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Governor Blasts ‘Nit-Picking’ of His Toxic Wastes Plan

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian, portraying the unsafe disposal of toxics as the No. 1 threat to public health in California, demanded Saturday that the Legislature quit “nit-picking” his proposed Department of Waste Management and swiftly approve it.

The governor sought to build public support for his embattled toxic waste management reorganization plan in his weekly five-minute radio program that is broadcast by 12 mostly rural stations statewide.

Deukmejian had targeted the safe disposal of hazardous wastes as a top priority for action this year, but his proposal to reorganize the bureaucracy to improve management of the massive problem has encountered fierce opposition in the Legislature from environmental protection organizations.

Admit Some Flaws

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Among other things, they condemned it as a retreat from current environmental safeguards, particularly in areas that deal with water quality. Administration officials conceded at a hearing last week that the proposal may be flawed but said it should be enacted anyway with remedial legislation to follow later on.

The Legislature has until July 16 to act. It can approve or veto the plan or do nothing, in which case it would take effect automatically. The lawmakers cannot amend it.

In his radio speech, Deukmejian called the unsafe disposal of toxics “the No. 1 threat to the public health and the environment of California.”

‘A Shove Backwards’

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He insisted that the proposed new department would constitute “a significant public health and environmental reform” and if the Legislature rejected it, he said such action would “give our state a giant shove backwards away from solving this public health problem.”

“The day of reckoning is here,” he said. “It’s a time for positive action, not nit-picking. The Legislature has the choice of either giving us the tools we need to protect you from toxics, or taking the responsibility for the failure to get the job done.”

As for critics of the proposal, Deukmejian said: “Some may try to tell you that they have a better idea, and try to defeat our plan on those grounds. But they don’t have the ultimate responsibility for protecting the public health. I do. And I need this department to meet that responsibility.”


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