Anaheim has sued the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that businesses could be forced out of the city by the agency’s decision to make the county responsible for managing Anaheim’s hazardous materials.
The suit, filed Friday in Santa Ana Superior Court, seeks to reverse the agency’s decision to award oversight of hazardous materials throughout Orange County to the county’s Health Care Agency.
Under California law, hazardous materials stored legally at businesses must be reported, cataloged and inspected so firefighters know where they are. The county’s largest cities, Anaheim among them, have long been responsible for doing so.
But a new state law calls for consolidating the management of hazardous materials under a single authority in counties throughout California.
Anaheim officials say that change will saddle the many high-tech businesses in Anaheim with double the inspections and double the fees they now pay to comply with the law. That’s because under a separate state law, the Uniform Fire Code, local fire departments in larger cities are also required to regulate the handling and storage of hazardous materials.
“Even if the county becomes responsible for this, our people will still have to be back at every one of those businesses every year to do inspections of how they use, handle and store hazardous materials,” said James Weigund, acting deputy fire marshal for the Anaheim Fire Department’s Environmental Protection section.
“For a businessman in Anaheim, that would mean driving 20 miles to deal with the county on one hazardous waste issue, then driving all the way back to city hall to deal with us. It’s crazy.”
Eight other Orange County cities have also been fighting without success for certification to manage hazardous wastes within their jurisdictions. All manage and inspect such wastes to varying degrees. While most also charge fees to businesses to do so, they are required under state law to charge only enough to pay for the cost of the inspections.
Anaheim is the first to sue.
County officials say having authority to manage wastes will give businesses that have sites in more than one city the advantage of dealing with a single regulator.
It also would mean that every business in the county would be subject to the same level of inspection and enforcement, instead of being forced to deal with a patchwork of city regulations.
County officials also argue they have more employees experienced in handling toxic materials.
Officials at Cal-EPA did not return phone calls for comment.