By East Los Angeles Gazette Editorial Board
One of the leadership hallmarks of Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has been his laser focus on creating green jobs and protecting the environment with concrete actions.
In April, he moved assertively to step in and address a problem created by the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which had allowed Exide battery recycling plant to operate for three decades in our community without a state permit despite repeated violations for contaminating nearby homes and communities with arsenic, lead and other toxins.
The Senator’s legislation (SB 93) will expedite the delivery of $176.6 million in cleanup funds to communities contaminated by the Exide battery plant in Vernon.
Now, de León has an opportunity to clean up another mess made by DTSC, along with and CalRecycle – two bureaucracies that are singlehandedly undermining the state’s wildly successful Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003.
Largely based on a highly questionable DTSC technical interpretation, CalRecycle in January made the unprecedented decision to stop payments to California’s e-waste haulers, who collect e-waste and ship it to established recycling facilities around the world. DTSC has a niggling concern with a minor process in those facilities– even though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and European governments have approved these facilities and their recycling operations.
Nonetheless, CalRecycle’s new director, Scott Smithline, froze payments to this vibrant green industry, resulting in catastrophic consequences. Small waste haulers are at risk of going out of business. Others are laying off workers. Meanwhile, the remaining struggling companies continue collecting e-waste they cannot recycle. With the State preventing it from going to environmentally-beneficial reuses, it ends up in the landfill at Kettleman Hills, another overly burdened community.
Since the creation of California’s e-waste program, e-haulers have recycled more than 1.9 billion pounds of consumer electronics. Every week, hundreds of computers, cell phones, televisions and other electronic equipment are replaced. In California, that old technology is supposed to be collected, recycled, reused or properly disposed of, to ensure that our communities and environment are not negatively harmed by the lead found in many of the devices.
CA consumers pay an electronic recycling fee at the time of purchase to ensure the property recycling of electronics. Now thousands of pounds of e-waste is piling up. Unless CalRecycle and DTSC get their act together, that hazardous material appears destined for our landfills and communities.
Fortunately, Senator de León is in a position to get back on track a program with a proven track record in generating green jobs, keeping toxics out of our environment and safeguarding communities in Southern California and throughout the state.