Focus Area

Toxics Watchdog

California has some of the toughest environmental laws in the nation, but some of the weakest enforcement. Toxic pollution emissions from manufacturers and refineries to soil and water rose ten percent in 2011, after steadily falling since 2007, according to the US EPA. Toxic pollution is affecting communities across the state from heavily industrial working-class communities to bedroom communities built on old farmland.

Consumer Watchdog wants the Department of Toxic Substances Control to live up to its mission of protecting communities and the environment from toxic harm caused by one hundred thousand generators of hazardous waste in the state. Unfortunately, this department of the California Environmental Protection Agency that regulates companies generating and handling hazardous waste has fallen down on the job for years. Fewer and fewer cases are referred to public prosecutors. Less and less money is flowing to communities harmed by toxins.

Consumer Watchdog is drawing a bright green line between serial toxic polluters and the communities they inhabit, challenging the DTSC to revoke permits of serial environmental polluters, levy maximum fines, and take serial polluters to court instead of cutting deals behind closed doors. The DTSC, together with CAL EPA and all of its branches, should lead in protecting communities and the environment from toxic harm to soil, water, and air. It's time for California environmental regulators to show Californians that community health should not come at the expense of corporate wealth.

Resources:

Inside Job - How Boeing Fixers Captured Regulators And Derailed A Nuclear And Chemical Cleanup In LA's Backyard

A new report released by Consumer Watchdog today documents how Boeing and its influential fixers derailed the cleanup of a partial nuclear meltdown site in greater Los Angeles with help from their regulators at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

Click here to read and download a copy of the report.

 

Golden Wasteland Project

Golden Wasteland is a six-month long study by Consumer Watchdog of The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the job it's doing to protect Californians and the environment from toxic harm. Based on interviews with DTSC staff, present and former, as well as environmental lawyers, prosecutors, advocates, consultants, and affected communities, it is clear that the DTSC is falling down on the job.

Click here to read and download a copy of the report.
 

Press Releases

New Report Exposes Boeing Influence Peddling That Derailed Cleanup of a Partial Nuclear Meltdown Site Near L.A.

 

6/5/14
A new report released by Consumer Watchdog today documents how Boeing and its influential fixers derailed the cleanup of a partial nuclear meltdown site in greater Los Angeles with help from their regulators at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).<Read More>

 

Top Toxics Regulator Resigns in Sign of Possible Reform
5/1/14
Today’s resignation of Debbie Raphael, Director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control, is a hopeful sign that the Brown Administration will finally clean up a deeply troubled department, Consumer Watchdog said today.<Read More>

Toxics Regulators Doctor Results of Investigation To Avoid Admitting Wildomar Residents Poisoned
4/8/14
A new report released today by leading environmental advocate Penny Newman and residents of the poisoned Wildomar community shows that state toxics regulators doctored data in a preliminary investigation of the Autumnwood housing complex to avoid pinpointing what has poisoned the Riverside County residents and skip any cleanup, Consumer Watchdog said today.<Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Requests Radiological Inspection at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard As Possibly Contaminated Soil Heads to Landfills Unlicensed for Radioactive Waste
2/28/14
Consumer Watchdog has called for a state investigation of the cleanup of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco for large amounts of soil that may have been dug up in a radioactively impacted parcel without being checked for contamination and then sent off site for possible disposal in landfills unlicensed to take low-level radioactive waste.<Read More>

Consumer Groups Win Preliminary Injunction Against Toxics Regulator Over Illegal Disposal of Boeing Radioactive Debris
12/16/2013
The Sacramento Superior Court granted a motion for preliminary injunction against the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) pending final outcome of a lawsuit filed by Consumer Watchdog counsel and Strumwasser & Woocher on behalf of Consumer Watchdog and three other groups over the illegal demolition and disposal of radioactive debris from Boeing's Santa Susana nuclear reactor and rocket engine test site. <Read More>

Fair Political Practices Commission Should Postpone Settlement Agreement with California Strategies and Winston Hickox for Undisclosed Lobbying Until Boeing is Added
9/19/2013
Consumer Watchdog today asked the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to postpone a proposed settlement agreement between staff attorneys and three well-connected partners in the public affairs company California Strategies until one of the partners, Winston Hickox, fully discloses his lobbying activities on behalf of Boeing in its efforts to get out of its cleanup obligations at a Southern California nuclear reactor meltdown site. <Read More>

Will Regulators Get Extra Power To Leave Hazardous and Radioactive Waste In Place On Last Day Of Session?
9/12/2013
In the fine print of “environmental justice” legislation, AB 1330 (Speaker John Perez) is a huge to gift to polluters that allows the state’s toxics regulator to make a plan for “reducing the disposal of hazardous waste that may post a significant threat to human health or the environment to the maximum extent practicable.” <Read More>

