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.
The company issued a statement saying, “We are pleased by the court’s decision to not grant a preliminary injunction and appreciate that the judge is taking the time to thoughtfully consider the complex issues of this case. Susan Abram of the Los Angeles Daily News was understandably confused since the judge had in fact issued a tentative ruling last Thursday temporarily granting the injunction until he could more fully analyze the motion and the over 2,500 pages of briefings and documents submitted to the court. At the court hearing on Friday, rather than issuing an order, the judge extracted a promise in open court from Boeing that it would not demolish or dispose of any more contaminated structures on the site until he is able to issue his final ruling.
Boeing is a master spinner of the truth, trying to convince the public that the site can be used for its nuclear field of dreams as open parkland with minimal cleanup, and trying to convince the court that dumping radioactive waste at unprotected landfills and recycling shops is harmless to your health. And at Friday’s hearing, state regulators helped Boeing by claiming that they have no authority to disapprove of Boeing's demolishing and disposal of radioactively contaminated debris that could end up in your jeans zipper.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is the lead agency overseeing, and approving, the cleanup of the Santa Susana site, including the demolishing and disposal of radioactive debris. That must be part of a publicly conducted environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. And in the state of California, radioactive debris must go to facilities licensed to receive it. Boeing doctored its radiation measurements, using illegal state radiation standards similar to those thrown out by the same court more than a decade ago, to miss much of that contamination. But Boeing’s own data still revealed extensive hotspots. On Friday, Boeing argued that the harm from an injunction would be to scare the public into believing there is a risk of harm from radiation that doesn’t exist. In fact, the harm to the public and the environment if radioactive aste is allowed to go to sites unlicensed to receive it is real.
That is why the Legislature has found and declared that the requirements that low-level radioactive waste be disposed of at facilities specially licensed to permanently isolate and monitor such waste are necessary “to protect public health, the economy and the environment.” And the court in its tentative ruling agreed: “[O]n its limited review, the court is inclined to find the potential harm to Petitioners, the public and environment if an injunction does not issue outweighs the minimal harm alleged to Boeing if it does.
That’s why we sued several months ago. And requested a preliminary injunction. And this is all the more reason why Consumer Watchdog needs a preliminary injunction to stop further DTSC approvals of Boeing's demolition and disposal activities while the lawsuit is pending.