On September 29, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1879 and Senate Bill 509 into law, which, for the first time, incorporate principals of green chemistry into California’s regulatory framework. The bills are the result of California’s “Green Chemistry Initiative” which sought to develop a consistent means to evaluate the risk of chemicals, reduce exposure to chemicals, encourage less-toxic industrial process, and identify safer alternatives to chemicals currently used by the public.

The two new laws are companion pieces. AB 1879 outlines a regulatory framework that directs the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to adopt regulations by January 1, 2011, that establish processes for identifying, prioritizing, and evaluating chemicals of concern in consumer products and their potential alternatives. SB 509 provides for a state-run, public Toxics Information Clearinghouse that will collect, maintain, and distribute information about chemical hazard traits, and environmental and toxicological end-point data.

Environmentalists, regulators, and, to a large extent, the chemical industry have all applauded California’s green chemistry legislation. The new laws represent a dramatically different approach to regulating chemicals on the front-end, before they become hazardous waste, discharges, and emissions. This shift in focus is intended to result in, among other things, costs savings of environmental monitoring and hazardous waste remediation, and decreased indirect health care costs and lost productivity attributable to workplace chemical exposures. While it is currently unclear what the regulations promulgated by DTSC will look like, they may resemble those in the REACH program. To date, no other U.S. states or the EPA have enacted similar legislation or adopted green chemistry regulations.