Landmark Department of Toxic Substances Control Reform Bill Re-Introduced

AB 1- DTSC Reform

For immediate release:
Assemblymember Cristina Garcia introducing a bill

(Sacramento) – Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) expand on their work to protect vulnerable communities of color from toxins with the re-introduction of AB 1, which reforms the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to better protect public health. Assemblymembers Garcia and Santiago are proud to be joined by Assemblymembers Bloom, Carrillo, Luz Rivas, Kalra, Friedman, Bauer- Kahan, Mullin, Quirk, Reyes, and Senators Gonzalez, Wieckowski, and Leyva.

AB 1 starts high-level actions to reset DTSC into a department that is more transparent, accountable, and more protective of public health. This bill implements recommendations of the Independent Review Panel that provided recommendations in 2017, including adequate fiscal assurances, creates a board to improve DTSC, and raises $22 million to begin fiscal stability in the department.

Last year following months of collaboration with stakeholders, including environmental justice and industry groups the Legislature passed identical legislation AB 995(2020) with bi-partisan support, but was vetoed by Governor Newsom. As illustrated by bankruptcy of Exide this fall, a well-functioning DTSC is critical to protecting the public from toxics and ensuring tax payers are not financially on the hook for corporate polluters’ actions. Assemblymembers Garcia, Santiago and stakeholders are reintroducing AB 1 to serve as a base for further action. The Legislature looks forward to working with the Administration on furthering these reform efforts to ensure solutions are crafted in 2021 that are both effective and equitable in the fight against man-made disasters and that address the Toxic Substance Control Account deficit. The Governor must make DTSC reform a top priority in 2021. 

“Today I reintroduced my landmark Department of Toxic Substances Control Reform Bill AB 1. We must ensure we have a department that truly prioritizes the health and well-being of low income communities of color who have been treated like wastelands for too long and has the appropriate fiscal resources to do their critical work.” Garcia continued, “I remain 100% committed to continue working with all stakeholders to fully reshape this entity into one that will prevent the next Exide and can oversee the management of hazardous waste in California in a transparent manner that fully protects all communities and public health, irrespective of our zip code or socioeconomic status. I welcome collaboration with Governor Newson, Secretary Blumenfeld, and Director Williams to take this effort further. If we truly want to have one California that works for all, we cannot wait another year for these much-needed reforms. We must act now, my community’s life literally depends on it!” concluded Garcia.

“The Exide environmental disaster continues to harm our communities, putting our children and families’ health at greater risk,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. “To fix such a monumental failure requires monumental reform and resources. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleague, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, as a joint author on AB 1. It’s absolutely critical that we continue to push for accountability and transparency, but most importantly, for a stable revenue source that will help clean our communities for good,” stated Assemblymember Santiago.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is that we ensure that the Department of Toxic Substances Control delivers on its responsibility to protect the people of California from irreparable harm caused by toxic contamination,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez. “The horrific disregard for the health and wellbeing of our families and the poisoning of entire neighborhoods by companies like Exide cannot be allowed to continue and much less go without consequences. That is why I am proud to principal co-author AB 1 by Assemblywoman Garcia to provide DTSC sufficient resources to carry out its mission and to strengthen accountability measures to help bring environmental justice to our communities.” Stated Senator Lena Gonzalez(D-Long Beach)

“DTSC allowed the Exide battery recycling plant to operate without proper oversight for decades, allowing this corporation to pollute and poison our communities with no consequence or remorse. DTSC had been negligent and irresponsible to the most vulnerable Californians and AB 1 aims at ensuring transparency and accountability. Too many lives have been impacted by the toxic environment within DTSC and we won't allow this to continue or allow another Exide in the state of California,” stated Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles).

“As a proud coauthor of AB 1, I look forward to continue working with Assemblywoman Garcia, the Newsom Administration and stakeholders to improve oversight, transparency and accountability at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.  There have been a number of longstanding issues at the agency for many years and DTSC is certainly overdue for fiscal and other reforms.  Though the Governor vetoed the previous iteration of this bill, I believe that it is important that this policy work continues so DTSC can fulfill its vital role of protecting the health and wellbeing of California’s communities and the environment,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino).

