Gino DiCaro

Should the European Union define CA law?

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, March 31, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Assemblymember Lori Saldana (D-San Diego) has introduced AB 2202, Hazardous Waste - Electronic Devices, which would ban all electronic devices that are banned in the European Union (EU) for heavy metals. The bill amends the definition of "electronic device" in current law (a product of SB 20, Chapter No. 526, Statutes of 2003, and SB 50, Chapter No. 863, Statutes of 2004, both by Byron Sher) to include any device that is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields to work properly.

AB 2202 significantly broadens the scope of electronic products banned in California, from 6 products to over 100,000. The electronics industry has spent billions of dollars over the past four to five years developing products to meet the EU's Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive. They have also worked diligently with the EU to establish exemptions in instances where the safety, reliability or function of products would be compromised by the substance restrictions.

AB 2202 only allows 18 months for compliance in California. This could result in products being taken off the shelf for California consumers. Products which comply in the EU may need to be redesigned for this country due to different specifications, voltages, regulations, etc.

The Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) has been struggling for two and a half years to get their arms around the EU actions taken on just the six products already banned. The substance restrictions in the EU are scheduled to take effect on July 1 of this year, but individual member states appear to be developing differing test methods and, therefore, standards. Enforcement is left up to each individual member state. California should at least wait until the "smoke has cleared" in Europe. A program this large in scope will be costly and time consuming for DTSC to implement.

There are also a number of "grey area" products that present a challenge for California regulators and industry. These products are not clearly in or out of the scope and the substance restrictions are being interpreted and enforced differently in the various EU member states. The question arises: How would California manage these conflicting interpretations in a way that would allow products for sale in California that are allowed by some EU states, but are banned by others?

However, the basic question that this legislation poses is: "Should California law be based upon the actions of a foreign entity?" There is no way for Californians to influence the actions being taken by the EU now or in the future.
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