Group Calls for Firing of Toxic Substances Officials in California

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The organization Consumer Watchdog called on California Gov. Jerry Brown to fire two top officials at the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control for conflicts of interest. According to the group, the officials hold six- and seven-figure interests in companies that they regulate or are licensed by the department and have made decisions that could have affected those companies. Some of those companies include Chevron, BP Amoco and General Electric. Here are the details.

* According to the letter that Consumer Watchdog sent to Brown on Thursday, Chief Deputy Director Odette Madriago invested as much as $100,000 each in Chevron and BP Amoco during the years of 2006-2012, and up to $1 million in General Electric.

* Deputy Director Stewart Black holds stock in Royal Dutch Shell and has invested up to $100,000 in the chemical company McKesson. He has also invested in GE, the group stated.

* "All these companies have been subject to corrective actions and these refineries and GE hold permits before the department," the group wrote.

* Liza Tucker, consumer advocate for the group and author of the letter, stated that Madriago had told her last August that the Department of Toxic Substances Control has no power to broadly regulate refineries. However, Tucker stated, the DTSC does have broad statutory authority, including the removal of permits for breaking laws regarding hazardous wastes, materials and substances.

* In December, Tucker states that she received a letter from the department director, Debbie Raphael, in which Raphael informed her that the DTSC has formed a task force with the governor's office in order to look at how refineries like Chevron can be regulated.

* "It is a conflict of interest for either Ms. Madriago or Mr. Black to participate in that effort," Tucker wrote, adding that decisions on regulating refineries as a group in California could impact their market value.

* According to Tucker's report on the DTSC, entitled Golden Wasteland, toxic releases in California from manufacturing plants and refineries rose in 2011 after steady annual declines since 2007. Water and soil pollution increased by 10 percent.

* "California has some of the toughest environmental protection laws in the nation," the report stated, "but also some of the weakest enforcement. Among the divisions that enforce those laws, the DTSC does the poorest job."

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