Regulators have rejected requests from business groups that want to make it tougher for the state to add common chemicals to its list of toxic substances under Proposition 65.

The California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association and other groups wanted additions to the list to be approved by expert panels. Currently, the list can be expanded any time a substance is declared hazardous, by state officials or any other authority, whether national or international, although it is subject to a hearing.

Proposition 65, or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires facilities that use substances on the list of toxic chemicals to post signs on their premises, send out notices to neighbors and place ads in newspapers stating that chemicals found to be hazardous to human health are used on the premises. These postings must take place within one year after a chemical is added to the list.

Besides the expense and paperwork burden placed on businesses, these postings are often guideposts for plaintiffs' attorneys looking to sue employers.

This is a separate matter from the bills signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, which have the goal of reducing the amount of toxic chemicals used by industry in the state.

For years, regulators at the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment have added chemicals to the list once those chemicals have been determined to be hazardous and after a hearing.

Manufacturers have long questioned this listing process. They want the listing to be approved by expert panels or outside bodies deemed "authoritative."

But in response to inquiries from manufacturers, the assessment office has now put forward a "preliminary regulation" that would formalize its ad-hoc way of listing chemicals as toxic.

If this regulation wins approval sometime next year, dozens of chemicals now under review could end up on the Proposition 65 list, including lead chromate and titanium dioxide, which is used to make the white printing surface of paper. Other chemicals being considered are found in everyday items such as alcoholic beverages, artificial sweeteners, wood dust and talcum powder.

"Such a far reaching change in the original intent and implementation of Prop 65 creates enormous uncertainty for California businesses that already have difficulty competing in this environment," said Mike Rogge, environmental lobbyist with the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.

The association and other business groups are considering legal action to block this regulation should it be enacted, Rogge said.

Sam Delson, spokesman for the assessment office, said that there would be no rush to list chemicals once this regulation is approved.

"OEHHA will continue to add and delete chemicals as new research is published whether or not we adopt the regulation," Delson said. "The purpose of the possible regulation is to explain a process that is already in place."

For more information, log onto the OEHHA's web site at: oehha.ca.gov/prop65.html or onto the California Manufacturers and Technology Association's web site at www.cmta.net.

Comp Rates

Companies throughout California are about to see their workers' comp bills go up, and not just because of insurance premiums.

Last month's state budget deal included a 10 percent increase in a fee to fund the operation of the state's workers' compensation office and to create a fund to be operated by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The fee is tacked on to insurance premium bills.

Separately, the administrators of the state's Workers' Compensation Insurance Fraud Fund approved a 2.5 percent increase in employer payments into anti-fraud programs both at the state Department of Insurance and at district attorneys' offices throughout the state.

Both fees take effect at the beginning of 2009 and come on top of fee increases for the 2008 calendar year. The fee will go to pay for a new electronic adjudication system and for a $13 million loan to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The dollar amount of the fees will depend on the size of the employer and whether that employer is self-insured or pays a third-party insurer.

Developer Fees

Developer fees could be about to increase for projects in the city of Los Angeles.

As part of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's January directive to recover costs through fees, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has proposed increasing the fees it charges for reviewing the traffic impacts of projects. The $1 million in increases mostly are the result of new fees, including $197 per applicant for a subdivision report.

Also, the fee for traffic study reviews would increase from $6,880 per applicant to $7,396 for the first 10 intersections to be studied, and $400 per additional intersection, up to $25,000.

The fee increases cleared the Los Angeles City Council's budget and finance committee on Sept. 22 and were scheduled to be considered late last week by the full council.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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