Paint Companies Could Hand California Taxpayers the Bill for Hazardous Lead Paint Cleanup Under Proposed Ballot Measure

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A proposed November statewide ballot measure could allow three of the nation’s biggest paint companies to hand California taxpayers a bill for the cost of cleaning up health hazards caused by lead paint.

Lead is a powerful poison that is particularly harmful to the development of young children, even at low levels. (Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Lead is a powerful poison that is particularly harmful to the development of young children, even at low levels. (Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The measure would place a $2-billion bond on the November ballot to fund the remediation of lead paint, mold, asbestos and other environmental dangers in homes, schools and senior citizen facilities. The initiative also would reverse a November state appeals court decision requiring three paint companies — ConAgra, NL Industries and Sherwin-Williams — to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for lead paint abatement. It also aims to block future lawsuits against the paint companies for similar claims.

Initiative proponents contend that the bond measure, which they’re calling the Healthy Homes and Schools Act, allows for a more wide-ranging solution to lead paint problems than a potential legal judgment. The bond would finance the cleanup of other environmental threats in addition to lead paint and would apply across the state instead of only in jurisdictions that filed suit against the companies.

“The Healthy Homes and Schools Act is a holistic and comprehensive approach to cleaning up existing homes in California by creating a statewide solution to address a variety of hazards in homes, such as mold, lead, asbestos, pests and other threats,” said a statement from Tiffany Moffatt, a spokeswoman for the bond campaign. “Essentially, the initiative provides rehabilitation for old housing — providing a broader public benefit for all Californians versus cherry-picking winners and losers.”

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