Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown signs battery fee, other bills spurred by environmental disasters

A field sampling team leader for the Los Angeles County Health Department, and an environmental health specialist, prepare soil samples to be tested for possible lead contamination on February 29, 2016, in Commerce, Calif.
A field sampling team leader for the Los Angeles County Health Department, and an environmental health specialist, prepare soil samples to be tested for possible lead contamination on February 29, 2016, in Commerce, Calif. TNS

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed bills reacting to a pair of environmental disasters that prompted outrage and calls to better protect Californians from hazardous pollution.

Earlier this year, legislators appropriated millions of dollars to cover the environmental fallout after a shuttered Exide Technologies battery plant, operating for years without a traditional permit, leaked toxic chemicals and boosted local lead levels.

A followup bill, Assembly Bill 2153, imposes fees on lead-acid batteries to fund cleanup efforts, including a $1 fee on customers for car battery sales and a $1 fee manufacturers will pay on each battery sold in the state. In his signing message, Brown wrote of the downside to “powerful technological advances.”

“When these technologies reach their end life, we often learn – the hard way – that these products, when not disposed of properly, come at a cost to our environment and to our health,” Brown wrote, adding that “decades of improper lead-acid battery recycling” have generated “enormous challenges” for communities near the Exide plant. He noted the new fees could generate $24 million a year.

A months-long natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility that forced people out of their homes and generated health complaints fueled another bill Brown signed on Monday. Senate Bill 877 requires more monitoring for leaks from natural gas storage wells, rules that supporters called necessary to prevent a similar debacle.

But Brown vetoed another measure that would have expanded legal redress for people affected by the Aliso Canyon and Exide leaks. Assembly Bill 2748 would have kept polluters exposed to future lawsuits even if they offered settlements and extended the time to file lawsuits related to those specific incidents.

While the bill’s backer said the measure would ensure justice for victims, Brown wrote in his veto message that “nothing has been shown to indicate that current law is insufficient to hold polluters accountable.”

“This bill could eliminate the incentive for defendants to settle legal disputes,” Brown wrote.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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