Major California Legislation Enacted in 1997 Relating to Hazardous Materials

Scientific Peer Review of Cal/EPA Rules
S.B. 1320 (Sher) (Chapter 295)

Prior law required the Director of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to convene an advisory committee by June 30, 1994 to conduct a comprehensive review of the policies, methods and guidelines followed by the boards, departments and offices within Cal/EPA for the identification and assessment of chemical toxicity.

Senate Bill 1320 instead requires Cal/EPA, or a board, department or office within Cal/EPA, to enter into an agreement with one or more of the following entities to conduct an external peer review of the scientific basis for any rule proposed by any board, department or office within Cal/EPA:

  • The National Academy of Sciences;
  • The University of California;
  • The California State University;
  • Any similar institution of higher learning; or
  • A scientist or group of scientists of comparable stature and qualifications that is recommended by the President of the University of California. Health & Safety Code § 57004(b).

No board, department or office within Cal/EPA may take any action to adopt the final version of a rule unless the external peer review entity has prepared a written report that evaluates the scientific basis of the proposed rule. Health & Safety Code § 57004(d)(2).

If the external peer review demonstrates that the scientific portion of a rule is not based upon sound scientific knowledge, the board, department or office within Cal/EPA may accept the finding and revise the proposed rule accordingly. Alternatively, if the board, department or office disagrees with any aspect of the finding of the external peer review, the board, department or office must explain as part of the rulemaking record its basis for arriving at such a determination in the adoption of the final rule, including its reasons why it has determined that the scientific portions of the proposed rule are based on sound scientific knowledge, methods and practices. Health & Safety Code § 57004(d)(2).

The Act defines the term "rule" to include all regulations (as defined by the California Administrative Procedure Act) as well as any policy adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board that has the effect of a regulation. The Act also defines the terms "scientific basis" and "scientific portions." Health & Safety Code § 57004(a).

Other Legislation of Interest--Business Plans

Two bills enacted in 1997 reflect the Legislature's continuing effort to make the reporting requirements of the Business Plan law less burdensome for the regulated community. Under prior law, a business that handled specified amounts of hazardous materials was required to review its business plan every two years to determine if revisions were needed. Assembly Bill 361 (Ch. 365) lengthens the review period to every three years. The Act also permits an administering agency to exempt from the business plan requirements any business operating an unstaffed remote facility in a sparsely populated, isolated area if the business meets certain minimum requirements.

Senate Bill 657 (Ch. 664) amends the requirement that businesses submit their inventory on a comprehensive hazardous material reporting form developed by the Office of Emergency Services. The new law allows any administering agency to require businesses to submit a form designated by the administering agency. A business may choose between the OES comprehensive reporting form and the administering agency's form. However, if a business has previously filed either of these forms and can attest that:

  1. the most recent inventory on file is complete, accurate and up-to-date and complies with federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know requirements;
  2. there have been no changes in the quantities of hazardous materials reported; and
  3. no new hazardous materials are being handled, the business may submit a certification statement instead of the inventory.