The State Water Resources Control Board’s Climate Change Mitigation Strategist, Max Gomberg, just retired, and sent an incendiary parting letter to his colleagues, stating,
Witnessing the agency’s ability to tackle big challenges nearly eviscerated by this Administration has been gut wrenching. The way some of you have simply rolled over and accepted this has also been difficult to watch.
One of the things I came to understand in our campaign last year to save the Delta Independent Science Board was that California water is like a hurricane, and the Delta Independent Science Board and regulatory agencies such as the State Water Resources Control Board need to operate in the eye of the storm.
There are epic battles about policy decisions in California water, and also about the science on which they are based. These battles are fought where the winds are fiercest. But I have come to realize that the regulatory agencies need to be in the eye of the storm, where they can objectively weigh the evidence, and act in the public interest. And the Delta Independent Science Board needs to operate in the same calm space to objectively evaluate the science.
When the Governor fails to reappoint State Water Resources Control Board members or Delta Stewardship Council members or allows the Delta Independent Science Board to be defunded for a year, the eye of the storm is not stable. And as result, the regulatory agencies are weakened, and independent science is also weakened.
Although the state is awash in a record budget surplus, we cannot solve these fundamental leadership issues with money. As Max Gomberg said,
I believe in facing hard truths and difficult decisions. These are dark and uncertain times, both because fascists are regaining power and because climate change is rapidly decreasing the habitability of many places… All of these (and more) are necessary for an equitable and livable future. I think at some level many of you know this, yet you convince yourselves that inhabiting the middle ground between advocates and industry (and other status quo defenders) makes you reasonable. But it does not. It makes you complicit.
California needs leadership that has the will to face inconvenient truths, and to create space for agency staff and scientists to speak truth, and for appointed Board members to make difficult decisions.
This will not happen unless people recognize the systemic problems and advocate for changing the Newsom administration’s culture at all levels.
Anonymous. 2022. On your watch. On the Public Record blog. July 16, 2022.
Des Jardins, D. 2021. On the Delta Independent Science Board and inconvenient truths. California Water Research blog. April 19, 2021.
Des Jardins, D. 2019. State Water Board: Loss of institutional knowledge, independence during historic processes. California Water Research blog. February 18, 2019.
Kukilich, T. 2021. Delta Independent Science Board funding slashed. Brentwood Press, June 17, 2021.