State’s “Green Chemistry” Rules Could Have Californians Seeing Red

Jeff Miller
California State Assemblyman representing the 71st Assembly District

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) is barely 20 years old, but it regulates with a grandiosity of an agency that’s been around since the Golden State was admitted to the Union in 1850.  And yet state bureaucrats give every indication they haven’t gone nearly far enough.

Example: On July 27th, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), a little-known division of the Cal-EPA released what it termed “Green Chemistry” proposals, which would regulate 1,200 chemicals found in household goods ranging from the soap in your shower to the makeup in your purse to the caffeine in your coffee to the electronics in your pocket.

In Sacramento-speak, this is what is known as a “comprehensive approach.”

Only it’s more than a little one-sided, an unprecedented proposal that requires manufacturers to test products they sell in California for any and all of those 1,200 ingredients, going far beyond what is already required nationally by the FDA and even Barack Obama’s EPA.

So what happens if a manufacturer’s products contain any of these 1,200 chemicals?  They are then required to present a list of alternatives.  What if there are no alternatives?  Manufacturers will face new fees, substantial fines and possibly even a statewide ban on their products.

In that same Capitol vernacular, this is what is known as “encouraging compliance.”

The real shame is that it didn’t have to be this way.

As Vice Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, I had a front row seat for this entire frustrating process.  It started out as an open and collaborative discussion with business and industry having a seat the table.  It ended as an arrangement of regulatory rules that, quite frankly, did not reflect the intent of the discussions leading up to them.

Some troubling details about how this happened: The initial statement of reason from DTSC justifying “green chemistry” ran 200 pages.  The final regulations total 78 pages.  The economic analysis: four pages.  This is fairly simple math and an indication of how far out of balance our regulatory system has gone.

The real-world implications for California businesses will be considerable.

First, this will drastically impact the ability of many businesses to sell their products in America’s other 49 states as well as markets around the world.  This could force them to simply stop selling and/or manufacturing many of their products in California.  The inevitable result will kill important high-wage jobs that we need to accomplish any semblance of an economic recovery.

For those companies that continue forward and absorb the burden, they will be forced to pass along compliance costs to the consumer in the form of price increases.  Can California families struggling to make ends meet afford to pay more for the things they use every day?

This certainly isn’t the first time Sacramento bureaucrats have leaped before looking, and the “Green Chemistry” move definitely gives off a “here they go again” vibe. Remember the MTBE disaster or the “Cool Cars Initiative”?  The only things left in the wake of those “bold” ideas are contaminated groundwater and California’s on-the-record preference that cars painted black be taken off the roads.

These guidelines were originally expected to be finalized on Sept. 11th and take effect by the end of the year.  A single public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10th.  Talk about lengthy deliberation before a final decision.

But the first cracks in the Green Wall are already showing.  Cal-EPA has already extended public comment an additional 45 days.  The time for action is now.  We can absolutely amend and improve these regulations.

I can promise that we came together to try and support “Green Chemistry”, but the final product is not something we can defend.  Could this become California’s next regulatory train wreck?  Or yet another business-unfriendly move by a state with shockingly high unemployment?

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