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California’s new eco-laws: curbs on toxics, tax breaks for green business

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A slew of new environmental laws in California is on the books for 2011, including measures to outlaw the use of cadmium in children’s jewelry, allow the conversion of offshore oil rigs into artificial reefs, and offer sales-tax exemptions for equipment for green businesses.

The state’s brutal recession and high unemployment were cited by businesses fighting increased regulation over the past year. With industry lobbyists outnumbering environmental lobbyists in Sacramento by 10 to 1, according to the California League of Conservation Voters, ‘Opportunistic polluters saw the 2010 legislative session as their best shot ... but [environmental advocates] fended off the worst attacks.’

In its annual report on legislative results, the league noted that several of environmentalists’ high-priority bills were vetoed by outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, including measures for a ‘polluter pays’ fee on pesticide producers, for expanded recycling in businesses and apartment buildings, for green jobs training in clean technology and energy efficiency, and for a fund to help low-income communities adapt to climate change. Schwarzenegger, the league said, ‘signed the no-brainers.’

The bills signed into law include:

  • The PaintCare program, funded and operated by paint manufacturers, to set up a system to gather and recycle consumers’ leftover, unused paint, thus diverting contaminating toxics away from landfills.
  • A carpet recycling program funded and operated by carpet manufacturers. Carpet accounts for an estimated 3.2% of all waste in California.
  • A phase-out of copper from automobile brakes by 2025. Brakes are the single biggest source of toxic copper polluting urban waterways.
  • Tougher standards for smog testing of automobiles, reducing emissions by an estimated 70 tons a day.

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Schwarzenegger’s environmental legacy: green or olive-drab?

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---Margot Roosevelt


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