Environment and Deukmejian

The same day that William Kahrl (Editorial Pages, Dec. ) praised Gov. George Deukmejian's environmental record, the California Planning and Conservation League Foundation gave the governor a "C-" in its second annual "Report Card" on the environment. How curious.

Without addressing Kahrl's thesis that the environmental movement should focus more on protecting human health and less on preservation issues, I strongly challenge his assertion that Deukmejian has demonstrated an enlightened record on public health. To the contrary, this Administration has consistently opposed measures designed to identify toxic poisons, prevent pollution from occurring, and track public health trends.

A few examples illustrate this point. Last year, I discovered an internal water board memorandum warning that dozens of potentially harmful toxic waste sites could not be inspected because of insufficient staffing. When the Legislature gave the regional water boards additional inspectors, the governor vetoed nearly two-thirds of the funds (which would have been paid by the polluting industries).

A federally funded abandoned dump survey has uncovered hundreds of potentially dangerous waste sites long since forgotten. When the federal well ran dry, the governor on successive years vetoed a modest state appropriation to complete the program. Nearly half the state's counties have still not been surveyed.

Other health-threatening vetoes include legislation passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature establishing a statewide cancer registry to track trends that help identify environmental causes of cancer; and a bill I authored that helps companies detoxify, neutralize, or recycle dangerous byproducts.

These are but a few of the many examples of this Administration's systematic disregard for the public health. Combined they represent a mere drop in the state budget bucket.

Failure to recognize their long-term cost-effectiveness demonstrates an appalling lack of vision.

The governor deserves his "C-" grade. With our health and quality of life at stake, however, California deserves excellence, not mediocrity in its approach to environmental policy.


Senate Majority Leader


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