Bill Expanding Exide Clean-Up Fund Becomes Law

Friday, October 18, 2019

Toxic Lead Acid Clean-Up to be Expedited Statewide

(Sacramento) – Legislation to expand the existing lead acid battery clean-up fund (AB 2153, Garcia 2016) by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) was signed by the Governor this week.  The legislation, AB 142, will increase the fee battery manufacturers pay from $1 to $2 and mandates all homes be cleaned up prior to repayment of the 2016 general fund loan of $176.6 originally set up to clean up less than 1/4 of the affected homes.  The fund is managed by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and would apply to clean-ups throughout the state.

“Finally, we have a mechanism in place to leave no one behind by  providing urgent and ongoing funding for clean-up of this preventable, man-made environmental disaster that has plagued my community,” said Cristina Garcia.  “This is about environmental justice and ensuring we protect future generations of kids from the horrible effects of lead exposure.”

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 to $1 billion.

“The Exide lead contamination is a personal issue for me and the communities I represent and live in,” added Garcia.  “Creating an expanded clean-up fund that puts the people affected by these poisonings—often poor, working class communities of color—is long overdue.  Every community deserves clean air, clean water and safe playgrounds.”

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 Carrillo (D-51) were co-authors of this legislation which received consensus support from industry and environmental justice advocates.  The bill will likely serve as a model for other man-made disaster remediation’s given its inceptive policy and funding mechanism structure.

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The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and

CONTACT: Teala Schaff, (916) 319-2058