Eleventh Hour Bill Helps Keep Toxic Waste “In Place” In Your Backyard
9/9/2013
Californians can look forward to hazardous waste being “left in place” instead of removed and sent to specially constructed and licensed facilities if lawmakers vote through a gut-and-amended Assembly Bill 1330 without new amendments this week, said Consumer Watchdog. <Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Files Preliminary Injunction Motion To Stop Illegal State Approval of Boeing Radioactive Waste Demolition and Disposal
9/5/2013
Consumer Watchdog and Strumwasser & Woocher have filed a motion in Sacramento Superior Court for a preliminary injunction freezing all of Boeing’s demolition of structures and disposal of radioactive waste at the Santa Susana Field Lab in Simi Valley—including a plutonium fuel fabrication building. The groups want the court to resolve allegations that the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) broke California’s signature environmental law by approving the work in Area IV, the nuclear portion of the lab, without public review or comment and allowing its illegal disposal. <Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Filing Suit to Block Top Toxics Regulators From Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Including Plutonium, From Nuclear Site
8/6/2013
After regulators failed to meet a 24 hour deadline set by public interest groups to stop Boeing from demolishing and disposing of radioactive waste at facilities not licensed to accept radioactive waste and at recycling plants, Consumer Watchdog and Strumwasser & Woocher LLP are filing suit against the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) to force their hand. <Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Demands Top Toxics Regulator Immediately Stop Boeing’s Illegal Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Including Plutonium, from Nuclear Site or Face Legal Action
8/5/2013
State regulators at the troubled Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) are quietly allowing Boeing to demolish all of its radioactively-contaminated structures at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) site in Simi Valley and dispose of the debris at sites that are not licensed to receive radioactive waste, Consumer Watchdog has uncovered. Exposure to radioactive waste can cause cancer and genetic mutations. Structures torn down in recent months have been recycled into the commercial metal, asphalt, and concrete supply and could wind up in consumer products like zippers, and in building girders or roads. <Read More>

California Superior Court Lifts Top Toxic Regulator’s Suspension of Exide Technologies in Move Endangering Californians
6/17/2013
Exide Technologies has won a temporary reprieve that prevents the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) from enforcing its shutdown of the company’s Vernon plant. That means the lead battery recycler can restart its operations, threatening Californians with renewed pollution of their air and water, Consumer Watchdog said today. <Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Requests Financial Audit After Toxics Regulator Reveals $185 Million in Uncollected Cleanup Bills
5/30/2013
Consumer Watchdog called for the California State Auditor to perform a comprehensive financial audit of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) today after, as acknowledged in the Sacramento Bee, the state’s top toxics regulator admitted it had never billed or failed to collect $185 million in reimbursements of public funds from polluters for overseeing cleanup of their toxic messes. <Read More>

New Documents Reveal Top Toxics Regulator Knew of Exide Safety Risks for Years
5/30/2013
New documents reveal that, contrary to its public statements, the state’s top toxics regulator knew about lead and arsenic emissions at Exide Technologies for years but looked the other way, Consumer Watchdog said today. <Read More>

Top Toxics Regulator’s Chief Deputy Resigns Amid State Conflict of Interest Investigation
5/13/2013
After a complaint by Consumer Watchdog to the state about investments made in companies she regulates, Odette Madriago, chief deputy director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), has stepped down from her position and will retire at the end of the year, the group has learned. <Read More>

Top Toxics Agency Left Refinery Inspector Positions Vacant As Lead Official Held Chevron Stock
4/10/2013
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has gutted its ability to inspect refineries in the wake of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond last August, Consumer Watchdog said today. The information comes on the heels of a U.S. Chemical Safety Board statement before California lawmakers that the fire could have been prevented if agencies had more and better-skilled inspectors on staff. <Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Calls for Firing of Top Toxic Officials After Fair Political Practices Commission Launches Investigation
4/3/2013
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. <Read More>

Chevron Conflict At Toxics Agency That Routinely Ignores California Environmental Quality Act Requires External and Transparent Investigation
3/18/2013
Consumer Watchdog today called for Governor Brown to conduct his own investigation into allegations of financial conflict of interest at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and to put two officials at the department on administrative leave immediately. Consumer Watchdog first raised the allegations in a letter to Governor Brown on March 6 when it pointed out that DTSC Chief Deputy Director Odette Madriago and Deputy Director for Brownfields Stewart Black had invested six and seven figures into companies that the department regulates or licenses and should be fired. <Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Calls for Governor Brown to Fire Two DTSC Officials for Conflicts of Interest
3/6/2013
Consumer Watchdog today called for Governor Jerry Brown to fire two top officials at The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for conflicts of interest. The letter said that the officials may have violated the California Code of Regulations by holding six and seven figure interests in companies regulated and/or licensed by the department while making decisions that could have affected those companies. <Read More>

Consumer Watchdog Report Elicits Calls for Investigation of Toxics Regulator
2/25/2013
Senator Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) became the fourth lawmaker to respond to Consumer Watchdog’s report, Golden Wasteland, calling the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) onto the carpet for falling down on the job and protecting hazardous waste polluters over people. He is now calling for DTSC Director Debbie Raphael to investigate the deaths of two female constituents in Wildomar, each of whom died suddenly after gardening in their backyards.<Read More>

