So much for transparency!
The Richmond Southeast Shoreline Community Advisory Committee (RSSA CAG) is coming under increased scrutiny because of its members’ activism in the ongoing Campus Bay controversy. What was intended to be a public interest group representing the “diversity of interests of the community” has become a secret society that holds secret meetings (if any at all) and provides no documentation of its activities.
The CAG was formed in 2005 when DTSC took over jurisdiction of the former Zeneca site. The organization was instituted in accordance with Health and safety Code Section 25358.7.1, copied below, and the DTSC Guidelines (http://www.acmela.org/images/DTSC_Booklet_Guidance_CAG.pdf).
HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE - HSC
DIVISION 20. MISCELLANEOUS HEALTH AND SAFETY PROVISIONS [24000 - 26250]
( Division 20 enacted by Stats. 1939, Ch. 60. )
CHAPTER 6.8. Hazardous Substance Account [25300 - 25395.45]
( Chapter 6.8 repealed and added by Stats. 1999, Ch. 23, Sec. 2. )
ARTICLE 5. Uses of the State Account [25350 - 25359.7]
( Article 5 added by Stats. 1999, Ch. 23, Sec. 2. )
(a) At each site, a community advisory group may be established by the affected community to review any response action and comment on the response action to be conducted in that community. The department or regional board shall regularly communicate, and confer as appropriate, with the community advisory committee. The department or regional board shall also advise local environmental regulatory agencies and other appropriate local agencies of planned response actions and provide opportunities for review and comment. If the department or regional board, whichever is overseeing a response action, receives a petition signed by at least 50 members of a community affected by the response action at a site or a resolution adopted by the legislative body of the jurisdiction within which the response action has been or will be initiated, the department or regional board shall assist the petitioners or the legislative body to establish a community advisory group to review the response action at the site.
(b) To the extent possible, the composition of each community advisory group shall reflect the composition of the affected community and the diversity of interests of the community by including all of the following types of individuals on the community advisory group:
(1) Persons owning or residing on property located near the hazardous substance release site or in an adjacent community, or other persons who may be directly affected by the response action.
(2) Individuals from the local business community.
(3) Local political or government agency representatives.
(4) Local citizen, civic, environmental, or public interest group members residing in the community.
(c) The following entities may participate in community advisory group meetings in order to provide information and technical expertise:
(1) The department or regional boards.
(2) Representatives of local environmental regulatory agencies.
(3) The potentially responsible parties or other persons who are conducting the response action.
(d) The existence of a community advisory group shall not diminish any other obligation of the department or regional board with respect to public participation requirements specified in Section 25358.7. Nothing in this section shall affect the status of any citizen advisory group formed before the enactment of this section, a federal Department of Defense Restoration Advisory Board, or a federal Department of Energy Advisory Board.
(Added by Stats. 1999, Ch. 23, Sec. 2. Effective May 26, 1999.)
I have tried to find out more about the RSSA CAG, who its members are, where and when it meets (via Zoom) and what transpired at meetings. The apparent CAG chair, Eric Blum firstname.lastname@example.org), refused to disclose the membership, responding to my request, “I am not going to send a list of members, as we value their privacy.”
Mr Blum refused to provide meeting minutes, explaining, “Regarding minutes, DTSC had a paid scribe at meetings until 10 years or so ago. They would have those notes. Our recent minutes are not publicly posted anywhere. We use them internally as reference.”
And Mr Blum refused to provide time and dates of meetings along with Zoom links.
The DTSC CAG Handbook says, “All CAG meetings are open to the public, and it is the CAG’s responsibility to organize these meetings and its other activities…DTSC has an interest in how the meetings are advertised, when they occur, and that they are accessible to the general public” Please provide information about upcoming meetings and the Zoom link needed to attend.”
Regarding Minutes, the Handbook states, “At a minimum, DTSC advises that the CAG-Chair approve and provide meeting agenda items and supporting documents at least two weeks prior to a scheduled CAG meeting. The CAG secretary should arrange for recording and distribution of meeting notes to attendees via mail or e-mail.”
Regarding membership, the CAG Handbook states, “The membership of the CAG shall follow the guidelines set out in Section 25358.7.1 of the California Health and Safety Code as follows: To the extent possible, the composition of each community group shall reflect the composition of the affected community and the diversity of interests of the community by including all of the following types of individuals on the community advisory group:(1) Persons owning or residing on property located near the hazardous substances release site or in an adjacent community, or other persons who may be directly affected by the response action. (2) Individuals from the local business community.(3) Local political or government agency representatives.(4) Local citizen, civic, environmental, or public interest group members residing in the community.” How can anyone tell if the intent of Section 25358.7.1 is being met if you will not reveal who the members are?
The RSSA CAG has communicated with the Richmond City Council as recently as December 1, 2020, about Campus Bay, indicating that members include at least Eric Blum, Stephen Linsley, Carolyn Graves and Tarnall Abbott, all indicated as being on the “Executive Committee”
The DTSC contact for the RSSA CAG has not been much help either, deferring to the CAG’s practice of secrecy.
Public Participation Specialist
Office of Environmental Equity
CalEPA | Department of Toxic Substances Control
700 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley CA 94710
Vivas, Alejandro@DTSC Alejandro.Vivas@dtsc.ca.gov