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California and the West

State Panel Urges Disposal Fee Hike to $2 Per Tire


SACRAMENTO — Searching for more money to pay for cleaning up hazardous, illegal piles of scrap tires, a state environmental board asked the Legislature on Thursday to increase the fee on new car tires from a quarter to $2.

The Integrated Waste Management Board, which oversees the disposal of about 30-million tires that Californians cast off each year, voted unanimously to ask for the hike.

Lawmakers are expected to approve the recommendation.

The proposed increase was a surprise to the tire industry, which had expected the board to recommend that it be raised to 75 cents.

"No one had ever imagined that it was going to be $2," said Ed King, executive director of the Western States Tire and Automotive Service Assn. "The consumer is going to pay for it. The price of a set of tires will now go up $8."

Board member David Roberti of Los Angeles, a former legislator, said the increase would allow the board to speed up two essential functions: the elimination of tire piles and the creation of new markets for scrap tires.

Tire piles are considered a major environmental hazard because of their susceptibility to fire. Once ablaze, experts say, they can burn for months, spewing clouds of foul, toxic smoke. A pile of 7 million tires that caught fire near Tracy has been burning since August.

The board is required by law to eliminate illegal tire piles and to reduce the number of scrap tires deposited in landfills by encouraging recycling and other uses.

Old tires are used in the manufacture of rubberized asphalt, playground mats and hoses, but those markets are not big enough to take all the scrap tires California produces.

Bonnie Holmes-Gen, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club of California, said her group supports the fee increase and the board's plans to crack down on tire piles and encourage new markets for old tires.

But she criticized the board for supporting the use of tires to fuel kilns that make cement, although she acknowledged that the kilns have passed all requirements of local air pollution control boards.

She said environmentalists fear that the permit process does not examine all the toxic contaminants that may be produced when waste tires are burned in kilns.

"Our big focus is the distinction between true recycling and the burning of tires," she said. "We don't accept the burning of tires as true recycling."

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