New Report Shows Regulators Not Protecting Public From Toxic Harm
2/21/2013
California has some of the toughest environmental laws in the nation, and some of the weakest enforcement, according to a new report by leading California consumer group, Consumer Watchdog. The group documented how the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has consistently failed to protect communities and the environment from the environmental and health harms posed by toxic waste in the state’s soil, water, and air. The group wrote the governor calling for the removal of top DTSC managers.<Read More>
 

Blogs

Boeing Volunteers to Stand Down in Consumer Watchdog Suit Over Illegal Demolition and Disposal of Radioactive Waste from Reactor Test Site
10/30/2013
Over the weekend, Boeing misled the media on a preliminary injunction request by Consumer Watchdog in Sacramento Superior Court last Friday afternoon. We’d asked a judge to stop the state from letting Boeing demolish and dispose of radioactive debris from radionuclide-impregnated buildings in one area of its Santa Susana rocket and nuclear reactor research facility in Simi Hills. <Read More>

Lessons (Not) Learned From the Chevron Fire
4/10/2013
On Friday, federal accident investigators told California legislators that the state’s patchwork of oil industry regulations needs a serious overhaul. The Chevron fire that produced a toxic cloud and sent 15,000 people to the hospital could have been prevented, but the system was reactive and not designed to foresee and forestall problems, said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. Duh. The board didn’t need 18 months to come to that conclusion. But Don Holstrom, lead investigator for the board, did put his finger on one problem: the need to bump up the number, skills, and authority of refinery inspectors. <Read More>

Sacramento Responds To Golden Wasteland Report/NBC expose
2/21/2013
Somebody's listening. We issued Golden Wasteland this morning, a harsh look at  the Department of Toxic Substances Control and how it's falling down on its job of protecting Californians and the environment from toxic harm.  NBC took a deep dive look at the Department last night as well -- and its director refused to answer direct questions. Well now Sacramento has some of its own.<Read More>
 

Videos

NBC Bay Area - Senate Investigation Finds "Major Problems" in State Toxics Dept.

Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner, and Felipe Escamilla
8/7/2014

 

NBC Bay Area - Workers Allege Hunters Point Dirt Needs to be Screened for Radiation

Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner, Scott Phame and Felipe Escamilla
2/27/2014

NBC Bay Area - Regulators Criticized for Sims Fire in Redwood City
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner, Jeremy Carroll and Felipe Escamilla
12/18/2013

 

NBC Los Angeles - Judge Sides With Consumer Watchdog and Halts DTSC Approval of Boeing's Santa Susana Clean Up Plan
12/17/2013

 

NBC Bay Area - Metal Pollutants Still Deemed 'Safe' Despite Toxics Dept.'s Internal Warnings
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner & Felipe Escamilla
9/5/2013

 

NBC Bay Area - DTSC Director Answers Critics - Deborah Raphael sits down with NBC Bay Area for the first time since Investigative Unit reports prompted state senate and ethics investigations
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner, David Paredes and Matt Goldberg
8/14/2013

 

NBC Los Angeles - Activists Fight Demolition at Former Nuclear Base
Michelle Valles
8/8/2013

 

KCAL 9 CBS, Los Angeles - Consumer Watchdog Files Suit To Halt Demolition, Debris Removal At Santa Susana Field Lab
Dave Bryan
8/8/2013

 

NBC Los Angeles - Toxic Waste Regulators Failed to Collect $185M From Polluters
Keith Esparros
5/31/2013

 

NBC Bay Area - DTSC Admits It Failed to Collect Millions Owed to CA
Vicky Nguyen & Liz Wagner
5/31/2013

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

NBC Bay Area - DTSC Second-in-Command Steps Down
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla
5/13/2013

 

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

 

NBC Bay Area - Nearly 2000 CA Citizens Call for Firing of DTSC Deputy Director, Odette Madriago
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla
4/3/2013


NBC Bay Area - DTSC Second-in-Command Now Focus of Ethics Investigation
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla
4/2/2013

 

 

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

 

 

NBC Bay Area - DTSC Leaders Have Owned Major Stock in Companies the Department Oversees
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla
3/5/2013

 

 

 

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

 

 

NBC Bay Area - Lawmakers Demand Senate Investigation into DTSC
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla
2/22/2013

NBC LA - Lawmakers Demand Review of Agency that Polices Polluters
Joel Grover and Chris Henao
2/22/2013

 

 

 

NBC Bay Area - Insiders Say CA Toxic Regulation is Weak
Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla
2/21/2013

View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

 

 

NBC LA: Investigation: Regulators Failing to Protect Neighborhoods From Toxic Waste
Joel Grover and Chris Henao

 

 

 

2/21/2013

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

 

Media

To find a full account of the media and news articles in which Consumer Watchdog's Toxics Watchdog project has been featured, please click here.