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Dan Hirsch speaking with Congressman Brad Sherman, LA Council Greig Smith, VC Supervisor Linda Parks and CA Assemblymember Julia Brownley

Dan Hirsch speaking with Congressman Brad Sherman, LA Councilmember Greig Smith, VC Supervisor Linda Parks and CA Assemblymember Julia Brownley

Ultimately, after two extensive public comment periods, a total of 3,700 comments were received with the vast majority in support of the agreements and only a handful opposed.

On December 6, 2010, the historic Agreements on Consent were signed with NASA and DOE. Longtime community members were thrilled, and elected offcials encouraged Boeing to join in.

In March 2011, State Senator Fran Pavley introduced a provision in a California budget trailer bill that would codify the AOCs. Even though the agreement didn’t involve Boeing or it’s portion of the property, it lobbied against the trailer bill and misinformation spread that the bill would take away the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) powers in the agreements.

The bill did just the opposite – it would have codified the full agreements, including their CEQA provisions. But Boeing and its supporters wanted the AOCs to be more easily overturned, and they successfully killed the bill.

A month later, Boeing emerged victorious in overturning SB 990. At an April 11, 2011 hearing, community members were aghast and perplexed with the state’s poor performance in defending the law, claiming that large inaccuracies in Boeing’s statements were left unchecked by DTSC.

“I already knew DTSC had agreed with Boeing they would not question anything that came up,” said Holly Huff of the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition who was in the courtroom. “Court was just the proof. As far as I’m concerned they threw us under the bus. Why would a department with the state agree with a polluting company to not question anything they do or say?”

A few days later, April 27, the court sided in favor of Boeing, with Judge John F. Walter ruling that the law singled out the Santa Susana Field Laboratory for “uniquely onerous treatment.” The state is appealing the decision, and community organizations have filed an amicus brief in support of the state hoping, perhaps naively, that the state stand up to the multinational giant.

NASA’S NIGHT OUT

In July 2011, NASA released a notice of intent to conduct scoping and prepare an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on demolition and cleanup for its portion of SSFL. Activists were alarmed by language that indicated an attempt to break out of its AOC with the state. Specifically, NASA indicated that it’s EIS would examine alternative cleanup standards – though the AOC requires a cleanup to background.

NASA claimed it was required to do so under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), but in fact NEPA was considered in the AOCs, which stipulated that NASA limit its NEPA analysis to how to achieve cleanup to background, not whether to do so. Even DTSC expressed strong concern about NASA’s proposed alternatives and the issue of NEPA compliance, as did elected officials, and community members.

NASA held a March 27 2012 public meeting in Chatswort that confirmed the community’s fears. Despite the comments it received, NASA did not narrow the scope of the EIS. In fact, it broadened it to include new alternatives that would also violate the AOC. One was to leave all the contamination on site and put up a fence (“access restrictions” and “natural attenuation”), the other to leave all the contamination on site and create an on-site landfill for the toxic contaminants.

NASA’s PowerPoint showed two sets of maps, one showing where the contamination is, and one showing the location of the test stands and related buildings which they would like to preserve as historic monuments. No surprise, those test stands and facilities are where the contamination is centered.

NASA presented a decision tree for whether to leave the structures standing, claiming if the test stands have historic value, and if there is contamination beneath them, they could leave the structures intact and the contamination not cleaned up. If, of course, they determined it was “safe” to do so – even though the AOC requires the cleanup of all contamination over background.

NASA alternatives to AOC backgroundWith charts showing inflated estimates of how many truckloads of contaminated soil would have to be removed for the various alternatives, NASA’s presentation seemed to this reporter that is was designed to frighten the community into leaving most of the contamination in place.

The meeting disintegrated quickly with DTSC’s CAG petitioner Christina Walsh shouting profanities at this reporter among others. Outside in the hotel lobby longtime activists expressed their anger with NASA and the handful who opposed the AOCs defending the alternatives such as leaving the pollution in place. Meanwhile, Jim Biederman from the General Services Administration (GSA), who had pushed for transferring the land before cleanup, stood by beaming.

And what did DTSC do? Nothing, because the agency did not even bother to send one representative even though their SSFL-associated offices were a mile from the hotel meeting.

