The Coastal Post - August, 1998

Balancing Our Economic And Environmental Interests


As Attorney General, my office plays an important role in enforcing environmental protection laws-one that we take very seriously. While we do not establish the policies that regulate businesses and protect the environment, we are charged with ensuring that they're enforced fairly.

Some in this position might have chosen to launch a crusade against business. Our approach is different. We believe it's possible to be pro-business and pro-environment, and we have found great success in working with the business community to solve environmental problems and protect the public health.

In one area in particular our office has managed to garner praise from the business sector and environmental advocates. Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act was approved by voters in 1986, and it names the Attorney General as a key enforcer of the law. In the past seven and one-half years, we have sought to look beyond requiring warning signs about harmful chemicals-the basic premise of Proposition 65-to removing the harmful chemicals altogether.

Using this balanced approach, we have reached settlements which have ultimately removed lead from fine china, wine foil caps, home water faucets, school water fountains, well-water pumps and calcium tablets-all without causing businesses to flee our state to eliminate the hazard and notify the public of potential health dangers. We've also worked on cases where the remedy is not so simple. In fact, just recently, we announced the settlement of a case involving an underground oil spill in the coastal town of Avila Beach. Over a number of years, crude oil had leached from lines connected to Unocal oil tanks, threatening groundwater below the town. In a massive cleanup project expected to take 18 months, Unocal will excavate the contaminated soil along the beach and beneath a portion of the town. Additionally, the company agreed to pay $18 million for community projects and restoration of damaged natural resources. Environmentalists have hailed the agreement as the largest Proposition 65 settlement to date.

At the Department of Justice, we have sought to use environmental regulation not as an end in itself, but as part of a path to the ultimate goals of a clean, safe environment. We've had some great success, but if we want these results to continue, we must seek common-sense solutions that meet both our environmental and economic goals.

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