California Attorney General Kamala Harris has proposed amendments to the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Prop. 65) that would require increased transparency and accountability in how the penalties paid by companies are spent by consumer groups, environmental organizations and other private enforcers of the law.
In 2014, Prop. 65 actions reportedly resulted in payments of $29 million, of which $21 million was spent on attorney’s fees and costs. The proposed changes would require “clearly defined” purposes relevant to the violations that prompted the settlement. The proposal would also cap “in lieu of penalties” payments to ensure the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment receives sufficient funding and raise the bar for demonstrating that settlements requiring reformulation confer a significant public benefit. Public comments about the proposed revisions will be accepted until November 9, 2015.
“California has led the nation for decades in protecting our residents and the environment from pollutants and toxic chemicals,” Harris said in a September 28 press release. “These proposed changes maintain the intent of Proposition 65 and our vital legacy of public health and environmental protections while eliminating incentives to abuse the system. Good public policy means rejecting the false choice that suggests we must sacrifice our commitment to the environment and public health for California businesses to thrive.”