Mike Rogge

Bolstered funding and oversight panel in DTSC future

By Mike Rogge

Capitol Update, June 26, 2015 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has been blasted by environmental activists for years under a number of directors for what the Environmental Justice (EJ) community has viewed as poor management and collusion with corporate interests. DTSC on the other hand has pointed to statute, personnel, and funding limitations.

There was a “package” of bills introduced this year to enhance the ability of DTSC to more effectively recover costs and to expand their authority. Most were authored by the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, of which Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) is chair: AB 273, AB 274, AB 275, AB 276. Alejo additionally introduced AB 1075. In the Senate, bills include SB 654 (Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles), and SB 673 (Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens).

Additionally, included with the 2015-16 budget submitted by the Legislature to the Governor, was trailer bill language (as yet unavailable) which will reportedly give DTSC 52 new staff positions and $16.8 million dollar in the fiscal year beginning July 1 to enhance its permitting and enforcement programs.Part of the package includes the formation of a three member independent review panel which would oversee DTSC’s activities and report to both the Governor and the Legislature.

The Senate proposed that the Assembly Speaker, the Senate Rules Committee, and the Governor would each appoint one member to the panel and the panel appointees must include a community representative, a scientific expert on toxic materials, and a local government management expert. This oversight panel would advise on DTSC’s compliance with a new law requiring it to establish an Office of Performance, Accountability and Transparency to be in place by the end of this year.  The budget trailer bill may also require DTSC to submit, as part of its January 2016 budget plan, a proposal implementing the oversight panel's recommendations, according to the Senate offering.

The bill package also provides for six limited-term positions and $643,000 for DTSC to expand research capabilities and accelerate the rate in which consumer products containing toxic chemicals can be evaluated and identified for inclusion in the Safer Consumer Products Program (Green Chemistry). DTSC would be required to provide reports by April 1, 2016, on progress for its permitting backlog and on progress for a cleanup plan at the notorious Exide Technologies site in southern California.

Of course, the bill can still be changed between now and the end of session to alter the structure and function of the oversight panel. The deadline for the Legislature to pass all bills is September 11th.

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