Product Regulation Job Killer Bill Moving in California Senate

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Legislation that will lead to a ban on critically important products and make many products less safe is moving in the California Senate.

The California Chamber of Commerce is opposing SB 903 (Skinner; D-Berkeley) as a job killer because it proposes a sweeping new ban on the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) in all commercial and consumer products by 2030 or sooner by regulation or if any other state or country bans that product.

After all products containing PFAS are banned, only then will manufacturers be legally allowed to petition the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for an exemption to determine whether the PFAS in a product is an unavoidable use.

The bill would decimate California’s economy by banning hundreds of thousands of products across sectors — including in aerospace, medical devices, automotive, lithium ion batteries, semiconductors, solar panels, hydrogen fuel cells and home building materials, to name a few, the CalChamber has pointed out in letters and testimony to legislators.

Petition Backlog

The regulatory framework proposed by SB 903 to exempt products from the ban due to unavoidable uses will result in DTSC being inundated with tens if not hundreds of thousands of product petitions, the CalChamber said. Given DTSC’s lack of resources while the state grapples with significant budget deficits, the framework is structured to fail because thousands of essential products will remain banned in California as DTSC tries to process what is likely to be a decades-long backlog of pending petitions.

From renewable energy and electric vehicles to critical medical devices and aerospace technologies, whole industries would be forced to uproot and move out of California, taking with them tens of thousands of jobs out of the state’s economy.

Changes without Disruptions

The CalChamber and its member companies believe the health and safety of customers is paramount to any product designs. Year after year, CalChamber has engaged with the Legislature in good faith to meticulously scrutinize and mitigate the presence of certain PFAS in products, both those added intentionally and those that find their way into products inadvertently, to advance chemistry for future substitutes where they currently do not exist today.

For example, the CalChamber worked with Senator Ben Allen and the Legislature to create a nation-leading phase-out of fluorinated firefighting foam used to put out catastrophic refinery and airport fires. The CalChamber worked with the Assembly to also remove PFAS in cookware, food packaging, juvenile products, cosmetics and more.

Accordingly, CalChamber and this Legislature have a record of being able to work together to achieve desired outcomes around PFAS regulations without disrupting other major California policies and the state economy.

Climate, Renewable Energy

Although well-intentioned, SB 903 tries to rectify PFAS-related issues through an overly broad ban and unworkable regulatory framework. It will upend numerous seminal policies in California, including state leadership on climate change, from renewable energy to the transition to zero-emission transportation.

For example, SB 903 would have a negative impact on the following technologies critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

• Fuel Cells and Hydrogen: PFAS compounds, particularly perfluorosulfonic acid (PFSA) polymers, are used in the membranes of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), which are a type of fuel cell used in various clean energy applications, including electric vehicles and are the cornerstone of hydrogen energy technology. These membranes are crucial for their ability to conduct protons while being chemically stable and impermeable to gases.

• Electric Vehicle (EV) Components: Beyond fuel cells, PFAS are used in various components within EVs, such as in gaskets, O-rings, and in the cooling systems of lithium-ion batteries. These applications benefit from the thermal stability and chemical resistance of PFAS compounds that ensure both the function and safety of EVs.

• Photovoltaic Solar Panels: Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and components use PFAS for their moisture barrier properties and durability.

• Wind Turbines: PFAS can be found in lubricants and hydraulic fluids used in wind turbines. Their chemical stability and performance in extreme temperatures make them suitable for the high-stress conditions experienced by wind turbines.

• High-Performance Electronics: Clean energy systems often rely on high-performance electronics for power conversion, control systems, and efficiency optimization. PFAS compounds are used in the semiconductor industry for etching processes and as a part of cooling solutions in high-power electronics due to their thermal stability and dielectric properties.

• Energy Storage: Advanced energy storage solutions, including certain batteries and capacitors, utilize PFAS for their thermal stability and electrical insulation properties. This is particularly relevant in applications requiring high durability and performance under extreme conditions.

Other Industries

Other sectors that SB 903 will upend include: semiconductor, aerospace, automotive, building and construction, medical and biotechnology, nuclear, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and many more.

The bill itself acknowledges the reality that these chemistries play a vital role in essential products California and the world rely upon today by creating the exemption process for “unavoidable uses” yet fails to adequately balance these policies.

A more nuanced and thoughtful approach is needed to ensure that the regulation of PFAS does not lead to the unintended disruption of other important state policies and the economy.

Key Vote

SB 903 passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 3, 4-2:

Ayes: Allen (D-Santa Monica), Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Menjivar (D-Los Angeles), Skinner (D-Berkeley).

Noes: B. Dahle (R-Bieber), Nguyen (R-Garden Grove).

No vote recorded: Hurtado (D-Sanger).

The bill will be considered next by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Staff Contact: Adam Regele

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Adam Regele was named vice president of advocacy and strategic partnerships in March 2023. He 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. See full bio