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Californians will soon pay a new car battery fee to help cover cleanup from the Exide battery plant

Californians will soon pay a new car battery fee to help cover cleanup from the Exide battery plant

Crews work to remove lead-contaminated soil in Boyle Heights. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Crews work to remove lead-contaminated soil in Boyle Heights. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Californians will pay a new $1 fee on lead-acid car batteries under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday, with a portion of the proceeds going to the massive toxic cleanup in communities near the former Exide battery plant in Los Angeles County.

Brown’s signature on Assembly Bill 2153 came after a bipartisan vote in the Legislature last month and private negotiations with the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens).

The new fee for consumers will begin in April, and will rise to $2 a battery after five years. Prior to that, the cost is being split between purchasers and battery manufacturers.

Regulators believe as many as 10,000 homes may have been contaminated in the vicinity of the former Vernon battery recycling plant, a cleanup that could ultimately cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Decades of improper lead-acid battery recycling have left these communities to face enormous environmental challenges,” said Brown in an unusual statement issued with his signing of the bill.

The new battery fee is expected to generate $24 million a year and will ultimately be available to cleanup projects across the state other than the Exide effort.

In his signing message, Brown emphasized that the solution inspired by the events outside Los Angeles is not one that necessarily applies to other needs.

“This approach is a departure from how the state enforces environmental law,” the governor wrote. “This model should be the exception, not the rule.”

The new law doesn’t limit the ability of state regulators to go after the battery industry for cleanup costs, but any company required to pay those costs will receive credit for what it pays into the fund for the first five years.

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