Consumer Watchdog Urges Governor to Put Department of Toxic Substances Control Officials on Administrative Leave

Chevron Conflict At Toxics Agency That Routinely Ignores California Environmental Quality Act Requires External and Transparent Investigation

SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog today called for Governor Brown to conduct his own investigation into allegations of financial conflict of interest at the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and to put two officials at the department on administrative leave immediately.

Consumer Watchdog first raised the allegations in a letter to Governor Brown on March 6 when it pointed out that DTSC Chief Deputy Director Odette Madriago and Deputy Director for Brownfields Stewart Black had invested six and seven figures into companies that the department regulates or licenses and should be fired.

Madriago owned up to $100,000 in Chevron and in BP Amoco at the same time that she appears to have participated in agency decisions about not regulating the companies' refineries and cleanup of its sites across the state. Chevron is leading the charge for gutting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), recently even hiring the former state senator Michael Rubio, the proponent of eviscerating CEQA, as its governmental affairs executive. Consumer Watchdog pointed out that without an independent and credible gubernatorial investigation the cloud of impropriety would hang over all the governor's efforts on the environmental front. "We call on the governor to place these people on administrative leave immediately pending a full investigation of the true facts," said consumer advocate Liza Tucker. "These officials have already broken the public trust through the appearance of a conflict of interest and may still have broken the law. The governor needs to investigate these allegations himself." 

In the letter to the governor, Tucker wrote that "The DTSC is riddled with internal conflicts and lacks transparency and accountability, as we documented in our study Golden Wasteland," wrote Liza Tucker, consumer advocate and author of the report that was released last month. "We write today because this extends even to the DTSC's accountability for how it conducted its internal review."

See Letter Here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/browncoiltr3-18-13.pdf

Barely 24 hours after Consumer Watchdog made its allegations, the DTSC announced its internal investigation "almost" complete with no evidence of wrongdoing discovered and no mention of their unethical behavior. When asked by Consumer Watchdog, the DTSC would not release the names of the people who conducted the internal review. "If the DTSC won't provide the names of the individuals who performed the review, or explain what it found, how can anyone consider it credible?" wrote Tucker in the letter. "The problem of accountability and transparency at this agency is so severe that it even extends to its review of claims of conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, this is in keeping with its lack of accountability to communities that are poisoned by serial toxic polluters every day."

The letter pointed out that Odette Madriago and Stewart Black have been with the department for many years and any careful review would have had to include written evidence that they had recused themselves from dozens of regulatory matters before the DTSC. Tucker wrote that polluters like Chevron have escaped accountability for too long while pushing for reform of laws like the California Environmental Quality Act. No reform, if one is really needed, will be legitimate, the letter said, when the chief deputy director of the DTSC holds significant amounts of Chevron stock and decides to abdicate the department's statutory authority to regulate refineries in the wake of Chevron's toxic cloud that sent as many as 15,000 people to the hospital.

"As governor, you cannot take on legislative reform that benefits Chevron and other polluters without dealing with the toxic cloud hanging over this department first," the letter says.

See the Golden Wasteland report and media links here:

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/golden-wasteland-report

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/about/in-the-news 

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog



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