2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 18 Feb 2003 17:16:20 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] California cuts oversight
In a convoluted consequence of California's budget crunch, the oversight
of many military cleanup projects within the state is being cut back. As
a result cleanup activity is likely to be delayed. Ironically, the
problem is NOT a shortage of money.

California's oversight of military cleanup is generally conducted by the
statewide Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the regional
Water Boards. The Department of Defense reimburses these agencies for
their costs under the Defense State Memorandum of Agreement  (DSMOA)
program. In the past there have been disputes between the military and
the state over the magnitude of DSMOA fund transfers. That is NOT the
problem today.

Instead, as part of the state's response to an unprecedented budget
shortfall, the governor's office has clamped personnel ceilings on most,
if not all state department's. Thus, DTSC and the Water Boards have had
to cut back on staffing levels. With fewer staff, they are unable, in a
timely fashion, to process documents from the Armed Services and
particularly the Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) program managed by
the Army Corps of Engineers. Some Boards and DTSC, working with the
military, have been able to juggle their resources to deal with the most
pressing requirements, but some projects are on hold.

This has only become a public issue on the Central Coast, where the
Regional Water Board oversees cleanup at Fort Ord and the Monterey
Airport FUDS. But it's an issue statewide, and the Defense cleanup
programs are preparing to shift money outside the state because they
cannot execute their programs without regulatory consultation. (And they
should be complimented for rejecting the impulse to plow ahead without
proper oversight.)

Thus, in implementing a policy designed to save the state money,
California is actually losing money, twice. First, by not making
sufficient staff available to carry out DSMOA requirements, it is
rejecting federal funding. Second, by slowing the pace of oversight - in
many cases delaying project review until next fiscal year - the state is
essentially forcing the Defense Department to divert larger sums of
money to other states.

A number of people within California's regulatory agencies recognize the
problem, but it is apparently difficult for them to get the attention of
the governor and high-level officials. That's understandable, given the
massive financial crisis facing schools, child care, public safety, and
health care.

But this is a problem that can and should be fixed because a relatively
simple modification in policy would actually protect public health and
the environment while actually SAVING, not COSTING the state money.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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