Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Make Polluters Pay for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As California's Air Resources Board studies various options for reducing our state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with an 80% reduction by 2050, Sierra Club California and 5 other environmental groups have offered our suggestions on how best to design a system that caps emissions and requires big polluters to pay a price, set by an auction, for their emissions.

You can read our Cap and Auction Design Position Paper.

On Sierra Club California's home page, national executive director Carl Pope explains cap-and-auction in 45 seconds.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


California families should be able to enjoy pizza or popcorn without fear that toxic chemicals will harm our families.

That was Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern's message on Tuesday, when he joined Senator Ellen Corbett, the Environmental Working Group, United Steelworkers and California Labor Federation at a press conference in support of a new bill to remove toxic PFCs from food packaging.

Below are excerpts from EWG's press release.

SACRAMENTO – Your french-fry container or pizza box may be delivering a dose of toxic chemicals with your meal. Those and many other types of food packages have stain-proof or grease-proof linings made with chemicals called PFCs – the same chemicals used to make Teflon – that are linked in animal tests to cancer or reproductive harm.

State Sen. Ellen M. Corbett of San Leandro has introduced a bill, SB 1313, that would make California the first state to ban two of the most worrisome PFCs in food packaging. The bill, sponsored by Environmental Working Group (EWG), would prohibit more than trace amounts of PFCs called PFOS and PFOA in any material used to package food, beginning in 2010.

“Despite the fact that most consumers believe the packaging surrounding their food is safe, the reality is that many kinds of food packaging contain toxic chemicals that can cause harm to children’s health and the environment,” said Corbett.

For decades, PFOA and PFOS have been used in packaging for fast-food sandwiches, french fries, pizza, baked goods, beverages and candy. Today they contaminate the entire planet, from Arctic polar bears to the blood of virtually every American. Federal health officials have detected the chemicals in 98 percent of people tested, and EWG found them in the umbilical cord blood of 10 of 10 newborn babies.

PFOA is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a likely carcinogen and a chemical that induces breast tumors in animals. In addition, PFOA and PFOS have been linked to pregnancy problems that can include developmental complications.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Bill Would Give Consumers Ways to Recycle Old Mercury Thermostats

Most Californians have no idea how to recycle old mercury-containing thermostats, even though state law bans mercury waste from being thrown in the trash. New legislation introduced by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin with the support of Sierra Club California and the California Product Stewardship Council would give consumers free and convenient options for recycling their waste thermostats in an environmentally-responsible manner.

The Mercury Thermostat Collection Act of 2008, Assembly Bill 2347, would allow
Californians to return their waste thermostats to any location that sells new thermostats.
Companies that make new thermostats for sale in the state would pick up most of the
costs for the recycling program.
 Bill Magavern, Director of Sierra Club California, hailed the legislation: “Most people want to do the right thing when it’s time to get rid of hazardous household products. Assemblymember Ruskin’s bill would finally provide free and convenient options for recycling mercury thermostats.”

“Cash-strapped local governments have had to pay for hazardous product waste management for too long,” added Heidi Sanborn, Director of the California Product Stewardship Council. “AB 2347 establishes a model policy for extended producer responsibility that requires the companies that profit from products to pay for end-of-life disposition. These programs are commonplace in Europe, Canada, Japan and other industrialized countries”

“There is a serious threat to public health from mercury, and it is time for the companies who have profited from selling these products to take responsibility for their disposal. Mercury pollution has already contaminated the waters of the San Francisco Bay and Bay Area watersheds, and high levels of mercury make many of the fish that swim in these polluted waters unsafe for human consumption. My bill will greatly reduce the amount of mercury from thermostats that is allowed to pollute our environment,” Assemblymember Ruskin said.

Mercury thermostats should be kept out of our air and water because on average they contain over 3,000 milligrams of the toxin (for purposes of comparison, fluorescent light bulbs contain around 5 milligrams). It is estimated that only 5 percent of California’s mercury thermostats are properly managed. The San Francisco Bay and delta, Tomales Bay, and eight other county water bodies currently have fish consumption advisories due to mercury contamination. Sales of new mercury thermostats have been banned in California since 2006. Waste thermostats are classified as hazardous waste but are usually discarded into the solid waste stream, as recycling options are inconvenient and poorly publicized at present.