Battery Fee to Fund Lead Contamination Statewide
(Sacramento) – Legislation to expand the existing lead acid battery clean-up fund by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) advanced out of the Assembly today with a two-thirds vote. The legislation, AB 142, will increase the fee battery manufacturers pay from $1 to $2 and mandates clean-up take place prior to repayment of the $176.6 million loan from the general fund in 2016. The fund is managed by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and would apply to clean-ups throughout the state.
“Lead contamination often affects poor, working class communities of color,” added Garcia. “This is absolutely about environmental justice for these individuals and families. It’s about making sure we protect future generations of kids from the horrible effects of lead exposure. We’ve waited long enough and this should never have happened in the first place.”
In 2016, Garcia succeeded in passing legislation (AB 2153) which reallocated small portion of an existing fee on new batteries purchased by consumers and sold by manufactures. That fee created a Lead Acid Battery Clean Up Fund to compensate toxic contamination clean-up’s in thousands of homes throughout California through the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC). There are at least 16 smelting sites in California communities that have tested positive for lead that would be eligible for Battery Fee funding.
The effects of improper disposal, production, and recycling of lead-acid batteries are detrimental to our communities. Lead contamination has severe consequences, especially for young children and pregnant mothers, including cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm. No levels of lead exposure are safe for humans.
Exide, the former operator of a battery facility located in Vernon, CA, was believed to be the cause of a massive lead contamination found in surrounding communities, has declared bankruptcy in California making the recovery of cleanup costs difficult. Decontamination of the production site alone is estimated at $500 million.
“The Exide lead contamination is a personal issue for me and the communities I represent and live in,” said Cristina Garcia. “Creating an expanded clean-up fund that puts the people affected by these poisonings first is a long-term solution to a long overdue problem. Every community deserves clean air, clean water and safe playgrounds. People’s lives shouldn’t be jeopardized”
In 2018 the governor took initial fee proceeds from the 2016 legislation fund to pay back the General Fund loan instead of allowing funds to accrue for clean-up efforts. Assemblywoman Garcia and the local environmental justice community felt that move was afoul of the legislative intent in AB 2153. Today’s legislation seeks to clarify that intent by mandating the clean-ups prior to General Fund repayment.
Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-53) and Assemblywoman Wendy Carillo (D-51) are co-authors of this legislation.
The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.