Deukmejian's Toxic Waste Man Quits to Join Law Firm

Times Staff Writer

Joel S. Moskowitz, the point man in the Deukmejian Administration's toxic waste enforcement program, has resigned his $65,000-a-year post to join a major Los Angeles law firm, it was announced Friday.

The resignation, effective July 15, was announced shortly after the release of a generally favorable audit report on the performance of the Department of Health Services in helping clean up waste sites.

It also occurred as Gov. George Deukmejian's ambitious program to create a new toxics waste management department was drawing heavy fire in the Legislature as a flawed proposal that would heavily dilute environmental protection efforts.

Moskowitz, a 15-year veteran state employee, had been the department's deputy director for toxic substances control programs since 1983 when he left his post as a deputy attorney general.

No Immediate Replacement

Moskowitz, 38, will join the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

In a letter to Deukmejian, Moskowitz said the state has "traveled far through uncharted territory in attacking the problem of hazardous waste--farther than any administration in California's history."

During his tenure as the state's chief toxic waste enforcer, Moskowitz drew both praise and criticism. Some of the heaviest fire fell on his use of figures on waste site cleanup efforts, which double-counted certain sites and caused embarrassment to Deukmejian, who ordered the audit.

Both industry sources and environmentalists, who asked that they not be identified, indicated they were not surprised at Moskowitz's resignation. They said that the fiasco over the waste site figures and the trouble faced by the governor's reorganization plan cut deeply into Moskowitz's credibility.

'Losing Credibility'

"He was losing credibility right and left--in the Legislature, outside the Legislature and probably in the governor's office," said one environmental lobbyist.

Moskowitz said his departure had nothing to do with the controversy over the waste site figures.

"When I came to this job on June 20, 1983, I made a two-year commitment to the governor," he said, adding that he began looking into private law practice in February, "far before any of these minor or irrelevant problems with the cleanup list."

Moskowitz said it was "entirely coincidental" that his resignation came the same day as the auditors list was released. He said the audit has vindicated the Administration.

"Some members of the media said we were either foolish or hiding something, but the reality is that we were giving these auditors an opportunity to do a full and independent review of our files and cleanups. Now that we have done that, we are totally vindicated."

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