SCAQMD's VOC Limit Violates California Law, Court Says

W.M. Barr & Co., has prevailed in a suit filed against the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), which tried to set a volatile organic compound (VOC) limit on paint thinner and other solvents (from 300 g/L in 2010 to 25 g/L in 2011). The California Superior Court found that the district's regulation violated California law.

The regulation, Rule 1143, would require industry to sell and consumers to use extremely flammable products, a fact acknowledged by SCAQMD. Despite warnings from Cal-EPA, state and local fire departments, and industry experts that the proposed regulation would unnecessarily expose consumers to fire hazards, SCAQMD adopted the rule.

The case was decided in Los Angeles County, where SCAQMD regulates air quality. The district as oversees air quality in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernadino counties.

Barr & Company President Rich Loomis said, “Our employee-owners are dedicated to providing consumers with products that are safe, effective, and reliable. We strongly believe that any product regulation must be done in a responsible manner so that consumer safety is never compromised. We were convinced that SCAQMD crossed that line, and we were left with no choice but to ask the courts to intervene.”

Cal-EPA also adopted a regulation that sets a VOC limit for paint thinners and solvents, but its rule will not force consumers to use extremely flammable products. Mike Cooley, in-house counsel for Barr, stated, “Although the CARB regulation will be very challenging for industry, it does take the fire hazards into account and provides us with the ability to make safe products that also comply with their VOC limits.” The California Air Resources Board, the Cal-EPA department charged with statewide air quality protection, worked with stakeholders and modified its regulation to account for the increased fire hazards.

W.M. Barr & Company, Inc. markets and distributes various household cleaning products. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., the company is employee-owned and has been in business since 1946.

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