This, plainly put, is hogwash. No such statue is required, and since all DTSC’s remediation efforts including public participation are reimbursed by the responsible parties, it could, in fact re-establish the Work Group at no cost to the agency.
Finally, community members put up their own petition to bring back the Work Group, which was signed by over 200 people living near the lab in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The petition also opposed a CAG, stating that, “A CAG is a discussion session to review and comment on DTSC response plans and is not an appropriate format for informing the general public in a clear and useful fashion about important developments involving the various agencies.”
Activists were also concerned that the run-around they were getting was further delaying the public from getting important information about the cleanup, specifically, the recent high radiation readings at the site. With no Work Group, there was no way for the public, press, or elected officials to find out about the new contamination data or compliance with the cleanup agreements. Perhaps, they worried, that was the point.
On September 21, the writing on the wall became an e-mail announcement from DTSC officially terminating the PPG and the Work Group and announcing that public participation for SSFL would be replaced by Walsh’s Boeing-funded CAG.
Though the announcement said that it had “decided to honor the wishes of a large portion of the community to continue the operation of the Interagency Workgroup,” it also made it clear that the Work Group that the public demanded – an operational, funded, Interagency Work Group – would be no more, to be replaced by a community-driven group that DTSC would have little to do with.
Longtime community members were outraged. In a September 24 letter, they expressed their betrayal to Raphael. “Ever since your appointment as Director, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has reversed course and taken numerous actions to undercut the cleanup and to do what Boeing, the company responsible for the pollution at the site, wishes.”
The community letter signed by 18 people also indicts the Brown Administration as well. “Boeing has purchased very powerful lobbyists and public relations consultants, including Winston Hickox, Peter Weiner, Bob Hoffman, Charlie Stringer, and Gary Polakovic, several of whom are close to the Governor. We recognize that we represent merely the “little people,” everyday folks who live near this polluted facility, whose families face the risk of cancer and other ailments from the decades during which Boeing and its predecessors have succeeded in avoiding cleanup obligations. Your actions indicate to us that in your eyes we don’t count, that it is only the powerful like Boeing that matter, that you will do what they want you to, no matter who among the unpowerful gets hurt by it.”
Not surprisingly, and without a hint of irony, Luker, Walsh, and others they recruited wrote Raphael a rebuttal letter September 26 decrying being exposed as being a “fake, grass-roots” astroturf group to “lobby for the polluter.”
“Our group represents the evolving view of the local community,” the letter says, even as hundreds of locals concerned about the cleanup oppose the Boeing SSFL CAG. “We represent a growing constituency of community members who believe in a reasonable, science-based approach to the clean-up. We want to see action continue to move forward on the clean-up, not to have it become entangled in politics and a culture of fear for another 22 years.”
The so-called “reasonable, science-based approach” reflects the Boeing-inspired contention that cleaning up Rocketdyne back to normal is too great a task and would mar the otherwise scenic site – even though much of the contaminated soil is in already disturbed areas, not pristine wilderness. Longtime activists say 95% of the contaminated land would not be taken to a licensed dump for chemically or radiologically contaminated dirt, concrete, asphalt and an array of materials that sit outside in the elements at Rocketdyne.
Luker also seemed quick to forget that his once-again ally Walsh, according to his own claims, threatened to kill him as he spins this “culture of fear” blamed on the Hirsch without any evidence.
Longtime community activist and Work Group panel member Barbara Johnson is appalled. “I see that Professor Daniel Hirsch, as a true American hero who has so unselfishly given of his time and expertise to the long, difficult effort to see that, first, all nuclear work was ceased, and second, that extensive efforts were put into cleaning up this heavily polluted site. Thus, I cannot understand why today Mr. Hirsch is being vilified by those who came after him. Don’t these people, who only want to satisfy their own personal ambitions for the resolution of the sprawling property, recognize that the facility would be nuclear business as usual without the efforts and tenaciousness of Mr. Hirsch?”
