Hearing before Chairman Wieckowski highlights need for more DTSC reform

Independent Review Panel says department overseeing toxic substances needs strong leadership, stability and accountability

February 1, 2017

Sacramento – Testifying before two environmental committees chaired by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) today, the head of the Independent Review Panel (IRP) charged with making recommendations to improve the Department of Toxic Substances Control said the department needs consistent leadership, organizational improvements, a stable budget and increased transparency and accountability to fulfill its core functions in the future.

The comments were made during a joint oversight hearing of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee and the Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation.  The IRP was created by the Legislature in 2015 to conduct an independent review and to make recommendations on improving the DTSC, which has been plagued by backlogs, staff turnover, poor accountability and failing to recover costs for cleanup.

“The DTSC’s history of glaring failings is a serious concern and the recommendations and benchmarks put forth by the IRP can help the department get back on track with meeting its core programs,” Wieckowski said.  “Not only do we need to ensure that the investments made in the past five years are resulting in the necessary reforms to DTSC, we need to work to ensure the operation in the future is sound and the department meets all of its mandates.  It needs to create a structure that is transparent and accountable to all the stakeholders and communities that are affected by the work of the department.”

The Legislature approved all the Governor’s DTSC funding requests for this fiscal year.  Its budget increased by 19 percent, mostly for the cleanup of the Exide site in southern California.  Gideon Kracov, the chair of the IRP, praised the Legislature for creating a new Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs within DTSC to improve transparency and accountability.  But he added that a widespread perception exists that DTSC is insular and in need of increased accountability.

The IRP issues its reports every 90 days and will sunset on Dec. 31, 2017. 

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and Santa Clara County.