Capitol Alert

New California Department of Toxic Substances Control head appointed

A firefighter uses a Geiger counter to find radioactive particles on the test dummy during an exercise at a conference on hazardous materials on Thursday Sept. 5, 2002. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer
A firefighter uses a Geiger counter to find radioactive particles on the test dummy during an exercise at a conference on hazardous materials on Thursday Sept. 5, 2002. Sacramento Bee/ Brian Baer Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a new head of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, whose previous leader departed amid criticism that the agency was falling short in its mission to police polluters.

Barbara Lee, 50, brings an environmental resume that includes her current role as an air pollution control officer at the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, a position on the National Association of Clean Air Agencies Monitoring Committee and a previous stint as a member of the California Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Justice Advisory Committee. She is registered without a party preference. Should the California Senate confirm Lee, she will make $170,652 a year.

Her predecessor, Debbie Raphael, left at a precarious time for the department. A high-ranking official left amid a California Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into claims that the official had a financial interest in companies DTSC oversees. A withering report from the State Auditor earlier this year followed an earlier report finding that the toxics agency had failed to collect $100 million in cleanup costs.

Lee’s experience makes her a worthy candidate to lead an agency that “has a lot of problems,” said Bill Magavern, policy director of the Coalition for Clean Air.

“She has been a regulator, she has a science background and she has a record of working with community groups and others,” Magavern said.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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