Longtime activists expressed their betrayal in a flurry of e-mails to DTSC director Debbie Raphael who was forced to send out a notice a few days later stating, “DTSC has received comments from the community regarding NASA’s March 27th meeting. Cal-EPA and DTSC are making arrangements to meet with NASA and other high-ranking federal officials in Washington DC as soon as possible after the Senate’s Easter recess to discuss NASA’s compliance with the AOC, and ensure there are no ambiguities with regard to NASA’s stated commitment to the AOC.”

Finally, on July 18, 2012, after intervention from Senator Barbara Boxer (D – California) and the Council on Enviromental Quality, NASA released a statement that it “has chosen to streamline its review in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and analyze only the alternatives of (a) cleanup to background and (b) the “no-action” alternative.”

BREAKING THE AOCS

For Boeing’s meltdown makeover to work, it needs a dutiful DTSC and the agency has delivered. The department is as brazen in its contempt for the longtime community as it is actively complicit in the breaking of the AOCS. Since Raphael became director, DTSC has even allowed the Boeing to choose the contractor for the state’s Environmental Impact Report which is a conflict of interest on the face of it.

Enhanced Radiation Ground Scanner at SSFL's Area IV The contractor, AECOM, has already made recommendations that would violate the AOCs. It recommends that the state not do a joint Environmental Impact Statement/Report with NASA and DOE, though Raphael herself said in a September 19, 2011 letter that “the AOC compels … a joint EIS/EIR document.”

At an October 25 chemical background meeting, DTSC project director for SSFL, Mark Malinowski, defended letting DOE run parts of the cleanup that were formerly conducted by the federal EPA in accordance with the DTSC-DOE Agreement on Consent. This suggests that DTSC won’t make DOE clean up Rocketdyne’s nuclear-related Area IV to background levels of radionuclides as the AOCs are eroded away.

Malinowski’s plans to “mirror” the chemical background survey the same way the radiological background was done. Both surveys were supposed to establish backgrounds for toxins in order for them to be removed and the land and groundwater made normal again.

But as exposed by EnviroReporter.com in Radiation Readings Soar at Rocketdyne and Rocketdyne Still Hot, the radiation tests established proper backgrounds but then said that “Radiation Trigger Levels” (RTLs) would be used as the cleanup levels and not background. Radionuclides dozens of times above background would remain in the soil destined for unrestricted open space.

The hot zones are radiating with high soil levels of cesium-137, strontium-90, tritium, carbon-14, cobalt-60, neptunium-239 and europa-152. All were detected by EPA many multiples above their actual backgrounds. One of the most feared radionuclides on the planet, plutonium-239/240, which even a minute amount of which can give a person lung cancer, will be left in nuclear Area IV of SSFL at levels nearly 20 times its background.

Now the same deliberately innaccurate and radically less public health protective process will be used for the chemical contamination, according to Malinowski. He told EnviroReporer.com April 11 that 900 samples from 200 locations were subject to 28,000 measurements.

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  1. Check this out!

    Read about DTSC at Toxic Department.

  2. [From our friends at Consumer Watchdog.]

    Consumer Watchdog News Release

    April 3, 2013

    Contact: Liza Tucker, 310-392-7931 (direct) or 626-372-1964 (cell)

    Consumer Watchdog Calls for Firing of Top Toxic Officials After Fair Political Practices Commission Launches Investigation

    SANTA MONICA, CA –Following news that the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) will investigate a top toxics regulator for financial conflicts of interest, Consumer Watchdog today reiterated its call for the firing of two top officials at the Department of Toxic Substances Control who invested as much as six and seven figures into companies that the DTSC regulates or licenses. The non-profit, non-partisan public interest group made a complaint to FPPC last month.

    It was the second time that the non-partisan public interest group called for the dismissal of Chief Deputy Director Odette Madriago and Deputy Director Stewart Black. Thousands of Californians have written Governor Brown calling for their removal.

    “Though you say you want to clean house, the people running your department are tainted by the specter of impropriety,” wrote consumer advocate Liza Tucker in a letter to DTSC Director Debbie Raphael today. “When the chief deputy of your agency invests up to $100,000 in Chevron and does not want to regulate the refinery industry, you have to willfully turn a blind eye not to see something is terribly wrong. This is why people do not trust government.”

