Senate panel confirms Gov. Jerry Brown's toxics chief
A key state Senate committee on Wednesday confirmed Gov. Jerry Brown's pick for one of California's top environmental posts.
The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved Deborah Raphael as head of the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Business representatives and environmentalists alike praised Raphael, who spent two decades overseeing toxics and environmental programs in San Francisco and Santa Monica.
"I ask hard questions, I bring in all viewpoints and I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions," Raphael told lawmakers. "I believe in the rights of communities to participate in the decisions that affect them. I believe in the power of science to offer solutions. And I believe that a strong economy and strong environmental regulations must coexist."
Raphael's appointment comes at a critical time for the toxics department. Officials are in the process of finalizing landmark regulations to curb toxic chemicals in consumer products, the result of laws passed in 2008 that require the state to identify harmful substances and evaluate safer alternatives and set up a database on the chemicals' effects.
Amid a battle between health and environmental groups and a coalition of chemical, automobile and other companies, the Schwarzenegger administration called a timeout, leaving the controversy in Brown's lap.
Republican senators sought assurances from Raphael that she would consider the effects of the new regulations on small businesses.
She pledged to correct inconsistencies in the department's enforcement actions and committed to more public outreach. "It's our job to create workable solutions and manage toxins that are in the everyday products, but that challenge comes with some particular competing interests," Raphael said. "Some think we're asking too little. Some think we're asking too much."
She vowed to find the balance between industry and environmentalists.
Raphael said Brown directed her to carry out her duties with two words in mind: "genuine inquiry."
The confirmation now moves to the Senate floor.
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: At a state lab in Los Angeles, chemist Prem Hira monitors a machine used to measure the lead content in samples of toy jewelry in liquid form. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times