Assembly Considering Bills to Shut Down Hazardous Waste Facilities, Disregard Environmental Protocols

Two bills opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce could shut down hazardous waste facilities and make the permitting process more burdensome. If passed into law, the bills would result in the export of waste to other states without California’s strict environmental regulations.

Both bills are awaiting a vote on the Assembly Floor.

Anyone in California who owns or operates a facility where hazardous waste is treated, stored or disposed  is required to obtain a hazardous waste permit. Most California hazardous waste regulations are very similar to federal regulations. In many circumstances, however, the California regulations are more stringent and broader in scope than federal regulations.

The CalChamber supports treating, storing and disposing of hazardous waste in California where environmental protection protocols are more rigid than in other states. To this end, the CalChamber endorses California’s policy of managing its own hazardous waste and not exporting it to other states or nations, where protocols are either nonexistent or far less stringent.

SB 654: Shuts Down Hazardous Waste Facilities

SB 654 (de León; D-Los Angeles) is a job killer bill that could shut down a hazardous waste facility for reasons well beyond the permit applicant’s control.

Specifically, SB 654 would discourages investment in upgrading and improving hazardous waste facilities by shutting down hazardous waste facilities if the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) fails to take final action on the permit renewal application within a specified timeframe, even if the permit applicant acted diligently and in good faith throughout the permit application process.

Understanding the importance of keeping hazardous waste in California, hazardous waste permits should be issued in a timely manner and subject to clear and predicable procedures, while also allowing flexibility for the iterative application process to take its course.  SB 654 would undermine that process.

SB 673: Adds to Bureaucracy

The timeliness issue is a strong concern with SB 673 (Lara; D-Bell Gardens), which would make permitting hazardous waste facilities more difficult by imposing new and unreasonable permitting criteria that DTSC would have to consider when making permitting decisions.

SB 673 fundamentally undermines the DTSC’s recently proposed plan to issue protective and timely hazardous waste permits by requiring DTSC to develop regulations establishing additional criteria to use in determining whether to issue a hazardous waste permit. Among the new criteria are the vulnerability of nearby populations using the CalEnviroScreen tool, a tool that was never intended to be used for permitting decisions.

The state Department of Finance opposes SB 673 as being both unnecessary and redundant.

Permit Backlog Being Addressed through Regulatory Reforms and Budget

The iterative nature of the hazardous waste permitting process is critical; it allows DTSC to adopt and respond to issues raised by stakeholders and the public during the administrative process and ultimately ensures that final permits are both protective and defensible.

The CalChamber is mindful of DTSC’s stated goals of issuing protective, timely and enforceable hazardous water permits using more transparent standards and consistent procedures.

In fact, DTSC received substantial new funding in the 2015–16 Budget, amounting to $16.8 million for 52 new staff positions, some of which will be assigned to improving DTSC’s current permitting program.

Importantly, this new funding also establishes an independent review panel, comprised of three members chosen respectively by the Assembly, the Senate, and the Governor, and charged with reviewing and making recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor regarding, among other issues, the current permitting backlog.

Although funding for additional staff positions and a new independent oversight function may help DTSC take final action on permit applications more expeditiously, imposing unworkable timing requirements for permit applications and issuance—and further deeming hazardous waste facilities illegal operations for reasons the facilities cannot control—does absolutely nothing to address the core deficiencies that currently exist in DTSC’s permitting program.

Action Needed

SB 654 and SB 673 are awaiting a vote by the Assembly. Contact your Assembly representative and urge him/her to vote no on SB 654 and SB 673.

Staff Contact: Anthony Samson