SACRAMENTO, Calif.—In a vote that went down to the last minute of a two-year session, the California Assembly has rejected a tire recycling bill that environmental groups supported, but tire manufacturers and dealers opposed.
California Assembly Bill 1239, which would have established a new tire regulatory fee in the state and replaced a popular tire grant program with a new incentive program, was voted down by the assembly Aug. 31 by a 34-34 party-line vote.
AB 1239 needed 41 votes from the 80-member Assembly to pass, according to Terry Leveille, president of Sacramento-based TL & Associates and legislative representative for the California Tire Dealers Association. Most of the remaining 12 votes were abstentions, he said.
Sponsored by Californians Against Waste and 15 other California-based environmental groups, AB 1239 first passed the California Assembly in June 2015 and was later approved, with amendments, by the California Senate on Aug. 22, 2016. The Assembly's Natural Resources Committee approved the Senate amendments 6-2 on Aug. 30, but the full Assembly could not reach agreement on the amended bill.
As described by CAW, AB 1239 would have provided incentive payments to end-users of recycled tires to improve the state's recycling rate. It also would have given the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) authority to add up to $1 to the state's $1.75-per-tire scrap tire fee to cover the costs of regulating waste tires.
CAW said the bill would “help expand the state's tire recycling infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gases, create jobs and cut the statewide and local costs associated with tire cleanup.”
However, tire industry representatives were dubious at best about the bill. They were supportive of the legislation's goal of achieving a 75 percent recycling rate but felt its definition of recycling was too restrictive.
“They didn't include tire-derived fuel in their definition of recycling, or exports of tires to other states or countries,” Leveille said. They also didn't allow the use of tire-derived aggregate, except for projects involving methane gas collection.
Tire manufacturers and dealers like the current tire grant programs, which AB 1239 would have repealed, according to Leveille. The bill would have replaced grant programs with a tire incentive payment program that, starting in July 2018, would have made payments to manufacturers and contractors that used California waste tire feedstock and sold the resulting products to local agencies and the private sector, he said.
In a letter to the California Assembly, the CTDA said it believed that replacing the grant program with an incentive program would be a mistake.
“The proposed incentive program has met with mixed success in several states and has been highly criticized in Canada, most recently in Ontario,” the association said.
Furthermore, it was questionable if CalRecycle ever could spend down its Tire Fund Balance after the incentive program was established, according to the CTDA. That fund reached an all-time high of $78 million this past July 1, it said.
The worst part of the bill, according to Leveille, was the new fee to pay for the incentive program. The current $1.75 fee is supposed to sunset in 2024, he said, but the wording of AB 1239 conceivably would have allowed CalRecycle to continue it in perpetuity, he said.
The wording of the bill would have allowed CalRecycle—after California had achieved three consecutive years of a 75 percent recycling rate—to recommend “which policies are necessary to maintain and increase the level of waste tire recycling,” according to Leveille.
“It was very fuzzy language. We would have dropped our opposition to the bill if they had only removed the fee.”
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, which joined the CTDA in its fight against AB 1239, also was pleased with the bill's failure.
“(The) RMA supports environmentally and economically sustainable scrap tire programs to reduce stockpiles and promote end-use markets,” said RMA President and CEO Anne Forristall Luke.
“AB 1239 wouldn't have advanced that goal, so we were unable to support it,” Luke said. “The California legislature made the right decision on this bill.”
CAW will resubmit the bill when the California legislature reconvenes in January 2017, according to CAW Legislative Coordinator Nick Lapis.
“Most of the policies we work on take multiple years,” he said. “We've built a pretty good foundation of support for our policies, and we expect to get it done next year.”
Leveille said the CTDA welcomes working next year with CalRecycle and CAW to craft a bill that would be acceptable to all parties and fair to tire dealers.