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Schwarzenegger signs environmental bills

It's been nearly two years since California enacted its green chemistry initiative, which was designed to change the environmental zeitgeist in Sacramento from a chemical-by-chemical approach to a more comprehensive scheme that would identify compounds of concern that ought to be phased out.

The initiative goes into effect in January, and so far there is only a draft regulation from the Department of Toxic Substances Control, which would prioritize chemicals of concern. Already, a tug-of-war is underway among environmentalists, manufacturers and regulators over the list, trade-secret protections, the minimum concentrations that would be allowed and the time line for phasing out even the substances known to cause harm.

Legislators, in the meantime, have responded with more chemical-by-chemical bills, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week signed several of them.

Included in Gov. Schwarzenegger's bill-signing frenzy this week were measures that would limit the use of the heavy metal cadmium in children's jewelry, chromium in coatings on toys, copper in brake linings and lead in sand-blasting beads.

Here is a list of the major bills signed into law:

SB 929: Addresses a loophole in a previous law banning lead in children's jewelry by regulating a metal now used as a substitute for lead: cadmium, which can cause kidney, lung and bone damage, particularly in children. It keeps any component of jewelry below a 300 parts per million standard, and allows state health authorities to set an even lower standard for cadmium. 

SB 346: Restricts the use of copper and other toxic chemicals in automotive brake pads. Dissolved copper is toxic to phytoplankton, which is the base of the aquatic food chain. It impairs the ability of salmon to avoid predators and deters them from returning to their home streams to spawn, according to a Senate analysis of the bill.

Scientific studies have shown that a major source of copper in highly urbanized watersheds is material worn off vehicle brake pads.  It is estimated that about one-half of the copper found in run-off is attributed to brake pads. According to the United States EPA, elevated levels of copper are toxic to aquatic environments and may adversely affect fish, invertebrates, plants, and amphibians. Acute toxic effects may include mortality of organisms; chronic toxicity can result in reductions in survival, reproduction, and growth. 

SB 1365: Adds chromium to a list of compounds not allowed in lacquers and other coatings on toys and updates state regulations on other toxic substances in toys. 

AB 1930: Prohibits the manufacture, sale, offering for sale or offering for promotional purposes of glass beads containing arsenic or lead above a specified level if those beads will be used with blasting equipment. Dust from such sand-blasting can expose workers to lead and can contaminate soil and water.

The governor also signed a bill addressing testing of farm workers for exposure to toxic chemicals in pesticides:

AB 1963: Requires laboratories conducting cholinesterase testing to determine workers' exposure to pesticides to report it to state pesticide regulators. The confidential information could then be shared among several agencies that monitor health and saftey issues for agricultural workers. Previous law on pesticide testing did not require reports to state agencies responsible for workers' health. Cut from the Senate's version of the bill, however, was a provision allowing the state Department of Public Health to assess fines against labs that fail to report.

Overexposure to organophosphate and carbamate pesticides can suppress cholinesterase, a nerve enzyme. Suppressed cholinesterol levels can lead to impaired reproductive function, birth defects, a weakened immune system, an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia, nerve damage, severe neurological effects and even death. 

-- Geoff Mohan

Comments () | Archives (6)

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Hats off to the coalition of municipal agencies and industry leaders that helped Senator Kehoe get SB 346 to the governor's desk! Cities and counties are on the hook for cleaning up our waterways. Regulations continue to mount and local budgets continue to decline. Meeting Clean Water Act requirements will take more and more source-control legislation like this. Thanks to Senator Kehoe, Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Storm Water Quality Association.

Bill Harris
City of San Diego

California has been a leader in American trends of entertainment, outdoor sports, cars, alternative lifestyles, environmentalism, and unfortunately of late, dysfunctional state government. Today, the once “Golden State” is deeply tarnished by massive annual budget deficits and political corruption where the partisan special interests of militant labor union, divisive immigrant and radical environmental lobbies rein supreme.

Californians are suffering an unprecedented 12.5% unemployment rate as economic recession deepens. Californians, without any federal orders or proof of climate benefits, naively approved the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32). AB 32 would impose costly 2012 reductions in state greenhouse gases for global warming benefits. All new environmental regulations increase the unit production costs and corresponding consumer prices of all goods, services, energies and activities. AB 32 would further punish California businesses and families with more taxes, energy expenses and unemployment as we enter the third year of an historic national economic recession.

Proof of the punishing impacts of environmental regulations can be observed in records of U.S. unemployment rates. The massive and ubiquitous tangle of U.S. environmental regulations began to expand from the federal government level in the 1970s. Today, environmental regulations and their attendant mob of bureaucrats at local, state and federal governments cost us about 5% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Environmental regulations have also become a free-for-all of eco-group propaganda and gratuitous litigation. Rules are issued by green-obsessed government do-gooders without mention of long term costs, unemployment or proof of actual environmental benefits.

Using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records of U.S. unemployment data, the impact of U.S. environmental regulations upon unemployment can be seen in the 30 years before, and after, the 1970 enviro-policy explosions:
• The average U.S. unemployment rate from 1940 (excluding WWII) to 1970 was 4.5%;
• The average U.S. unemployment rate from 1970 to 2000 was 6%;
• As environmental regulations expanded after 1970, 30-year average unemployment increased by 33.3%.

California voters can delay the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) by voting for Prop. 23 on November 2nd. Prop. 23 would suspend implementation of AB 32 greenhouse gas controls until the state’s unemployment rate is reduced to below an unemployment rate benchmark of 5.5%.

California’s Prop. 23 benchmarking of future environmental regulations to economic performance (recovery) should be model for U.S. Government environmental regulations. The “new” U.S. Congress should pass legislation to suspend all pending and future environmental regulations until U.S. unemployment recovers to the post-1970 average of 6.5%. The U.S., and each state, must reset the reckless pace of environmental regulation to an economic benchmark. The ”new green economy” is a green fantasy that should not be a national (or state) priority.

It's good to see some initiative in phasing out these harmful chemicals. I only hope that California doesn't mysteriously go back on their word, as has been done with other environmental agendas...

Where's our feed in tariff, Arnold? It would save the environment, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, improve property values and stimulate Main Street economies all over the state, all while costing ratepayers and taxpayers FAR LESS than Big Solar, Big Wind and Big Transmission, plus reducing GHGs much faster...

So, since they are working all over the world, including in your home country of Austria, why are you refusing to let us have them here?

Glad to see California take a lead on green issues, particularly limiting the use of toxic chemicals like cadmium. I made a documentary ( about workers in China who worked in factories manufacturing nickel-cadmium batteries, and I feel it is very important that people understand how toxic and harmful cadmium is.

Amazing! He signed them! I didn't know he could write.


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