Hazardous Material Program Coordinator
California State Office
In an agency noted for its array of critical, science-based positions, John Key holds one of those jobs that may be distasteful, but necessary to the management of public lands. He looks into incidents involving abandoned mine lands, hazardous materials and natural resource damage.
A fourth generation Californian, John grew up on a cattle ranch in the Salinas Valley. He majored in agriculture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1969 and master's degree in 1974. While attending college, he also held a job as a deputy sheriff for San Luis Obispo County for three years. He later served on active duty in the U.S. Army for three years, followed by 21 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, retiring in 1994 as a lieutenant colonel.
John came to the BLM from the Soil Conservation Service in June 1978, as a soil scientist in Bakersfield. As the soil-water-air program lead he was responsible for mitigating a number of physical safety hazards, mostly dangerous open mine shafts. He was the first project coordinator for the Atlas Asbestos Mine, BLM's first national priority list and Superfund site, from 1980 until 1987, and the technical advisor for the site from 1987 to 1989.
He transferred to the California Desert District in 1989 to serve as their first hazardous materials program coordinator. While there he earned certificates in hazardous materials management for the University of California-Riverside in 1991 and a graduate certificate in hazardous waste control from Wayne State University in 1995. He also received certifications for the state of California as a hazardous materials incident commander, hazardous materials technician and hazardous materials specialist. While in he Desert District John was involved in several notable hazardous materials incidents including mining scams, pipeline spills and illegal drug lab waste dumps. He was active with many local environmental task force groups and served as chair of the California Desert Managers Group-HazMat Working Group for ten years.
In 2005, John transferred to the California State Office to become the state program lead. Trying to maintain his education and edge in his field, John completed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's advanced environmental crimes training program and served on a number of environmental enforcement task forces around the state.