Condemn Agency For Failing to Collect $100 Million in Toxic Cleanup Costs

Target: Deborah O. Raphael, Chief of California Department of Toxic Substances Control

Goal: Seek out and penalize parties responsible for the failure to collect $100 million in toxic cleanup costs

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control is responsible for facilitating the cleanup of contaminated property of liable companies, but new evidence has come to light that as much as $100 million of cleanup costs were never collected, landing the burden of cleanup cost on unsuspecting California taxpayers. The Department has admitted the issue, claiming “systemic failures” such as paperwork mistakes, lack of clear rules, and local leader decisions that cleanup costs were unable to be recovered. Headed by a new chief, the Department of Toxic Substances Control has taken steps to prevent the continuation of such mismanagement, but the previous responsible parties within the department must be held accountable for their costly failures.

The Department estimates that about half of the $100 million in cleanup costs was billed to the responsible companies, which range from local dry cleaning stores to corporations like Chevron and Boeing, but the money was never collected. The other half is under dispute through litigation, or completely unrecoverable due to bankruptcy, death, or insufficient assets.

Deborah O. Raphael, the department chief since 2011, asserts that she discovered the problem when she took the seat, and theorized that the problem has been rampant for years, leading to the immense sum of $100 million today. She has created a “cost recovery team” to target the problem and has changed policies she hopes will avoid the “systemic failures,” including clarifying rules and removing the ability of local leaders to decide if cleanup costs were unrecoverable.

Regardless, the unprofessionalism and failure of this department to perform their duties is shameful. Pollution is not limited to political boundaries, and toxic cleanup is extremely important in preserving our environment. Then there is the possibility of the snowball effect: if some companies witness others not having to pay their cleanup costs, they may decide to do the same thing, creating more pressure on California taxpayers to foot the bill. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control should be ashamed of its record. By signing this petition, you demand that previous responsible parties  be removed from their positions and penalized for their mismanagement and oversight.


Dear Ms. Raphael,

The repeated oversight of your department staff that led to the bill of nearly $100 million on California taxpayers is reprehensible. A state department’s primary mission should be to protect its populace, not burden them.

Although your actions to prevent this sort of mismanagement from occurring in the future are commendable, much damage has already been done. As a warning to other businesses that might seek to evade billing as a result of this issue’s prominence, please take further steps to incentivize department employees to complete their duties properly. I also ask that you formally reprimand and penalize those at fault in the continued mismanagement of the billing of toxic cleanup costs.

Pollution from toxic substances is a serious issue that threatens more than just California, and all parties must be held absolutely accountable to reinforce the importance of proper cleanup. The Department of Toxic Substances Cleanup must maintain a positive public image if business are expected to adhere to its policies. I urge you to call for the immediate resignation of responsible parties and consider fining them for their costly oversight.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard via Flickr

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