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For Immediate Release: Jul 06, 2000
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

DAVIS NEGLECTS TOXIC PROBLEMS

Staff Still See Enforcement Obstruction


Sacramento - Governor Gray Davis is not living up to expectations that he would significantly improve environmental protection, according to employees at California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in a report released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). DTSC employees note that, while the overt hostility to environmental enforcement during the tenure of Governor Pete Wilson has disappeared, crucial reforms are not forthcoming.

The most common complaint emerging from the scores of employee interviews conducted by PEER is that Governor Davis has left most of the Wilson policies and management personnel in place. Of the 25 top appointed positions at DTSC, more than half (13) are still held by Wilson appointees. Two positions remain vacant.

Under the Wilson administration, regulated industries knew they could go over the heads of project managers and inspectors to avoid compliance. According to current DTSC employees, political interference continues to occur:

* Staff cite incidents in which DTSC project managers are being replaced at the request of regulated industry representatives, and where politics continue to over-ride science-based recommendations.

* Several project managers told PEER that their projects are influenced by attorney Peter Weiner, who represents several hazardous waste generators as well as a number of Responsible Parties (RPs) involved in a variety of DTSC clean-up projects.

* Employees note that enforcement logs show no increase in violations reported. They report a "business as usual" attitude by managers and are still waiting to see DTSC use its authority to crack down on facilities that fail to meet clean-up schedules, or use their attorneys and lobbyists to delay or avoid expensive clean-up measures.

The PEER report was compiled from extensive one-on-one interviews with nearly 80 DTSC employees, approximately one-tenth of all agency employees. While staff applauded Davis' appointment of Ed Lowry as DTSC Director, they believe he has not been given the freedom to run the department.

The report shows little change in staff attitudes today compared with a September 1999 PEER survey, in which employees asked the newly-appointed Director Lowry to "clean house" of holdover managers and to change the agency direction to support stronger enforcement of California's environmental laws.

"The initial hopes for meaningful change DTSC employees felt when Governor Davis took over are steadily eroding," commented California PEER Coordinator Karen Schambach, who conducted the interview project. "According to the employees in the trenches, the Davis administration is on a course of perpetuating Pete Wilson's environmental legacy."