Will Governor Schwarzenegger Follow Thru on Toxics Reduction?

We were very pleased to see the Governor's signature on AB 1109 (Huffman) earlier today, which will, among other things, phase down the use of toxic heavy metals in lighting products. The substance and structure of this solution builds on existing California law (SB 20--computers and televisions), and of course tracks provisions of the European Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) Directive.

We were especially pleased to hear Maureen Gorsen's statements specifically in support of the toxic reduction provisions in AB 1109. We share Ms. Gorsen's vision and optimism that the "front end" approach to toxic reduction is a better approach than our historic reliance on "back-end" clean up.

We are hopeful that those statements signal a willingness to support Assembly Bill 48 (Saldaña), which implements the exact same policy approach as AB 1109 and existing law, and simply applies it to the broader range of consumer electronics identified by your Department of Toxic Substances Control as toxic (DTSC).

We have worked very hard to eliminate all known manufacturer opposition to AB 48 and have even received some manufacturer support. The measure is supported by dozens of local governments, waste haulers and recyclers that must deal with the consequences and costs of toxic electronics, as well as environmental groups.

While DTSC did take an oppose position on an earlier version of AB 48, the bill was revised to address the two concerns identified in the Department's August 27, letter:

  • AB 48 no longer modifies California's existing RoHS provisions (SB 20-computers and televisions); and
  • Potential state/DTSC costs have been substantially eliminated by: 1) striking the need for new regulations; and 2) Requiring manufacturers to cover any costs associated with processing exemptions.

Like AB 1109, the effective date of AB 48 is January 1, 2010, providing manufacturers with ample notice of implementation. To the extent DTSC or the administration identifies modifications they might like to see, those modifications could be taken up as clean-up legislation in either 2008 or 2009.

Existing law combined with the Governor's signature today on AB 1109 means that approximately half the volume of generated electronics in California must meet toxic reduction standards adopted by the EU. We hope the Governor will take the next logical step and apply those same standards to all electronics sold in California.