July 11 – San Diego Coastkeeper Announces New Executive Director

Career environmental prosecutor Gale Filter joins water watchdog group on July 18

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SAN DIEGO (July 11, 2011) – San Diego Coastkeeper announced today its new executive director, Gale Filter, who will join the organization on July 18. Filter comes to San Diego from his role as deputy director of enforcement and emergency response for the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control. Filter’s previous work experience includes time as the deputy executive director for consumer, environmental and legal services at the California District Attorney’s Association, as a deputy district attorney in Imperial County and as an instructor at Joliet Junior College.

“Enforcing the law is at the heart of every Waterkeeper organization, and Gale has built his professional career on this notion,” said San Diego Coastkeeper Board President David Welborn. “He brings to San Diego Coastkeeper a long history of success in environmental leadership and enforcement perfectly paired with a commitment to education and collaboration.”

While at the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Filter worked to ensure that businesses and others followed state laws and regulations in how they managed, stored and transported hazardous waste in California. Working with an annual budget of approximately $20 million, he directed all aspects of the enforcement program including a staff of 150 scientists, inspectors and criminal investigators at eight state offices.

“Enforcement is powerful, but the power of collaboration should not be overlooked. In many cases, I’ve found that we can achieve compliance if the parties involved possess a collective will to address and fix the environmental problem,” said Filter. “We have much to gain from working together to improve the health of our environment. Enforcement is only part of the solution.”

When hired at the Department of Toxic Substances, Filter was tasked to modernize the environmental enforcement program into a transparent, accountable and efficient program that maximized reduction of environmental harms in the state. The Environmental Protection Agency considers his reorganized and modernized environmental enforcement program as one of its five “showcase models” that brought improvements in public health and the environment.

He also created the Environmental Justice Enforcement Initiative, a community-based policing and task force program that focuses on collecting intelligence and “spotting and squishing” environmental harms.  The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government honored this initiative as a 2010 Bright Idea in American Government.

“The future of environmental protection and enforcement is in agile, dynamic and creative groups like San Diego Coastkeeper,” said Filter. “As our city and state governments struggle with budgets, the people of this region will depend on our efforts to ensure that San Diego’s inland and coastal waters remain clean.”

From 1999 to 2003, Filter was the environmental project director for the California District Attorneys Association. And before joining the Toxic Substances Control department of the state, he served as the deputy executive director of consumer, environmental and legal services at the District Attorneys Association.

A lifelong environmentalist, Filter started his official environmental work in California in 1991 when he was a prosecutor in the Imperial County District Attorney’s office. Along with prosecuting murder and serious felony cases, Filter took on environmental crimes and prosecuted people responsible for harming the environment.

Gale has a Juris Doctorate degree from the University Of San Diego School of Law, a Master of Public Administration degree from Governors State University in Illinois and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Humboldt State University.

Interim Executive Director Gabriel Solmer, who stepped into the position in late 2010 to guide the organization through its transition, will continue her role as legal director, leading the organization’s Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.


Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s inland and coastal waters for the communities and wildlife that depend on them by blending education, community empowerment and advocacy. For more information, visit Coastkeeper’s website at localhost/sdcoastkeeper.