Proposed Prop. 65 Changes Aim for Transparency in Penalty Payments
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.”