-acre former Rocketdyne property located in the hills between the Simi and San Fernando valleys. The new draft consent order also mandates that Boeing and other site owners, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE), adhere to the stringent requirements of former State Senator Sheila Kuehl’s Senate Bill 990 which was signed into law in 2007 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“The Radiation Rangers salute DTSC for taking this bold action,” says “Toxic Terry” Matheney of the citizens group that has been fighting development of SSFL-bordering Runkle Canyon since 2006. “The days of giveaways to the polluters are over and the department has drawn a line in the sand saying that ‘this is the law and you all are going to follow it.’”

Not all community members are satisfied. “Well I for one, have lots of questions,” wrote Christina Walsh earlier today on the Rocketdyne Information Society forum. “It seems that there are many areas of the new consent order that remove language as if it’s a big win, as Brownley terms ‘the game-playing stops today’ well the release of such a statement so early when we have no idea if the RPs have agreed to these changes sounds like game-playing to me [sic].”

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, whose 41st Assembly District borders the giant polluted lab, has been a staunch advocate of the most restrictive cleanup of the lab which will cost hundreds of millions and is scheduled to be completed by 2017 at which time Boeing is supposed to donate the site to the state as parkland or open space:

“For nearly two years, the Boeing Company, NASA and the Department of Energy have been resisting coming to an agreement with DTSC on a voluntary ‘consent order’ for cleanup of the highly-contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory that is fully compliant with Senate Bill 990 (Kuehl/Brownley), current state law. Contrary to the happy face that these Responsible Parties (“RPs”) presented to the public and their many assurances to the contrary, cleverly-written provisions that they demanded in earlier draft orders that were released by DTSC for the public to see revealed the true intentions of the RPs to effectively gut SB990 and avoid all meaningful cleanup. Their game playing ended today.

“I could not be more pleased with today’s release by DTSC of a draft order that says clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally that SB 990 is the cleanup standard that must be met, period. DTSC has put a stake in the ground and sent a very clear message to the RPs, but most of all to the community, that the state is going to put the protection of the public’s health and safety above all. Nothing less will be acceptable.

“Once again, I want to thank CalEPA Secretary Linda Adams for her extraordinary leadership in standing up to the might of Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy, and for the decision by DTSC that it’s high time that we get on with the business of cleanup. This is a very good day.”

Matheney is also pleased by DTSC’s reinvigorated moves to get the Rocketdyne cleanup back on track.

“This is the kind of thing that gives people hope that the right thing will be done up on the hill and that we are done being screwed,” Matheney tells EnviroReporter.com which has been covering the Rocketdyne issue since 1998. “When you have people like [Rocketdyne watchdog] Dan Hirsch, Assemblywoman Brownley and director Movassaghi all pulling for the best and most effective cleanup, regardless of the roadblocks that the responsible parties keep throwing up, you know you’re going to have some good days. And, like the assemblywoman says, this is a very good day not just for the people who want Rocketdyne remediated right but all those people living in its shadow who don’t know the first thing about how dangerous the contamination up there is and how it could affect them and their families.”

Movassaghi, who has promised that DTSC will take a new look at Runkle Canyon’s pollution problems, has indicated that the winds of change will sweep through the Simi Hills:

“We’re committed to a transparent process that involves the community,” Movassaghi said in the DTSC press release. “All of our negotiations are squarely aimed at making sure that Boeing, NASA and DOE clean up Santa Susana in full compliance with California law and pay for the work that must be done.”

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  1. Jennifer Shaw says:

    Hello old friends from Simi. I just wanted to tell you that I’ve read a ton of these DTSC agreements in the last 20 years, and generally they are full of loopholes drafted at the insistence of the responsible party’s lawyers.

    Any competent contract-drafting lawyer can pick out the holes in them.

    On the few occasions when they get to court, they get even worse, in terms of their content being an impediment to DTSC actually enforcing them.

    And of course, as DTSC found out with Santa Clarita, LLC, the owner of the Bermite property, they are not worth the paper they are written on when the responsible party files bankruptcy.

    There is degree of skepticism about Acting Director Movassaghi in the environmental community, so in my mind the only way he can “make his bones” in terms of protecting the public interest is for Rocketdyne remediation activists to give him legitimate, contract drafting and enforcement text criticism about this latest consent order, and see if he will insist that the further corrections to the consent order be made.

  2. Constance Ng says:

    This is the kind of action that we want from the DTSC – protecting the public, not a corporation’s profits.

    Secretary Adams and Director Movassaghi should be commended for their public service, and for their unwillingness to truckle to Boeing, DOE and NASA.

  3. Joan Bien says:

    Bravo! Let’s hope that Boeing can see that the shortest route to the end of their responsibilities lies not in a courtroom but at the top of a hill.

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