Cheryl Bly-Chester:
Supporting Natural Resources Extraction Industries

        California was blessed with abundant resources and we Californians, along with much of the world, depend on those resources to live. Our quality of life and our economy relies on the quality of our living spaces, working environment and especially our recreational environment. Considering that everything we use to support our quality of life was either grown or extracted from earth’s natural resources, the State of California’s regulations must work with the mining, oil, forestry, and agricultural industries to enhance their ability to provide for us, instead of weighing them down with conflicting or burdensome regulations. State government is supposed to work for law-abiding citizens, not against us.

        I would favor the carrot rather than the stick approach to regulating natural resource policies, with incentives for innovations instead disincentives for the private sector to communicate with state regulators. Whereas in the 1970’s the call for environmental laws was very much justified, the work done since by industry has been enormous and should be recognized. After 40 years, it is time Californians elevated the dialogue to greater sophistication, as befitting the most environmentally conscious state in the union. We have to work together and an “us against them” approach won’t accomplish solutions to the challenges we face.

        California’s statutes and regulations often are out too far ahead of technology and science. For example, as an environmental engineer, I work on underground storage tank remediation on behalf of gas station owners and oil companies. California businesses in the oil industry spent millions on pumping and treating affected groundwater before California regulatory agencies accepted that the petroleum-based groundwater plumes naturally attenuated at about the same rate. Based on my experiences, I saw many in the business suffer physical and financial hardships caused by the stress due to loss of value of the gas stations and cost of remediation caused by California’s overzealous regulatory regime. I believe that the regulations interpreted as requiring expensive active remediation systems for fuel releases may have killed or injured more Californians than did contamination from the releases.

        The Regional Water Quality Control Boards frequently set regulations before the science is understood and before the technology can even measure, much less address, the problem. Then the boards set rules against backing down from established requirements, no matter how unrealistic, and against using innovative technology for cleanup. The regulators have also been remiss in complying with statutes requiring cost/benefit considerations in addressing resolutions.

        While on the California State Mining and Geology Board, I chaired a hearing addressing a geo-hazard issue affecting slope stability underlying a bulk oil tank on a hillside refinery tank farm. Recognizing that they had the most to lose in the event of slope failure, the oil company hired the best and brightest geologists California had to offer, at great expense. Chairing that hearing, I was offended at the suggestion that the State was more motivated than the oil company in analyzing the situation correctly. The state board attorney took an “opposing counsel” attitude in the case instead of his proper advisory role, making my determination to provide due process more challenging.

        This situation with staff and attorneys driving regulatory board outcomes carries over to many boards in California, which set me on a course towards a Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership studying California State Boards for my dissertation. I know the problems. I can work with both sides towards solutions.

        Read more about Cheryl Bly-Chester here.

Cheryl Bly-Chester
1000 Sunrise Blvd. Suite 9B-122
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 721-8339