Local activist Marge Brown is equally concerned. “It is devastatingly unfair and unjust that Dan should be attacked, and, for the sake of a complete radioactive and toxic chemical cleanup, we need to make sure that these attacks do not succeed…the attackers also appear to be quite willing to leave a thousand times more contamination in the soil, as well.”
A team of six DTSC came with their own kind of shovels to a meeting with members of the SSFL Work Group October 25. DTSC said it would come to only two Work Group meetings a year, that is if the volunteer members could manage to even find a place to meet since the department would provide no funds.
The DTSC hit squad explained that what the community really needs is a CAG free from the strings of the government. The department seemed to be going over and above the call of duty to assist Walsh, however, when the it debuted its membership application for Boeing’s SSFL CAG on November 16, stating that DTSC, not Walsh, is soliciting members.
DTSC also revealed that it would be spending $5,000 on a “mediator” to get the CAG going, funds that would have paid for the renting of a hall for the quarterly Work Group meetings for a year and a half. In addition, the agency also paid $1,398.80 for newspaper ads in the Daily News, Ventura County Star, and the ACORN, according to Charlotte Fadipe, DTSC chief of media and press relations, in a November 29 e-mail. These expenses are supposed to be reimbursed by the responsible parties at SSFL.
Perhaps the worst insult added to a list of injuries from DTSC was its refusal to even let the Work Group have its own mailing list back and and to put out notices for any future meetings.
Without the list, it would be impossible to notify the hundreds of attendees who filled the Work Group’s venue, the Simi Valley Cultural Center, shown in this 2006 news segment to the left which featured a study by the SSFL Advisory Panel on health effects from the 1959 meltdown.
On November 30, DTSC’s Fedipe explained denying the Work Group their own list in an e-mail to EnviroReporter.com:
“In a meeting held between DTSC and the Workgroup, on October 25th, DTSC Public Participation staff was asked to handover a copy of its SSFL Workgroup email list. Our staff informed the Workgroup that we were unaware of whether the mail list had been transferred to DTSC, or whether it would be considered the Workgroup’s mailing list. We informed them we would follow up with EPA with those questions. As a result we learned that DTSC was provided the mailing list. However, when EPA shared the mailing list with DTSC, it was with the understanding that they were transferring the information to another governmental agency. EPA expressly stated that they would not have consented to release the information to the general public.”
But Work Group members say that is not what happened. They say that DTSC claimed it didn’t have the list and would check and get back with them. It was only through an interview with EnviroReporter.com that the Work Group learned about the status of their request. Members were also taken back to be referred to as “the general public” instead of Work Group members, which they interpreted as a sign of DTSC’s disregard for them.
DTSC’s November 16 announcement states that the SSFL CAG membership will be “reviewed and considered by a Selection Panel in early 2013.” Once DTSC is done helping establish the CAG, the CAG must seek it’s own funding. That will presumably come from Boeing, given Walsh’s early exchanges with Boeing about funding the CAG.
Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition Marie Mason expressed betrayal and disappointment. “It is clear to me that DTSC wants us out of the picture and wants the Work Group to end so we have no public place to hold their feet to the fire. Those of us who have worked for over 20 years have been just kicked to the curb.”
Mason added that, “The Boeing funded CAG will just be a press on a group of people most of who think they are really helping see the place get cleaned up but since it’s so complicated they will be talked into doing what Boeing wants done and that’s no clean up. The community will lose and that makes me really sad since we were so very close to a real clean up. I want no part in this Boeing charade, if they are paying for this group I’m sure they will want to get their money’s worth.”
These are the darkest days of the fight to clean up Rocketdyne thanks in great part to the coordination between Boeing, DTSC and these third-party allies like Walsh and Luker. In the two years since Governor Jerry Brown took office, the department has done more to isolate and eliminate cleanup activists than has happened at any other time in the 23 years the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition has been fighting for full remediation of SSFL.
But don’t count them out. “We will continue to fight for cleanup,” community members wrote in their September 24 letter to Raphael. “We fought long before you became Director, and we will keep fighting long after you cease being Director.”