Governor Sent Bill Revamping Fees on Hazardous Waste

Times Staff Writer

Both the Senate and Assembly hurriedly passed and sent to Gov. George Deukmejian on Thursday a bill that revamps the way money is raised for the management and cleanup of toxic wastes.

The compromise measure includes $15 million a year in new taxes on corporations that use hazardous materials and a controversial increase in disposal fees charged to companies that ship hazardous waste out of state.

Under the measure, the state toxic waste programs would for the first time use $10 million a year in general tax revenues--paid by all taxpayers--to finance regulation and cleanup of hazardous waste. In the past, the toxics programs have been paid for by fees and taxes charged companies that generate the waste.

Without the legislation, the state would have been unable to continue collecting one of the hazardous-waste disposal fees needed to keep the toxics regulatory programs going. The legislation that authorized that fee expired July 1. The Deukmejian Administration was anxious for a quick solution to avoid cutting back the programs.

When the bill arrived in the Senate for the final legislative vote, the measure's author, Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), urged his colleagues to move quickly.

"Gov. George Deukmejian is waiting for this bill," he said.

He pointed out that the state toxics cleanup fund had run out of money and said that a portion of the money raised by the measure--$5 million a year--would be earmarked for cleaning up the state's polluted bays and estuaries.

The bay cleanup provisions represented a victory for environmentalists and liberal Democrats. Last year, the Legislature approved a bay cleanup measure by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), only to see it vetoed by the governor.

No Debate

The Senate approved the toxics funding bill on a 28-0 vote without debate.

Earlier in the day, the measure was approved 57 to 11 in the Assembly, where there was a spirited debate over the fees charged companies that ship their waste to other states, such as Utah and Idaho, where disposal fees are low and regulation of disposal is relatively lax. Advocates of assessing out-of-state shippers high fees argued that the toxic wastes could be spilled anywhere in California, including factories where they were used or on the highways.

Under the existing system, out-of-state shippers pay only 28% of the fees charged to companies disposing of their waste in California.

The operator of the only top-level hazardous-waste disposal facility in California, Waste Management Inc., was lobbying to raise those fees to the same levels paid for disposal in California.

However, Union Pacific, which ships hazardous waste to other states and owns facilities in Utah for disposing of them, argued that the present system gives companies their only alternative to dealing with what has become a hazardous-waste disposal monopoly within California.

The Torres bill would eventually increase the fees paid by companies disposing of their wastes out of state to as high as 45% of the amount charged to in-state disposers.

That was not enough to satisfy several Assembly members.

Said Assemblywoman Delaine Eastin (D-Union City): "I'm concerned that we are creating incentives here to put things out of sight and out of mind."

Instead, she said, the state should be charging fees to all generators of toxic waste that would encourage them to find alternative ways of cleaning up their pollution.

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