Debbie Raphael, California State Toxics Leader, Leaving Post

The director of the California Department of Toxics Substances Control is leaving her post after three years on the job, the Investigative Unit has learned. 

Debbie Raphael’s resignation comes after a year-long series of NBC Bay Area investigations exposing whistleblower claims that regulators are falling down on the job and that public health is at risk because of it. The reporting spurred a state senate investigation, an ongoing ethics probe by the Fair Political Practices Commission, and multiple legislative oversight hearings. Following the scrutiny and public outcry, Raphael pledged to increase accountability and reform the department. 

In an email to staff Thursday afternoon, Raphael wrote that the department “weathered the criticism of so-called watchdogs and the scrutiny of the news media and the legislature.”

In a statement released today, Cal EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez said that Raphael “began the transformation of a Department that faced some long-standing problems” and that she brought “courage, intelligence and a strong since of public accountability” to the DTSC. 

The state toxics regulator has a long history of leadership turnover, with seven directors in the past 10 years. At a legislative oversight hearing in January, Raphael acknowledged the many “fits and starts” within the department. 

Raphael will take over as the director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment at the end of the month. 

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