    See letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltr_on_dtsc_response04-03-13.pdf

    The letter calls for Ms. Raphael to:

    •Use powers to heavily fine refiners like Chevron for toxic pollution

    •Revoke permits of serial violators of environmental laws such as hazardous waste recyclers Evergreen Oil in Newark and Phibro-Tech in Santa Fe Springs

    •Deny new permits to serial violators of environmental laws and to companies that have unfinished corrective actions such as Phibro-Tech and Chemical Waste Management at Kettleman Hills hazardous waste dump.

    •Hire 130 criminal investigators onto staff by 2014, up from 13 now.

    •Aggressively investigate and refer for prosecution cases of toxic pollution such as the poisoned community of Wildomar.

    In recent months, the DTSC has refused to sanction Chevron for its toxic refinery fire in Richmond last summer that sent thousands to the hospital. In addition, Ms. Madriago accompanied Ms. Raphael to visit Chevron operations last year, and has in the past been primary liaison between the hazardous waste management program, the legislature, and industry lobbyists.

    The non-profit public interest group turned up the financial conflicts of interest as part of its six-month investigation of the DTSC that led to its scathing report on the department’s failure to protect communities from toxic harm, Golden Wasteland.

    See report here: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org/golden-wasteland-report

    Said Tucker, “These conflicts are a symptom of the department’s capture by the very industry it is supposed to regulate.” The group’s Golden Wasteland report documented that capture, and outlined how the department has failed to protect eight communities poisoned by hazardous waste processors that habitually violate environmental laws.

    DTSC Director Debbie Raphael posted a response to the report, titled “Restoring Public Confidence in DTSC,” on March 21. “Your formal, posted response admits that the department has lost public confidence, but you do little to restore it,” Tucker wrote.

    “You did not address a single member among eight communities we highlighted as under toxic siege because of the department’s failure to protect them from harm,” the letter said.

    “A state’s environmental laws are only as good as its enforcement,” the letter concludes. “Will you move forward with exercising the power already vested in the department to protect communities and the environment from toxic harm? Or will you continue on the current path that sends the public you work for, the regulated community, and your own staff exactly the wrong message?”

    For more, visit our website at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/focusarea/toxics-watchdog

  3. Consumer Watchdog has produced a report on DTSC, including interviews with DTSC insiders that rips the lid off of this “captured” agency, Boeing’s astroturfing and greenwashing of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory along with its “sham” community advisory group plus other DTSC misdeeds across the state:
    http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/new-report-shows-regulators-not-protecting-public-toxic-harm

    The report is here:
    http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/resources/goldenwasteland.pdf
    Note on the last page of the report, that it references EnviroReporter.com‘s series Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover:
    http://www.enviroreporter.com/2012/12/boeings-meltdown-makeover/

    NBC Bay Area‘s Investigative Team TV news segment:
    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Insiders-Say-CA-Toxic-Regulation-is-Weak-192121371.html
    Note that in the above linked TV news segment, DTSC director Debbie Raphael tries to dodge the excellent television reporter and her cameraman on the streets of Sacramento. Why? Obviously to dodge the questions about the report but, if you watch the video at 5:19, perhaps to hide the fact that she was literally running to see Peter Weiner himself on a street corner, the ex-head of Cal-EPA – now Boeing lobbyist – who EnviroReporter.com reported on in part 4 of our series in Toxic Department:
    http://www.enviroreporter.com/2012/12/toxic-department/

    NBC4 (SoCal) news segment:
    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/video/#!/on-air/as-seen-on/Regulators-Fail-to-Protect-Neighborhoods-From-Toxic-Waste/192207251

    Senator Kevin DeLeon has called for a Senate investigation into DTSC:
    http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/blog/sacramento-responds-golden-wasteland-reportnbc-expose

  4. Yet Another Simi Mom says:

    Back in the early 1980’s, my husband and I bought a new home in Simi Valley. I was so thrilled to live in a pleasant suburban community. My son, who just turned 30, was born and we mixed his baby formula using Simi Valley’s drinking water. As a child, he played on both the Barden Brandeis land and on a ranch at the top of Erringer’s southern end, roughly right below the most radioactive part of Rocketdyne. As an adult, my son now has a terrible time keeping weight on, which is listed as one possible result of ingesting perchlorate in one’s drinking water. There is an Environmental Working Group study which says there is no “safe” level of perchlorate in drinking water for infants and children. Publicly elected water officials in California tell me that public water agencies around the state regularly serve drinking water with 4ppb of perchlorate. Unfortunately, the Cal-EPA refuses to recognize that there are babies all over California, like my son, who are drinking baby formula mixed with perchlorate laden water.

