State Assemblymember Monique Limón played a significant role in getting three paint companies to withdraw November’s statewide ballot initiative that could have stuck taxpayers with a $2 billion bond to clean asbestos and lead-based paint from homes. Limón was one of six legislators who had been battling the paint lobby since late last year. The three companies collected the signatures needed to qualify the bond — which Limón said would cost taxpayers $3.9 billion overall — after it became evident that a court case in 2000 requiring them to pick up the tab for lead-paint cleanup in eight counties, plus the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, would stand. Those cleanup costs could have been as high as $710 million.
Limón represents Ventura County, which is party to the lawsuit and home to as many as 20,000 potentially affected properties. (Santa Barbara, which Limón also represents, is not in the lawsuit.) The paint industry’s proposed initiative would have stricken the court declaration that the lead-based paint constituted a public nuisance. In response, Limón introduced a bill that would have declared such paint a public nuisance. If the law passed, it would have applied statewide rather than to just 10 municipalities.
Two other related bills were introduced targeting the three companies. After 10 days of intense negotiations, Limón and her colleagues agreed to withdraw the bills if the paint companies withdrew their initiative. “Elections are elections; anything can happen,” Limón explained. “It was a huge risk. Californians could have been forced to pay $3.9 billion for something the courts ruled the paint companies should have done.” The deadline for the deal was 5 p.m on June 28. Limón got the final proof for the agreement at 4:42 p.m.
It’s now up to a lower-court judge to determine exactly how much the cleanup and abatement will cost. The door remains open, Limón added, to hammer out a new arrangement to clean up lead paint in California’s remaining 48 counties.