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Schwarzenegger Proposes to Eliminate Environmental Agency

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A California state agency that researches the environmental hazards of toxic chemicals could be eliminated. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce says Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to shut down the department as part of the effort to reduce the state's $24 billion budget deficit.

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Above: What are school districts and cities to do as the state's financial crisis shrinks their budgets? Gloria Penner, host of San Diego Week, asks local editors.

A California state agency that researches the environmental hazards of toxic chemicals could be eliminated. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce says Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to shut down the department as part of the effort to reduce the state's $24 billion budget deficit.

It's called the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Its scientists are charged with protecting people from toxic chemical exposure.

They study the chemicals in our air and drinking water.

Many of the warning labels on products sold or used in the state are a result of the group's research.

Dr. Gina Solomon is a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

She says closing the office to save $6.5 million in taxpayer money isn't necessary.

Solomon says fees could easily support the office.

"There's a fee that's already collected from water utilities that's supposed to be used to regulate drinking water quality," Solomon says. "Although this office does all of the assessments that sets limits for contaminants in drinking water, it doesn't get a penny of these fees."

Solomon says moving the scientists to a department within the state Environmental Protection Agency would compromise their independence.

"They would be under the thumb of the policymakers and the political appointees," Solomon says. "That's an unwise decision in terms of really making good decisions that will benefit public health and the environment."

She says scientists along with environmental and health organizations have sent the Governor a letter urging him not to eliminate the agency.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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