Clearing the air on InEnTec

Citizens for Review of Infectious Medical Waste Imports into Tehama County. Irving is a private practice attorney Red Bluff emphasizing criminal law. He was a member of the Red Bluff Planning Commission for five years until his appointment last August to the Red Bluff City Council.

InEnTec is a company that has received permitting in Tehama County to employ a technology never before commercially attempted for medical waste on the U.S. mainland.

No Environmental Impact Report was required for a proposal to truck in up to 20 tons of infectious medical waste including chemotherapeutic, hormonal and pathogenic materials to the outskirts of a populated community, for transforming into a glass-like debris and air emissions.

Locals formed a committee to try to understand why this project was approved so easily for a site so close to the city. Unfortunately, efforts to convince county officials that proper environmental review was needed proved unsuccessful. The county insisted that the deadlines via the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) had long expired, severely limiting our options. With little other recourse, our committee and Greenaction filed an appeal with the Tehama County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) in August 2005.

After months of hearings and more than 80 hours of testimony and argument, the APCD rendered its decision as the hour approached midnight on Dec. 20. Thankfully, the board voted 3-1 to grant our appeal. This meant that the board agreed that the district had erred in issuing the air permits based upon numerous grounds, too lengthy to relate here.

Our criticisms range from a “Similar Use Finding” equating InEnTec with a lumber-mill for zoning purposes, to rejecting the need for an EIR on such a controversial and untested technological endeavor so close to our community. The county neglected to include the city of Red Bluff in the CEQA process as (we believe) it was required to do by law and local regulators seemed engaged in actively endorsing the project and assisting InEnTec in soliciting for state funding.

We are now in a wait and see mode, hoping we can get back to normalcy without the specter of tons of the state’s medical waste transiting our streets on a daily basis. I do need to qualify some statements attributed to me in your recent news article. The use of the word “criminal” was unfortunate as some might take that literally rather than in the rhetorical sense it was intended. Our appeal was based upon our concerns that California’s environmental law was abused. Also, my criticism of the planning director’s “pre-consultation process” should not be taken to imply that any inappropriate activities in fact occurred. My criticism is that if any process not specifically provided for by CEQA is followed, it could easily lend itself to a “front-loading” of what otherwise is a very statute-driven and timetable-driven process.