    We moved away from Simi Valley just as its residents began to be aware of the serious chemical and radioactive contaminants moving from Rocketdyne’s property into Simi Valley. I treasure the Box Canyon activists who have worked for so long to try to get Rocketdyne cleaned up. It breaks my heart that most of them have come down with cancer and one of their sons, who played in caves north of Rocketdyne as a tween and as a teen, has now died of cancer.

    Back when the U.S. District Court in Downtown LA was about to rule on Boeing’s lawsuit claiming SB 990 is unconstitutional, I read all of the documents filed with that court, by both the Attorney General and Boeing. They’re called pleadings.

    Attached to Boeing’s pleadings were pieces of transcripts of depositions of a high level DTSC employee, a man whose name still shows up on DTSC Director Debbie Raphael’s “Executive Leadership Team”. Just go to DTSC’s website, click on Debbie Raphael’s page, click on her Executive Leadership Team button, and then look at the hierarchical chart. The man’s name is still there. Most Rocketdyne clean-up activists know who I am talking about.

    Those transcript excerpts in the U.S. District Court files clearly show that DTSC management employee “throwing” his deposition, just like the White Sox threw the world series. He testified UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY that DTSC did not like it that the Legislature took away the DTSC staff’s discretion in how tough the DTSC could be on Boeing. He testified that SB 990 was unnecessary. He made other appalling claims about what DTSC was not finding at Rocketdyne. Worst of all, in the transcript pages he made a snide remark indicating that he was jealous of and didn’t like Dan Hirsch. Given the man’s position at DTSC, and given the manipulative, combative intelligence I’ve heard the man use when he was speaking about Boeing as a DTSC employee, it’s crystal clear that he wasn’t just some dumb bunny being sandbagged by a clever defense attorney. In the transcripts it was crystal clear that the management level DTSC employee knew exactly what he was saying and that he understood the impact his words would have on the enforceability of SB990.

    In terms of “facts” to invalidate SB 990 as unconstitutional, Boeing didn’t need any of their own witnesses. They had a high level DTSC employee handing the case to Boeing on a silver platter.

    For most litigation lawyers, only once or twice in their lives do lawyers see employees of their client surprise them by “going to the enemy side” during a deposition in critical litigation. I could see from the pleadings filed on the State’s behalf, in defending SB 990, that the deputy and assistant AG’s were trying so very hard to protect what the Legislature wanted in enacting the law. It was crystal clear that the A.G.’s Office and the majority in the Legislature were intentionally stabbed in the back by that management level DTSC employee. I felt so sorry for those lawyers for the people of the California. It’s hard to win when your client’s own employees intentionally stab you in the back. While Enviroreporter tells us that the new A.G.’s office is appealing the Federal Court order, the reality is that thanks to that particular high level DTSC employee, there is a 99% chance that the trial judge’s decision will be upheld in favor of Boeing.

    Over the years, I’ve met and worked with members of the Legislature, who’ve told me that the thing that makes them the most angry is when state and local government employees outright defy laws the Legislature has passed and directed public employees to fully implement. I’ve never had occasion to tell a California legislator that I’ve seen a state employee stab them in the back and harm the public interest as well…until I saw those deposition transcript excerpts in the SB990 case.

    Strangely, when Debbie Raphael became DTSC Director, that traitor to the public interest apparently suffered no punishment. He’s still aggressively pursuing his own agendas, rather than trying to protect the public interest. He’s still bs’ing the Legislature and the Governor and their staff members.

    If you’re interested in seeing exactly what the high level management employee of DTSC said in the SB990 litigation, do a California Public Records Act request to the Attorney General’s office for full copies of the deposition transcripts of DTSC employees taken in Boeing’s case to invalidate SB990.

    Those transcripts show me that several of DTSC’s high level employees are well beyond captive regulators as to the Rocketdyne remediation. They’re outright traitors to the health, safety and welfare people of the people of State of California.

    And it’s not just Rocketdyne which has a “captive regulator”. DTSC’s employees are doing next to nothing in forcing environmental clean up by polluters of the public’s drinking water in the South Bay, in Irvine, in West Covina and in Santa Clarita, just to name a few locations.

