Trump Administration Announces It Is Breaking Santa Susana Field Laboratory Cleanup Agreement

For Release: October 2, 2020

Contact: Daniel Hirsch/CBG 831-336-8003
Denise Duffield/PSR-LA  310-339-9676
Melissa Bumstead/ParentsVsSSFL
Marie Mason/Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition

The Trump Administration today issued its Record of Decision (ROD) regarding the cleanup of contamination on NASA’s portion of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL.) The decision is to violate a legally binding 2010 federal-state agreement that required returning the site to the condition it was in before being polluted. Instead, NASA now plans to walk away from cleaning up the great majority of the contamination, leaving it to continue to migrate offsite. Half a million people live within ten miles of the site.

In 2010, NASA signed a consent order with the California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to clean up the NASA area of SSFL to background levels of contamination by 2017. However, the soil cleanup hasn’t even begun, and today the Trump Administration announced it is refusing to clean up 84% of the polluted acreage, in breach of the 2010 agreement.

The dramatic nature of the Trump Administration abrogation of the cleanup commitments and the large amount of contaminated soil its chosen alternative would leave can be seen in NASA’s own maps in its Supplemental EIS. The first map shows how much contaminated soil NASA admits it would have to clean up in its parts of SSFL under the 2010 agreement:

The map below shows how little of that contamination it now says it will clean up despite the legal agreement with the state, leaving the rest unremediated and available for continued migration and exposure to the public:

“NASA’s absurd excuse for cleaning up so much less contamination than it promised is that it has discovered there is much more contamination at the site than it had previously realized,” said Daniel Hirsch, retired Director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz and President of the Committee to Bridge the Gap.

“I’m just furious,” said Marie Mason, a Simi Valley resident and co-founder of the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition who has fought for the cleanup for 30 years. “NASA signed a legally binding agreement in 2010 to fully clean up SSFL by 2017, but the soil cleanup hasn’t even started, and now NASA says they will break their agreement and instead leave the majority of its contamination on site permanently. Have they no shame?”

“What is the Newsom Administration going to do to enforce the agreement with the state? We need them to step up and protect us, instead of more empty promises,” said Melissa Bumstead of Parents vs. SSFL.

Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, said, “NASA’s property is contaminated with very hazardous materials, like trichloroethylene, perchlorate, PCBs, dioxins, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and other illnesses. NASA now admits the place is even more contaminated than it previously knew, but instead of keeping its word and cleaning it all up, NASA is just going to walk away and leave most of the pollution. It’s outrageous.”

Last fall, NASA released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIS) proposing multiple alternatives that would break the agreement and leave most of the contamination on site permanently. Public comments opposing NASA’s Draft SEIS, including comments by DTSC, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and the City of Los Angeles, overwhelmingly demanded the Trump Administration comply with the cleanup agreement.  Yet on July 24, NASA released a Final SEIS stating that its preferred alternatives were to breach the agreement and leave more than 80% of the contaminated acreage not cleaned up, allowing the contamination to continue to migrate offsite and threaten nearby communities.  Today the Trump Administration issued the decision to break the cleanup agreement NASA signed in 2010.

The ROD violates numerous laws. NASA is legally bound by the agreement it executed; it cannot decide to simply walk away from those cleanup commitments.  And even if the cleanup agreement didn’t exist, NASA, as the polluter, does not have legal power to determine how much of its pollution it will clean up. That authority, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), belongs to DTSC.

“NASA asserts it will now clean up to what it claims is a ‘suburban residential standard,’ but NASA’s purported standard is hundreds of times weaker than the state’s residential standard, let alone the cleanup to background promised in the agreements,” said Hirsch.  “If the state doesn’t vigorously enforce the agreement, people in the surrounding communities will remain forever at risk from contamination migrating from a heavily polluted site that will never get cleaned up.”

Representatives of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA, the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, and Parents vs. SSFL that have fought for years for SSFL cleanup will be available for comment and to provide more information.

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Comments on NASA’s SSFL Draft SEIS submitted by Natural Resources Defense Council, Committee to Bridge the Gap, and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles

Comments on NASA’s SSFL Final SEIS submitted by Natural Resources Defense Council, Committee to Bridge the Gap, and Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles

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