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News Release

Sacramento Judge Rejects Boeing’s Bid to Demolish and Dispose of Radioactive Waste Without Accountability

CEQA Case Against Top Toxics Regulators Brought by Public Interest Groups Over Santa Susana Field Lab To Go To Trial
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Liza Tucker & Pamela Pressley

Santa Monica, CA -- Sacramento Superior Court has denied Boeing’s motion for summary judgment in a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit over the demolition and disposal of radioactively contaminated structures from the site of a partial nuclear meltdown near Los Angeles, Consumer Watchdog said today.

“This is an important step on the way to ensuring that state regulators must consider the demolition and disposal of any radioactively contaminated structures at the Santa Susana Field Lab in their environmental assessment of the cleanup of this site,” said Consumer Watchdog Litigation Director Pam Pressley.

Boeing had claimed that the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has no regulatory authority over the demolition and disposal of radioactively contaminated structures in the nuclear portion of the Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) in Simi Hills. The lab had tested small-scale nuclear reactors, rocket engines, and fuels and suffered a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 that has never been fully cleaned up.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) did not oppose Boeing’s motion, nor did it present any evidence proving Boeing’s claim.

“It is time for DTSC to stop kowtowing to egregious polluters by looking the other way to save them money on cleanups while endangering the public health,” said Consumer Watchdog advocate Liza Tucker. “The state has to obey environmental laws when authorizing demolition and disposal of structures impregnated with radioactive wastes. This isn’t rocket-science.”

Tucker said that the lawsuit’s outcome could have broader ramifications over whether polluters need DTSC approval to oversee the cleanup of contaminated structures the agency routinely oversees at hundreds of other commercial and military sites across California.

Consumer Watchdog, Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA, Committee to Bridge the Gap, and the Southern California Federation of Scientists represented by Strumwasser & Woocher brought suit in August 2013 against DTSC and the Department of Public Health (DPH) for allowing demolition and illegal disposal of radioactively contaminated structures from Area IV of the SSFL site without prior public review as CEQA requires.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction against the DTSC in December 2013 that prevented the DTSC from allowing Boeing to further demolish and dispose of any contaminated structures from Area IV pending the final outcome of the lawsuit.

In this week’s order, Judge Allen Sumner wrote: “Whether CEQA requires DTSC to approve Boeing’s demolition and disposal activities is an issue of substantial and continuing interest...But this is not Boeing’s decision to make, much less by unilateral action. This issue will be decided when the court rules on the merits of Petitioners’ claims.”

For the order denying Boeing’s motion for summary judgment, see:

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/2015-1-5_order_after_hearing_denying_mtn_for_summary_judgment.pdf

For the Boeing motion, Petitioners’ opposition to that motion, and DTSC response to Boeing’s motion, see:

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/noticemotionforsummaryjudgment5-23-14.pdf
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/oppositiontoboeingsmotiononsummary_judgment.pdf
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/dtscnotice9-3-14.pdf

The state is preparing an environmental impact report for the Boeing site, but has so far refused to consider the demolition and disposal of the radioactively contaminated structures as part of that study. DTSC’s and Boeing’s legal positions were contradicted by prior consent orders and evidence demonstrating that DTSC and DPH have exercised statutory authority over demolition and disposal of structures from the site for years. As a result, petitioners argue, such demolition activities must be part of any public environmental review process.

For the original lawsuit against DTSC and DPH, and the preliminary injunction, see:
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/consumer-watchdog-filing-suit-block-top-toxics-regulators-disposal-radioactive-waste-inc
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/consumer-groups-win-preliminary-injunction-against-toxics-regulator-over-illegal-disposa

Under the influence of highly paid influence peddlers hired by Boeing, DTSC has been finding ways to undo legal agreements signed by regulators under the previous administration to thoroughly clean up the site, which threatens the health of half a million people who live within ten miles of it.

For a report on Boeing, its regulators, and influence peddling, see: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/inside-job-0

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