Operation Astroturf

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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.

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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.”

Related Material: “A Trail of Flames” & “A Keen Observer

NEXT: PART FOUR – TOXIC DEPARTMENT

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  1. Cindy says:

    Does anyone recognize any of the names of the people chosen to be on the CAG selection committee? See http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ssflcag/message/2190 I don’t think any of these people have been involved before except Walsh and Karchem who is new but gives cleanup advocates a hard time. I googled them all and see no history with SSFL whatsoever. One of them signed the CAG petition but is described as neutral? And another specializes in archaeology concerned with “protecting cultural heritage” so clearly in favor of the pollution park people. Another the “occidental petroleum chair” in chemistry with bad reviews by students at ratemyprofessors.com who say he gets mad at those who disagree with him. Another represents Chumash who seem more interested in getting the property and than clean up. So this group of strangers never involved before will pick who will be on the CAG meaning more like themselves easily fooled by Boeing DTSC etc. Seems to be the perfect group of “third parties” that Gary Polakovic wants to help Boeing avoid charges of greenwashing as his plan says. What a sham!!! The Udall Institute should be ashamed too and also I wonder who the CAG will get to fund the “neutral facilitator? To me this confirms points made in this article that the whole idea of the CAG was to get rid of one community and replace it with another one that isn’t a community at all. Meanwhile children in the community are exposed to all of the poisons from the lab but don’t worry they will commission a blue ribbon study to say its all ok nothing to see here move along.

  2. Another Simi mom says:

    Thank you for this excellent expose. I got a CAG application in the mail. No thanks I want no part in Boeing’s group. I support the old-timers – thank you for your dedication do not give up! It is worth it for the safety of our community.

  3. Joan Bien says:

    How do I feel about astroturfing and the mean-spirited nature of these nasty schemes? AAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH! Boeing and its co-conspirators have spent a lot of time planning how to undercut and destroy their critics and no time whatsoever on cleaning up the mess on their property. They prefer to save money and SUE the state. Someone cleaned up on that one.

  4. Troy Ng says:

    Wow, these Boeing guys are thorough. They’re getting good advice from their media and astroturf consultants, and they’re following it. Boeing’s going to assert over and over that they’re on the side of the angels, and casual observers will begin to believe them.

    This is depressing reading. Boeing is rich and persistent, and a number of folks in this story have clearly and simply been BOUGHT.

  5. Margery Brown says:

    Michael,
    Your incredible recording of all the events,emails, personalities, changes of alliances, and financial support by Boeing in this article make me feel like Alice, who fell down the rabbit hole into insanity. But then, poor Alice probably would have been wiped out by some Cesium 137 or some toxic chemicals.

    Thank goodness that you have been keeping track of all of this madness. This article has absolutely made my whole year! I didn’t realize how bad things have been until I read it. Please keep up your good work. I don’t see how things could possibly get any worse.

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