Hearing reveals DTSC clogged with regulatory problems

Hearing reveals DTSC clogged with regulatory problems

The new year brought the implementation of complex new state legislation passed in 2013 dealing with toxic waste in California. Businesses also must prepare for yet more legislation that was enacted in 2013, but will become effective in 2015.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control conveniently provided “Legislative Mandates 2013,” a 12-page list and analysis. And it prepared a more lengthy, 38-page “Legislative Summary Report,” which includes both legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and bills he vetoed.

The DTSC also recently held a hearing to explain the new regulations and deal with questions about the department’s long permitting time. Most prominently, the report on the DTSC made by the CPS HR Consulting was presented. The hearing video is online.

CPS HR found that DTSC took an average of 4.3 years to issue a permit. By contrast, equivalent federal agencies issue the same type of permit in less than 180 days.  The cause of the DTSC delays was attributed to organizational mismanagement.

DTSC Reorganization

The DTSC provided a list of the 51 tasks it will undertake to respond to the consultant’s report. The tasks included developing a model library, staff holding bi-weekly meetings and quarterly audits.

According to its website, the DTSC is responsible for permitting 117 hazardous waste facilities in the state. All have operated in the state for decades.  Each permit comes up for renewal every 10 years.  On average, the DTSC must process 11 permits a year to maintain current permits, so that all facilities are updated to operate at the most recently required environmental safety levels.

However, despite having nearly 1,200 employees and a $200 million annual budget, the DTSC hasn’t been able to process those 11 permits on time, or even annually.

As to when the DTSC will actually have time to process the 11 permits each year, in addition to managing the reorganization, DTSC director Debbie Raphael said the agency will “explore metrics that better measure quality of our performance. … While timeliness is critical, Permitting values permit quality as a measure of success.” The DTSC employees refer to their department as “Permitting,” with a capital “P.”


Several members of the community from Kettleman City traveled to Sacramento and testified at the hearing. They complained about many illnesses in their area. They blamed the illnesses on contamination from a large landfill in Kettleman City. And they blamed the DTSC. The witnesses said healthy people are getting sick and dying, and referenced previous discussions with Raphael about this.

Raphael responded that she was familiar with the witnesses, and even identified several by name.

State Sen. Fran Pavely, D-Agoura Hills, said improving permitting times also was the responsibility of the other “partners” in the relationship with the DTSC. Pavely said one of the partners, the Legislature, passed regulatory bills that have been watered down, making the bills tougher for the DTSC to enforce.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said private sector businesses “are deliberately polluting the air and water,” and need to be held accountable.

The DTSC’s permitting program manager, Brian Johnson, told the public they should expect more delays in permitting while the DTSC works to improve the program quality. Johnson said the DTSC will see whether it needs legislative authorization for more resources. The additional resources would include boosting the budget above the current $200 million a year; and hiring 35 more on the staff to handle the reorganization of the existing 1,200 employees.

Here in the link to the Dec. 16 hearing.

Here is the DTSC presentation at the Dec. 16 meeting.

Here is the CPS HR Consulting report.

 Here is the response of the DTSE the consultant’s report.

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