CalChamber, Coalition Gain Some Changes to Flawed Prop. 65 Warning Rulemaking

Life Is Short, But Prop. 65 Warnings May Not Be

A year ago, on January 8, 2021, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) proposed changes to how businesses warn under Proposition 65.

A February 2021 CalChamber article explained why the agency’s proposal to change short-form warnings would have a negative impact on businesses by way of increased costs and unnecessary liability and yet still fail to address the Proposition 65 overwarning problem — something the agency intended to fix with the rulemaking.

The California Chamber of Commerce and the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) led an industry coalition of 119 organizations pushing back against the proposed changes, arguing the rulemaking should be rescinded because the proposal was flawed, relied on faulty data, was contrary to regulatory assurances made by OEHHA to all stakeholders when first overhauling Article 6 warning provisions in 2018 and failed to achieve OEHHA’s stated goal of addressing Proposition 65 overwarning.

In December 2021, nearly a year after the rulemaking began, OEHHA published a notice of its plan to move forward — but with some notable modifications that appear to have been made in direct response to CalChamber and CBA industry coalition comments.

Increase in Short-Form Size

Short-Form Size Limitation Increases from 5 Square Inches to 12 Square Inches

The coalition argued that the agency does not explain nor provide evidence to justify why a 5-square inches or less requirement is the appropriate cutoff. CalChamber and the coalition articulated that such a policy change deviated from OEHHA’s own most recent guidance telling businesses that Article 6 had “no size limitations for which products could utilize short-form warnings.”

The regulated community relied on these express statements when spending significant time and resources overhauling their Proposition 65 compliance programs.

Under the modified approach, OEHHA proposes to increase the maximum label size for short-form warnings from 5 square inches to 12 square inches, explaining that “after considering these comments, OEHHA determined a 12 square inch limit would accommodate [–] concerns, while still limiting use of the short-form warnings to packages with limited available label space for consumer product information that would not easily accommodate the full warning.”

Website/Catalog Uses

OEHHA Preserves Use of Short-Form Warnings on Product Website or Catalog

In the original rulemaking, OEHHA eliminated the option to use the same short-form warnings found on the actual product for online or catalog warnings.

The coalition argued this change created confusion, placed undue burdens and significant financial obligations on California retailers, unnecessarily heightened retailer risk of liability by forcing the use of a different warning from that which could be found on the actual product, was inconsistent with Health and Safety Code Section 25249.11(f), and failed to consider the supply chain complexities.

Under OEHHA’s latest proposed modification to the rulemaking, OEHHA appears to agree with the coalition and preserves the original regulatory language allowing the use of the short-form warnings found on the products to also be used on that product’s websites or in catalogs.

In reversing itself, the agency explains that reverting back to existing law “provides consistency along the supply/distribution chain and conforms to the existing regulations in Section 25600.2.” We appreciate this change.

At the request of the CalChamber, the close of the public comment period for the modified rulemaking was extended one week, to January 21, 2022.

Staff Contact: Adam Regele

Previous articleMost Significant Security Breach in History Has Long-Term, Ongoing Ramifications
Next articleAdvocacy Return on Investment
Adam Regele joined the CalChamber in April 2018 as a policy advocate specializing in environmental policy, housing and land use, and product regulation issues. He was named a senior policy advocate in April 2021 in recognition of his efforts on behalf of members. Regele came to CalChamber after practicing law at Oakland-based Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson, PLC, where he advised private and public clients on complex projects involving land use and environmental laws and regulations at the local, state and federal levels. Before entering private practice, Regele served as a federal judicial law clerk to the Honorable Edward J. Davila of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. Regele earned a B.S. in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from UC Hastings College of Law, where he was symposium editor and research and development editor for the Hastings West-Northwest Journal.