Gov uses blue pencil to push green-chemistry initiative

The administration of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to be at odds with legislative Democrats over the direction on environmental policy.

Last week, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment sent a letter to Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, telling her they would not yet release a report she had been seeking. Originally commissioned by the state Department of Health Services in 2004, the report would attempt to establish workplace standards for many chemicals that are restricted for more general environmental exposure.

“Since the report is being prepared by OEHHA under an agreement with DPH, the Department will be responsible to the transmittal of the report after completion,” according to the August 29 letter from OEHHA director Joan Denton.

OEHHA’s director of external affairs, Sam Delson, said their port has been sent to DPH but he didn’t know when the report would be released. Lieber had sent a strongly worded request for the report to Denton on August 1; she has since called OEHHA’s refusal to release it “politically motivated.”

Environmental agencies under the Schwarzenegger administration have sent opposition letters on at least three bills that cited the administrations Green Chemistry Initiative. This is an effort that is intended to eventually create a large database of hazardous chemicals and known alternatives.

Another reference to the Green Chemistry Initiative has now shown up among the $700 million in cuts Schwarzenegger made this year’s budget to appease Senate Republicans.

“I am reducing the Environmental Law Section’s appropriations from the Hazardous Waste Control Account and the Toxic Substances Control Account by a total of $2,166,000 to reflect half-year funding for the program, and I urge the Legislature to pass legislation that redirects these funds to the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (Cal/EPA) and the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) green chemistry initiative and returns the litigation oversight role in hazardous waste cases to Cal/EPA and DTSC,” he said in a message relating to why he had made certain cuts.

He continues: “DTSC is increasingly turning to our local government partners and district attorneys to enforce California’s hazardous waste laws. In addition, Cal/EPA and DTSC are developing a green chemistry initiative that will change the paradigm of toxic and chemical use and enforcement in California.”

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