FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Jeff Ruch firstname.lastname@example.org (510) 213-7028
Newsom Muscling Boeing Sweetheart Deal Through
Water Board Chair Replaced by Former Boeing Consultant Before Hearing
Oakland —The Newsom administration appears to be pulling out all stops to secure final approval of a new deal dramatically weakening cleanup requirements for the Boeing Co. at the profoundly polluted Santa Susana Field Laboratory, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The chair of the regional water board which must ratify the settlement resigned shortly before the only public hearing on the issue and has been replaced by a former top official of a major Boeing contractor.
Located in the hills above the San Fernando and Simi Valleys, Santa Susana is one of California’s most toxic places, as the site of a reactor meltdown and polluted by decades of rocket-testing, and other activities.
After repeatedly promising to not negotiate with Boeing but instead to enforce a 2007 legally binding cleanup agreement, the Newsom administration secretly negotiated an 800-page agreement that “supersedes” the prior order by substantially relaxing key cleanup requirements, allowing hundreds of times higher levels of toxic chemicals than previously permitted.
This sweetheart deal is contingent upon a vote by the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) at a hearing slated for tomorrow. But, leading up to that hearing –
- Board chair Lawrence Yee abruptly resigned;
- His replacement, James Stahl, is a former vice-president of MWH, now Stantec, a firm that calls Boeing a “key client” and is a primary contractor to Boeing for SSFL whose work has been central to making Boeing’s case for weakening cleanup standards; and
- Boeing contributions to a one-person non-profit run by another LARWQCB member should have legally disqualified that person from even serving on the Board but she was reappointed by Newsom who has given no indication she will be removed.
“Governor Newsom has given Boeing a multi-billion-dollar gift and wants to ensure that there is no barrier to its final delivery,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, who is asking acting-chair Stahl to recuse himself. “This deal is so one-sided it is no surprise there will be no public hearing on the agreement itself.”
Tomorrow’s LARWQCB meeting is not on the Boeing deal itself but a separate Memorandum of Understanding to set the stage for eliminating Boeing’s water pollution permit regulating toxic runoff from Santa Susana. Yet, the MOU’s premise is questionable since the cleanup is limited to a small fraction of the contaminated soil. Beyond gutting human health protections, the deal also markedly lowers ecological standards for protection of wildlife, allowing contaminants at levels admitted in the agreement to cause “observable adverse effects.”
“The politics governing Santa Susana are as toxic as its noxious wastes,” says Ruch. “Everything now comes down to tomorrow’s Water Board hearing on the associated MOU.”