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Commentary

California's Environmental Budget: One If By Land, None If By Air

It's difficult to see who is winning California's environmental war: the polluters or the polluted. Today, California lawmaker's passed a bi-partisan budget roundly criticized by environmental groups for loosening air pollution regulations. Elsewhere in Sacramento, the state Environmental Protection Agency was holding a symposium on the "greening of electronics."
It's difficult to see who is winning California's environmental war: the polluters or the polluted. Today, California lawmaker's passed a bi-partisan budget roundly criticized by environmental groups for loosening air pollution regulations. Elsewhere in Sacramento, the state Environmental Protection Agency was holding a symposium on the "greening of electronics."The symposium received little notice, perhaps because the state has been fairly aggressive this past year in targeting electronic waste and hazardous chemicals contained therein.

The budget, designed to meet the $41 billion budget shortfall through 2010, was denounced by the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) continues to tighten regulations -- and increase fees -- under the Electronic Waste Recycling Act (SB20). The DTSC also says that "new recycling technologies are coming online in California which separate metals from electronic devices" and that "enabling legislation is being considered for recycling leaded glass from cathode ray tubes (CRTs)."

According to state waste and recycling data, California generated approximately 140,000 tons of "covered electronic devices" in 2005, with more than 60 million pounds of this electronic waste taken back for recycling through the program. In 2006, this number rose to more than 120 million pounds recycled and in 2007, the number is more than 135 million pounds. For 2006, the recycling rate for covered electronics was 29%, up almost twice as much as the previous year in 2005, when the recovery rate was at 14%. Since enactment of SB 20, more than 600 recycling locations have been established statewide.

Under the newly approved budget, the California Integrated Waste Management Board, which oversees recycling efforts, will see its 2009-2010 budget rise to $135.5 million, up from $112.9 million in 2008-2009.

Seems like the environmental efforts in California are on solid footing. You just need to hold your breath a while longer.