Capitol Alert

California bans microbeads, divests retirement funds from coal

Microbeads cover an area about the size of a half-dollar in a glass lab dish at UC Davis in Davis on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
Microbeads cover an area about the size of a half-dollar in a glass lab dish at UC Davis in Davis on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. rbenton@sacbee.com

California is leaving behind two targets of environmentalist criticism – skin-cleansing “microbeads” and investments in coal power – after Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval this week.

The Democratic governor on Thursday announced signing legislation to prohibit by 2020 the sale of products containing tiny plastic microbeads. Often embedded in exfoliating creams and other cosmetic products, the small spheres flow down drains and into waterways. Scientists have raised alarms about finding increasing volumes of the beads in the stomachs of fish.

Assembly Bill 888 stalled on the Senate floor but was revived and advanced after backers agreed to nix language allowing the industry to substitute natural – not plastic – products in lieu of microbeads.

Cosmetics companies Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble lobbied against the legislation. Opponents, including Senate Republicans who voted against the measure, unsuccessfully sought an exemption for biodegradable plastics.

In California’s latest effort to curb climate change by moving away from fossil fuels, Brown also signed a measure compelling the state’s huge public pension funds to drop their investments in thermal coal. Senate Bill 185 will require the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and California State Teachers’ Retirement System to nix investments worth between $100 million and $200 million for CalPERS and about $40 million for CalSTRS.

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

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