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.
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 Chatsworth 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.
With 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.
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.