Santa Monica, CA — A broad coalition of community members, advocates, and labor groups have petitioned Governor Brown excoriating the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for permitting a company with a spotty record to build a used motor oil recycling plant a stone’s throw from a highly frequented lake and recreation area in Irwindale, Consumer Watchdog said today.
“Environmentalists and members of this largely working class Latino community have drawn a line in the sand,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. “Siting a facility right next to the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area used for boating, swimming, and hiking that affords a rest from the pressures of urban life to thousands of middle class people is an outrage and highest form of disrespect for the public that the DTSC is tasked to protect from toxic harm.”
Irwindale is an economically disadvantaged and largely minority community that already borders at least a dozen EPA-regulated facilities that generate, transport, treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste. The Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area is a designated Significant Ecological Area for protected species. More than 270 out of 1,500 community members have signed the petition so far, along with labor groups, environmental justice leaders, wildlife advocates, and faith leaders.
“This is not a question of whether we should have facilities to process hazardous waste…. the question is where to put them,” petitioners wrote. “This site is in an economically disadvantaged and largely minority community. DTSC’s permit decision is an outrageous act of environmental injustice.”
The petition continued, “It is impossible to tell how many gallons of waste will flow into the dam as a result of this permit decision. But we know it will flow. And the plant will foul the air based on other cases of pollution around the state from lead battery recycler Exide Technologies in East Los Angeles to chemical waste recycler PhibroTech in Santa Fe Springs, and Evergreen Oil, another used motor oil recycler in the East Bay.”
For the petition, see: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/save_sfdra.pdf
The basic concept of environmental justice is widely misunderstood by DTSC staff that have failed to even define it and don’t know how to apply it, said Tucker. DTSC has largely ignored it and virtually all hazardous waste facilities are permitted in or near low-income, largely minority communities.
“Environmental justice means the pursuit of equal justice and equal protection under the law for all environmental statutes and regulations without discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic standards,” said Tucker. “This precept is constantly violated by a regulator in bed with the companies it regulates and often represented by people who formerly worked in high positions at DTSC or other environmental agencies.”
Tucker said that DTSC had the nerve to tell the community that the environmental review process under CEQA “doesn’t require an environmental justice component” as part of the review. “If the CEQA process does not provide protection for poor minority communities from environmental hazards in the context of an Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA, then what does?” petitioners wrote.
The DTSC also failed to consider cumulative impacts of one more plant in the vicinity, which would have clearly shown that the environmental detriments far outweigh any economic benefits.
Advocates and attorneys have been fighting the permit for CleanTech Environmental for more than two years, initially pressuring the DTSC to review its draft permit decision because it skipped an environmental impact review required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The permitting process reflected a troubling pattern of skipping in-depth studies of the possible impacts of such facilities, suggested former DTSC insiders pulled strings, and ignored the compliance record of CleanTech, the third largest collector and hauler of used motor oil in California. It has not run a used motor oil and waste anti-freeze treatment facility before.
“The company has signed two consent orders with the DTSC and paid fines for storing used motor oil longer than safe—121 times, and for shoddy paperwork about what it transports,” said Tucker. “How this company can be trusted to branch out in this business safely is beyond me.”
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