DTSC Permit Review Report
In late 2012, Department of Toxic Substances Control Director Debbie Raphael commissioned an independent review of the Department’s permitting program. The decision was part of her commitment, as the Department’s newly appointed director, to fix DTSC’s foundation. It also was based on concerns expressed by a variety of stakeholders about the program’s performance.
To conduct this review, Director Raphael chose an outside contractor, Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS), in order to provide both expertise in the field of performance evaluation and an unbiased view of the permitting program. During a period of 10 months, CPS looked at the effectiveness of the Program’s policies and procedures and identified gaps and opportunities for improvement.
This 115-page report, “Permitting Process Review and Analysis,” is posted on DTSC’s website. It makes a number of specific findings and recommendations that will now be analyzed by program managers.
DTSC’s permitting program is an integral part of California’s effort to manage hazardous wastes so that they do not pose a risk to public health or the environment. The program provides technical review and makes decisions on applications from facilities that want to store, treat or dispose of hazardous waste in California. There are 118 facilities in the state that are permitted for these activities.
Because of prior stakeholder, staff and management input, DTSC has already started to adjust staffing and improve processes, and now looks forward to reviewing this report to help focus on the path forward.
CPS is a nonprofit corporation, established in 1985, that provides services to more than 1,200 public and nonprofit clients throughout the United States and Canada.
Although the broad parameters of the review were developed by DTSC, CPS conducted the review with minimal DTSC oversight. To further ensure the review’s independence, DTSC invited two respected leaders in the field to serve as outside advisors: Tom McHenry, a Los Angeles-based attorney who specializes in hazardous waste issues, and Bill Magavern, of the Coalition for Clean Air and former executive director for the Sierra Club of California.
While not a review of specific permit decisions made by staff, CPS asked questions of and sought information from DTSC permitting staff and managers, along with a diverse set of stakeholders. Key areas of focus included the timelines of permit decisions, resources, management practices, the process of making permit decisions, the criteria for denying or approving a permit application, and performance measures.
DTSC did not edit this report, nor did it make any attempt to influence its findings or recommendations. Thus, the views and recommendations do not necessarily reflect those of DTSC or its management. The review may contain factual errors. However, DTSC recognizes that the findings and recommendations were based on the best available information at the time of the review.
DTSC will review the report in depth and provide a response to the findings and recommendations. That response will be posted on DTSC’s website in November, and will be discussed at a public meeting on December 16, 2013 at 9 a.m. in the Byron Sher Auditorium, Cal/EPA Building. A public notice of this meeting will be issued and posted on DTSC’s web site. The meeting will be web cast and will include an opportunity for public input on DTSC’s response.