Assembly Committee OKs More Inspections for Haz Waste Facilities

A California Chamber of Commerce-opposed bill that will lead to increased costs for hazardous waste operators passed an Assembly policy committee on March 20.

AB 2094 (Kalra; D-San Jose) imposes unnecessary new costs on hazardous waste permit operators and further delays processing by arbitrarily increasing the frequency of inspections for hazardous waste facilities rather than focusing on improving the existing inspection process.

The CalChamber and a coalition of industry groups voiced concern about the bill placing additional requirements on the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) when the department is working to clear permit backlogs, trying to implement regulatory reforms, and developing a whole suite of pending regulatory packages.

The added requirements would result in additional unrestrained and unreviewable costs being imposed on permittees, the coalition stated in a letter to the committee.

In July 2017, DTSC completed a comprehensive, two-year “Enforcement Improvement Plan,” which includes action items DTSC has taken to clearly define its inspection and enforcement processes, including using CalEnviroScreen to identify impacted communities and prioritize inspections in those areas, making inspection and enforcement data available online, and identifying areas for improving the timeliness/quality of inspection reports.

Rather than requiring regulations about the frequency of onsite inspections, what is needed is a thorough review and accounting to the Legislature and the Administration, of the quality and substance of DTSC’s onsite inspection process, the coalition letter stated. That discussion should take precedence over, and provide some further guidance for, any subsequent deliberations as to how frequently these inspections should occur. That is why the Legislature and Governor approved DTSC’s two-year evaluation in 2015, and why the Legislature should allow DTSC to implement its new program before deliberating further on measures such as AB 2094.

The cumulative effect of AB 2094, combined with DTSC’s pending regulatory proposals and other pending legislation affecting DTSC, will serve only to make the hazardous waste permitting and enforcement processes unworkable and excessively expensive.

The unworkability and cost will in turn result in hazardous waste being sent out of state, where the waste will be treated as garbage and thus subject to few, if any, environmental protections, the coalition pointed out. Such unintended consequences will not further California’s goals of responsibly managing its own generated hazardous waste.

The CalChamber and coalition support a more comprehensive solution, rather than continuing piecemeal legislative revisions that are pursued in the absence of comprehensive reform.

Key Vote

The Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee passed AB 2094 on March 20 on a vote of 4-2:

Ayes: Quirk (D-Hayward), Friedman (D-Glendale), Holden (D-Pasadena), Muratsuchi (D-Torrance).

Noes: Brough (R-Dana Point), Chen (R-Walnut).

No vote recorded: Arambula (D-Kingsburg).

The bill will be considered next by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Staff Contact: Jennifer Barrera

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Jennifer Barrera
Jennifer Barrera oversees the development and implementation of policy and strategy as senior vice president, policy, and represents the CalChamber on legal reform issues. She led CalChamber advocacy on labor and employment and taxation from September 2010 through the end of 2017. As senior policy advocate in 2017, she worked with the executive vice president in developing policy strategy. Before joining the CalChamber, she worked at a statewide law firm that specializes in labor/employment defense. Barrera earned a B.A. in English from California State University, Bakersfield, and a J.D. with high honors from California Western School of Law.