Proposal for a children’s breathing rights act is back

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Feb. 8, 2007 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On January 30th, Assemblymember Dave Jones introduced AB 233, Air Pollution: Children’s Breathing Rights Act Penalties.  The bill relies heavily on last session’s SB 1205 authored by Martha Escutia (D-Los Angeles), who is now termed out.   It would significantly increase maximum penalties for individuals and corporations for specified violations of air pollution laws and enact civil and criminal penalties. 

Last year’s bill proposed to increase fines from $1,000 up to $10,000, $15,000, $50,000 (for Federal Title V major sources) or $100,000 in certain instances.  The 2007 version "ups the ante" markedly.  Fines which under existing law are limited to $1,000 per day per incident escalate to at least $5,000 (even if they were unintentional and not the result of negligence) and can go as high as $500,000 per day for an individual or $1,000,000 per day for a corporation.  Simply owning, not operating, a source of air contaminants which can cause substantial risk of injury can result in a fine of $25,000 per day while a source which causes actual injury will result in a fine of $50,000 per day.  Negligence on the part of the operator can increase the civil penalties significantly.

As in SB 1205, AB 233 would impose the possibility of both civil and criminal penalties for air laws that result in substantial risk of injury, and for making certain false statements, representations or certifications.  Under current law a violator is subject to either civil or criminal penalties, but not both.

SB 1205 was sponsored by the District Attorneys Association who would have been the primary beneficiaries of the additional penalties collected, along with children’s groups, like the Girl Scouts.  The air districts, concerned that they would lose funding, testified against the bill, stating in committee that additional penalties were not needed.  However, as the bill proceeded through the legislative process and it appeared that its likelihood of passage was diminishing, the author dropped the district attorneys and the children’s rights groups from the recipient list and instead intended to send all funds to the air districts.  The bill ultimately died. 

This year’s bill, AB 233, is sponsored by the Sierra Club and the beneficiaries of the increased fines have not been specified.

The current penalty system for air violations is not archaic.  The system for fines was established a few short years ago.  The proponents of the bill in the past have suggested that current fines are only a slap on the risk and are considered by corporate America as simply a cost of doing business.  CMTA strongly challenges that notion and opposes AB 233.

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