    I thought Debbie Raphael was a nice woman and qualified biologist who was too politically naive to serve as an aggressive, pro-public-health Director of DTSC, but I was wrong. Reading that Peter Weiner testified in favor of her confirmation as DTSC Director was all that I needed to know about the new reality at DTSC.

  5. Joan Bien says:

    I’m terribly disappointed in our two senators, Boxer and Feinstein. Is there another issue in this state that cries out louder for their attention? May I suggest that Gov. Brown, Boxer, Feinstein, Villaragosa, all LA council members, local congressional representatives, and DTSC top officials, along with Boeing’s CEO, and their families, get together for a picnic in Area IV. It should last at least 8 hours. Then they should all be tested for exposure to radiation and chemicals.

    Although a mere pipe dream, it seems to be the only way to “inform” them of what they are doing. Boeing SHOULD be sued as a belligerent polluter by both the state and the feds. As such, Boeing should be banned from any future contracts with both governments. And the taxes it refuses to pay should go to the remediation of the site. Contracts and agreements apparently serve only to distract their opponents. No consequences for bad actions. No wonder kids today think cheating in school is just fine if it helps them get the grades they want. They will soon be the captains of industry. yikes. Makes me sick.

  6. Another Simi mom says:

    I’m sorry but Boeing does NOT have a right to make money by buying lying and manipulating its way out of cleaning up a toxic site. That is ridiculous. It has partnered with a corrupt government to save money and put the health of innocents at risk by trying to sell Pollution Park as open space before it is cleaned up. And lawsuits why they don’t mind spending money when it comes to lawyers and lobbyists who get the government to throw the case like in SB 990. Its small change to them like funding the a ssfl CAG but the payoff is huge no cleanup. Boeing + dtsc a marriage made in heaven so a community has to live in hell the knowledge that that those scenic hills might be killing them or their loved ones. This story has played out in similar ways across the country and world even. Boeing got an award from a polluter front group Wildlife Habitat Council remember? Its board has global corporate criminals like Monsanto and Dupont. All with the money to buy whoever is in their way government or “community” members traitor big ego sellouts. This is a case study and cautionary tale. The genre is tradgey!

  7. Otto Bobick says:

    This is confusing. Who is responsible for this, Troy? Boeing has a right to make as much money as it wants, right? If the government is corrupted is it the companys fault? My taxes are paid for this?

  8. Troy Ng says:

    Simi Mom,

    You’re right, they are getting away with it. I’m not being hyperbolic here (I don’t think) — this article series is the ONLY thing I’ve heard about Boeing walking away from a full-on meltdown. This is like a slow-moving Fukushima.

    I’m trying to think through how to get this issue in front of more people. Perhaps we try mass action at a Boeing annual meeting. Or (I’m fantasizing here), a lawsuit à la BP that gets Boeing temporarily barred from government contracts. THAT would get their attention.

  9. Another Simi mom says:

    Troy I think they are getting away with it! And that makes me so angry. I am sending these articles out to everyone I know and urge others to do the same. This story is HUGE and the world needs to know. Yes its the holidays but be in the giving spirit give the gift of life and health and the banning of evil! Because that is what this is and now that we know if we all do nothing we have know one to blame but ourselves.

  10. Troy Ng says:

    The power of Boeing’s money becomes more naked, and they’re using it at higher and higher targets. First, you see an environmental reporter become a paid shill of the energy industry. A community activist becomes an active supporter of the SSFL’s mock cleanup. And a state director and her staff actually subvert the cleanup effort.

    My hat’s off to Boeing. They’re getting effective advice, and they’re following it. To be sure, they’re never going to remediate the hellhole that is SSFL — that’s not a problem for a mighty corporation, that’s the task for the little people — but at least they’ve played the game well enough to pretend they’re responsible citizens with public support.

    If it weren’t for these articles, I think Boeing would have gotten away with foisting a poisonous SSFL site on the public.

  11. Another Simi mom says:

    So now I just finished with this blockbuster and I am reeling. The idea that the dtsc director would think such a silly statement about lobbyists would fly means she is out of touch or not that bright. Why else would DTSC kill the work group over the desires of so many and approve a CAG without verifying names and then black out contact information? The Boeing lobbyists want to make sure the public stays in the dark and knows the general public [are] busy working people and parents who won’t go to CAG meetings. They are paid well whether its about silencing the truth or trying to get the media to believe the site is clean and who cares who gets sick. Selling their souls or don’t they have them?

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