Schwarzenegger signs bill banning lead wheel weights

Bob Ulrich
Posted on October 19, 2009

On Oct. 11, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 757 into law. The news was not totally surprising given its purpose: to ban the sale -- and installation -- of lead wheel weights throughout the state.

The reason I say "not totally" is because back in 2006, the governor returned SB 757 to the state Senate without his signature. Although he praised the bill as "laudable," he wanted to avoid a duplication of efforts. He felt that the passage of Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, addressed the same issues as SB 757.

"Now that AB 32 is enacted, we must let it work," he said at the time.

Three years later, it appears AB 32, which set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, did not  address the same issues as SB 757. This time, Governor Schwarzenegger relented and signed the bill.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a greenhouse gas is defined as "a gas, such as carbon dioxide or methane, which contributes to potential climate change." I know lead is a highly toxic chemical, but I have seen no ties to lead wheel weights and greenhouse gases. Both bills are environmentally friendly, but they aren't related.

Regardless, SB 757 is now law in California. A national law cannot be far behind.

Two years ago, the EPA requested that the automotive industry self-regulate the transition away from lead wheel weights to viable alternatives because of the highly toxic nature of lead. Two years later, the EPA ran out of patience, and granted a petition by a dozen environmental and public health organizations to enact legislation as soon as possible.

My guess is that based on the way the EPA follows California's lead (that's lead as in "deed," not  lead as in "dead"), the federal rule probably will look a lot like the California rule. Specifically, SB 757 seeks to ban “both the sale and the installation of lead wheel weights on cars and trucks” after January 2010. The bill defines lead wheel weights as containing more than 0.1% lead by weight.

Interestingly, California State Senator Fran Pavely, who sponsored SB 757, wanted to codify a legal settlement initiated by the Center for Environmental Health (CEC) in Oakland, Calif., last year.

The CEC had filed a lawsuit against Chrysler Group LLC and the three largest producers of automobile lead wheel weights. Under the terms of the settlement, Chrysler agreed “to eliminate its use of lead wheel weights for cars intended for sale in California by July 31, 2009. The lead wheel weight manufacturers agreed to replace lead wheel weight shipments to California with weights made of alternative materials by the end of 2009.

As one Web site said in defense of the bill, "codifying the settlement ensures a level playing field for all the manufacturers and distributors of wheel weights."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? That argument also applies to the need for "Right to Repair" legislation.

The Automotive Service Association says its agreement with a number of domestic and international car makers to make repair information readily accessible to all repair shops makes passage of the Motor Vehicle Owners's Right to Repair Act unnecessary. Not all tire dealers agree.

Codifying the act certainly would guarantee a more friendly business environment for all independent tire dealers, don't you thnk? (For more information, read "Right to repair: Do you care?")

Related Topics: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Green, Greenhouse gas emissions, lead-free wheel weights, Right to Repair Act

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