Legislation in California relating to antifouling paint registration and mitigation cleared a hurdle on June 20, passing the Senate Environmental Quality Committee by unanimous vote, the American Coatings Association reports. The bill’s sponsor, California Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-78), and her staff have addressed ACA concerns in the latest proposal by keeping the text of the proposed legislation concise and allowing the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) the flexibility to make recommendations for other mitigation measures. The bill, introduced on Feb. 15, passed the California Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee on April 16. The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The amended bill will require that DPR determine, no later than Feb.1, 2014, a leach rate for copper-based antifouling paint used on recreational vessels and make recommendations for appropriate mitigation measures that may be implemented to address the protection of aquatic environments from the effects of exposure to that paint. The direction to DPR will ensure that the DPR registration for low-leach-rate, copper-based antifouling paint is completed by a date certain, and provide DPR the flexibility to consider all available mechanisms to achieve mitigation. ACA will continue to work closely with the author, staff, and sponsors of the bill as well as DPR to ensure fair treatment for effective antifouling coatings in California.

The use of copper in antifouling paints has been targeted by many groups as contributing to adverse water conditions in certain California marinas. Existing California law requires every manufacturer of, importer of, or dealer in any pesticide, except a person that sells any pesticide that has been registered by the manufacturer or wholesaler, to obtain a certificate of registration from DPR before the pesticide is offered for sale. California SB 623, introduced in a prior legislative session and dropped in June 2012, proposed to ban the use of copper in antifouling paint for use on pleasure craft.

ACA and its Antifouling Workgroup (AFWG), working with ACA’s California Paint Council, successfully advocated against SB 623. The proposed measure mandated the outright ban of these coatings for recreational vessels after 2019, if the low-leach-rate coatings did not appear to be reducing copper in marinas using Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDL, for copper that must be met by 2022. SB 623 would have required manufacturers to use the least toxic alternative when replacing the copper in marine antifouling paint, even though such alternatives are not defined, and have not been proven as effective or as safe as the current copper-containing coatings. ACA’s efforts were successful in staving off a ban and deferring the legislation, pending the results of ongoing scientific reviews on the impact of copper.

For more on this story, see the full press release from the American Coatings Association.