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Small Businesses Cite Confusion in State Toxic Waste Rules

Times Staff Writer

A confusing array of regulations and forms make it difficult for the owners of small businesses to comply with state laws governing the disposal of hazardous waste, a state Senate panel was told here Wednesday.

Ralph Lopez, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, and Larry Hatler, who represents about 4,100 independent printing firms in the state, agreed that something has to be done to simplify the rules and assist businessmen attempting to conform with them.

“There is a somewhat bewildering application (process) for those seeking variances and other administrative remedies,” Lopez told the Senate Committee on Toxics and Public Safety Management, which met at the Museum of Science and Industry in Exposition Park. “We think it is lengthy and confusing.”

Hatler told the panel, chaired by Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), that “good, solid information” is needed about the laws governing the disposal of waste.

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“I don’t want to put my employees at risk,” Hatler said. “And I don’t want to place my business at risk.”

“All the agencies that affect the small business community should have a better way of communicating with it,” said Lou Moret, chief operating officer of the Southern California Area Governments organization, which represents eight counties from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

Moret noted that the region currently generates almost 100 million pounds of liquid hazardous waste a year, or about 134 pounds for every man, woman and child lliving in the area.

Prosecution Hindered

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Bill Carter, a deputy district attorney from Los Angeles County, told the panel that a shortage in funding is one of the main hindrances to prosecuting those who violate waste-disposal laws.

“Usually, it’s not a lack of enthusiasm, but a lack of budgetary resources,” Carter said. “One of the problems is to try to find a source of money . . .

“I do have some suggestions for helping us get these finances,” he said. “One would be be statutory language that allows for restitution.” He said that while persons convicted of criminal hazardous-waste violations once had to pay some of the costs of enforcement and prosecution, state law now prohibits this.

Among the legislative proposals under consideration by the panel are some that would permit restitution.


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