SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today called on the Department of Toxic Substances Control to reverse its grant of a permit to CleanTech Environmental for a new Irwindale facility to process hazardous waste and recycle used motor oil because the department skipped a proper assessment of the risks. The DTSC granted the permit without performing a legally required Environmental Impact Report, the group said.
“This permit blatantly disregards the legal requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and is a display of disrespect, once again, to working class, largely minority communities that have a right to expect your department to protect their community and the environment from toxic harm,” advocate Liza Tucker wrote to DTSC Director Debbie Raphael.
Click here to download a copy of the letter.
Tucker said the DTSC’s approval for the project is part of a troubling pattern of skipping in-depth studies of the possible impacts of such facilities as the law requires: “That’s because if you performed the EIRs, they would surely demonstrate that the environmental detriments far outweigh the benefits.”
Tucker said that the DTSC comes under industry pressure on a regular basis to cut corners. “It’s common knowledge that companies routinely game the system and roll over the DTSC,” Tucker wrote. “In this case, sources tell us that the permitting division pressured your department’s CEQA compliance division to hurry up and clear the project without even the pretense of a thorough Initial Study, let alone a full-blown EIR. This practice has been going on for years.”
Irwindale is home to a largely working class, Latino community that already borders at least a dozen EPA-regulated facilities that generate, transport, treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste. The new facility would stand right next to the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area that is a designated significant ecological area for both protected species and people who like to swim, hike and fish. But the department did not look at the potential for hazardous waste spills or contamination of soil, water or air in the cursory initial study that it used to justify a permit.
Nor did the department take into account the company’s history. CleanTech is currently the third largest collector of used oil in California and the second largest provider of part washers in California, with a facility in Fresno. The company has signed two consent orders with the DTSC and paid fines for storing used motor oil longer than authorized, for failing to use separate manifests for different drivers of hazardous waste trucks and other infractions. “But the DTSC is trusting this company to safely branch out into a new corner of the hazardous waste business and expand its hauling operations to do it,” Tucker wrote.
To get around the need to perform an EIR, the department also illegally classified the facility as “small-scale” by limiting its monthly processing output to a fraction of the plant’s planned capacity in the permit, the group said. “CEQA indisputably requires the DTSC to perform an EIR. Yet, your department preferred to interpret that acronym as standing for: Entirely Ignore Report. We ask that you exercise executive leadership and reconsider the DTSC’s granting of this permit.”
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