PART FOUR – TOXIC DEPARTMENT
DTSC subverts Rocketdyne Cleanup
Boeing pays a pretty penny to get what it wants – its lobbying expenses rank among the top five corporations in the country. The non-profit Public Campaign produced a report in December 2011 which concluded that Boeing spent $52.29 million on lobbying yet did not pay taxes during 2008-2010.
Though it made a profit of $9.7 billion, Boeing received $178 million in tax rebates. According to the report, in 2010, Boeing increased executive pay by 31% to $41.9 million for it’s top 5 executives, while laying off 14,862 workers since 2008.
Rocketdyne cleanpup activist Marge Brown doesn’t need a report to know the score. “If you are a large and wealthy corporation that does not want to pay for a costly cleanup to background of radionuclides in your soil, all you really need to do is to use a sophisticated plan to get all of the sincere and eager environmental activists to fight among themselves,” Brown said in an EnviroReporter.com interview in November.
“You do this by sending experienced lobbyists to government meetings,” Brown continued, “…by those in charge listening only to those who are in a power struggle with and are attacking the long time clean-up leaders at public meetings, and by your lead [DTSC] agency director apparently smiling sweetly, while the long-time leaders advocating a complete cleanup are being trashed.”
Brown was referring to attempts to astroturf the Rocketydne community, aided by Boeing’s slick new greenwashing campaign.
Rocketdyne activists aren’t the only ones who object to DTSC’s polluter-friendly practices. The consumer advocate organization Consumer Watchdog recently issued a stern criticism of DTSC for its permissiveness with environmental violaters including Chevron and Evergreen Oil. The Santa Monica-based group said that DTSC staff folded “like a wet paper bag” before industry.
In an October 25 letter to DTSC director Debbie Raphael, the group stated that, “At your confirmation hearing in April 2012, Consumer Watchdog expressed concern that the Department of Toxic Substances Control is allowing polluters to poison communities across California while keeping communities in the dark and letting polluters off the hook.” Indeed, Consumer Watchdog had informed the Senate Rules Committee that it had concerns about “industry efforts to compromise the mission of DTSC.”
Of course, other voices weighed in at Raphael’s confirmation hearing too, including Boeing lobbyist Peter Weiner who was a former Special Assistant to Governor Jerry Brown for Toxic Substances Control and is a current member of the DTSC Director’s External Advisory Group.
Weiner, an attorney and partner at the lawfirm Paul Hastings where he heads the environmental and energy practice, heartily endorsed Raphael, saying, “I also as you know represent many private companies who have also found Ms. Raphael to be balanced, to be thorough, and to be just as open as she claims to be.”
Weiner appeared on Boeing’s behalf before the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2009, trying to get its enforceable pollution limits on toxins in surface water flowing off the site waived for an extensive period. In testimony under oath, he repeatedly made statements that were false claiming that DTSC was stopping Boeing from removing polluted soil, requiring the acting director of DTSC to write to the L.A. water board to correct the matter calling Weiner’s remarks “innaccurate, but also offensive.”
Other former DTSC and EPA staff lobby for Boeing as well, an issue recently addressed by a group of concerned environmental leaders in Los Angeles with Raphael. When questioned about DTSC’s “revolving door” that allows former staff who become lobbyists to influence the department, Raphael responded that, essentially, former DTSC staff can lobby for polluters but are not allowed to be effective.
It is unlikely that Boeing is paying its lobbyists like Weiner for nothing. Raphael’s beaming smile next to Weiner at her confirmation hearing did little in the way of convincing activists that she was uninfluenced by the man who had formally held her position.
Raphael’s dubious remarks about lobbyists were turned into a DTSC FAQ that read, “As long as former DTSC and Cal-EPA employees comply with all legal limitations regarding their relationship with their former department, they have a right to gainful legal employment and have a right to represent any client’s interests before DTSC.”
The document elaborates further that, “DTSC and Cal-EPA employees representing outside interests before their former colleagues can create inaccurate perceptions. However, they do not and cannot have influence on department decisions.”
Community activists say that is patently absurd, and contend that not only do Boeing and its allies unduly influence DTSC decisions, they are the only ones DTSC hears – that DTSC has turned its back on the community and on thousands of people who support the Agreements on Consent (AOCs) between DTSC and the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to clean up their polluted sites at Rocketdyne, as the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) is commonly called.
The activists contend that DTSC also dismissed the concerns of the hundreds of people who support the Work Group over a CAG by a ratio of 4 to 1. Boeing lobbyists, they say, have helped DTSC systematically undermine the very cleanup it’s supposed to supervise.
CONSENTING TO CLEAN UP
It wasn’t always like this.
Five years ago, the struggle to cleanup SSFL began to look up. First, in August 2007, DTSC entered into a Consent Order for Corrective Action with all three responsible parties – Boeing, DOE and the NASA. Cleanup activists were optimistic, but felt that more was required to give DTSC the authority required to ensure the site was cleaned up properly.
In October 2007, state law SB 990 was passed, ensuring that the site would be cleaned to the strictest standards. In January, 2008, activists scored another victory in making sure that the state stayed in control of the cleanup.
DTSC subsequently began a process to amend the Consent Order to include provisions of SB 990. In September, 2009, the agency was having trouble getting Boeing on board with a revised consent order as Boeing alleged it wasn’t afforded “the same rights” as the other responsible parties. On November 2, 2009, a revised draft consent order that included Boeing, NASA, and DOE was announced.
But it was not to be. Boeing protested that the SB 990 cleanup standards were too high, would cause it undue financial burden, and in a unique twist of logic, would jeopardize SSFL’s habitat and harm the community. On November 13, 2009, Boeing sued the state.
DTSC nevertheless began to work on new cleanup agreements with NASA and DOE to cleanup the lab to background levels of chemical and radiological contamination. Though Boeing was not part of the agreements, it continued to spread misinformation about such a cleanup, including the wild claim that 1.6 million cubic yards of soil would have to be removed from the site, a reversal of its years-long contention that SSFL was not contaminated.
This and other inaccurate rumors about the agreements – that they wouldn’t allow in-situ treatment, would harm wildlife and would require stricter cleanup levels than SB 990 – were vigorously debunked by the state and cleanup advocates.
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.
Check this out!
Read about DTSC at Toxic Department.
[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)
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?”
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:
The report is here:
Note on the last page of the report, that it references EnviroReporter.com‘s series Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover:
NBC Bay Area‘s Investigative Team TV news segment:
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:
NBC4 (SoCal) news segment:
Senator Kevin DeLeon has called for a Senate investigation into DTSC:
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?