“This effort is a long time coming,” said Assemblymember Friedman. “When a polluting industry dumps dangerous and toxic chemicals into any community, we all pay a big price. Not only are there dramatic costs to the health and wellbeing of impacted communities, but too often the California taxpayers are on the hook for those impacts and cleanups. It’s time we make the DTSC hold these industries accountable and ensure they are paying their fair share.” said Assemblymember Friedman (D-Glendale).

"The reintroduction of this bill underscores the Legislature’s dedication to improving operations at the DTSC, which currently lacks the accountability and transparency necessary to carry out its mission: protecting public health and our environment from hazardous waste," stated Assemblymember Mullin (D-South San Francisco).

"Low-income communities and people of color bear a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution, and we have a moral responsibility to safeguard their health and safety. I am proud to join Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia again this year to coauthor AB 1 that will re-focus DTSC’s current approach to ensure they are adhering to their mission to protect the most vulnerable communities in our state from the hazards of toxic waste," said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arleta).

“As lawmakers we have a responsibility in ensuring the health and wellbeing of all Californians, but without prioritizing much-needed and long overdue reforms at DTSC, major hazardous waste streams will continue to pollute our environment and cause debilitating harm to surrounding communities. Low-income communities of color have suffered disproportionately from environmental degradation caused by these noxious industrial facilities and waste sites—we cannot afford to wait any longer to safeguard public health for our most vulnerable residents,” stated Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D- San Jose).

“DTSC reform is long overdue. We need to take critical steps to ensure our most vulnerable communities are protected but in a way that protects the fiscal solvency of this agency. It is even more critical now as we look at several more years of limited General Fund resources. The continued work to clean-up toxic sites isn't just good for the health of nearby communities, but during these daunting times can also provide meaningful jobs in our economic recovery. I am proud to co-author AB 1 which supports this effort and uplift the health of our communities,” stated Assemblymember Elosie Reyes (D- San Bernardino).

“Advocates and the Legislature have been sounding the alarm for years. The Department of Toxic Substances Control has failed to protect the people of California from the risk of toxic exposures. Without better oversight for clean-ups, enforcement, and toxic facility inspections, vulnerable populations are a high risk for toxic exposures. AB 1 by Assembly member Cristina Garcia provides the Department with critical tools needed to protect communities from the health and environmental impacts of hazardous waste. This type of reform at the Department of Toxic Substance Control is decades overdue," said Ingrid Brostrom, Assistant Director at the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.  

“When industries making billions of dollars in California can abandon their toxic waste in Environmental Justice communities, something has to change. The Legislature and Governor need to act to end the creation of environmental sacrifice zones and beef up the state’s ability to hold polluters financially accountable for their pollution, “stated Jane Williams, Executive Director of California Communities Against Toxics.

“DTSC’s mission is to protect people, the environment, and impacted communities from toxic harm. However, the Department has struggled to deliver on this promise because of significant long-term issues with lack of both funding and accountability. NRDC is ready to get to work, along with Assembly Member Cristina Garcia on her bill AB 1, to ensure that DTSC fulfills its mission. This effort has been years in the making, and communities throughout the state are counting on the Legislature and Governor to fix the Department this session. There is simply no more time to waste,”

stated Nikita Koraddi, CA Legislative Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“California has some of the strongest environmental and public health protections, but what good are those laws when we can’t fully enforce them and hold polluting industries accountable for the harm they cause when those laws are broken? We desperately need the department responsible for protecting people from exposure to hazardous waste to be able to meet its core responsibilities and obligations. This is about protecting people, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil our children play on from life threatening toxic pollution. The people of California can’t afford to continue to wait,” said Melissa Romero, Legislative Affairs Manager, California League of Conservation Voters.

AB 1 was introduced immediately following todays’ swearing in ceremony for the Legislature and will begin the legislative process early next year.

Contact:
Ashley Labar
916-319-2058

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The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.