Ann Notthoff, NRDC 415/875-6100; Linda Sheehan, CCKA 510/219-7730; Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California 916/557-1100, x109; Mark Gold, Heal the Bay 310/451-1500
(May 23, 2006) -- Governor Schwarzenegger today appointed Charlie Hoppin, chairman of the California Rice Industry Association, to the State Water Resources Control Board for the seat designated for a water quality representative. Public interest groups said it was the second straight time that the governor inappropriately appointed a representative of a regulated industry to the five-member board. On March 3, 2005 the governor appointed an oil industry executive, for a seat that was supposed to go to a public representative.
"The governor's selection of yet another regulated industry representative to oversee California's water quality is a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse," said Linda Sheehan, executive director of the California Coastkeeper Alliance. "Given that this board is going to have to make some tough decisions about how to regulate agricultural pollution, the public deserves a water quality representative who will protect the public interest, not the interests of polluters."
The State Water Board is responsible for a broad array of policies that manage water rights and water quality in California. It is expected to act soon on regulations that are widely opposed by the agriculture industry.
According to board staff reports, agricultural pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, salts and other pollutants have caused or contributed to high pollution levels in more than 635 miles of rivers and streams in the Central Valley, making these waters unsafe for swimming, fishing or drinking. Recent studies by the University of California show that nearly 100 percent of tested sites that are affected by agricultural runoff in the Central Valley violate water quality standards. The runoff flows into streams and rivers, and eventually the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which provides drinking water for two-thirds of Californians.
Conservation groups had called on the governor to appoint a candidate without ties to a regulated industry and with more expertise in diverse water quality issues.
"There's more to the board's work than just agriculture," said Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "These board members decide the fate of waterways threatened by many sources of pollution, including urban runoff, sewage, agriculture and industrial discharges. We need experts with a breadth of knowledge who have shown they will protect our precious resources."
"The governor had plenty of resumes on his desk from candidates with more expertise and a demonstrated track record of protecting water quality," said Jim Metropulos, legislative representative with Sierra Club California. "This appointment is more about 'business as usual' than about clean water."