AG hopeful seeks to boost penalties for hazardous spills

By Chris Rizo | Jul 7, 2009

Pedro Nava (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Legislation by a Democratic candidate for California attorney general aimed at cracking down on polluters is winding its way through the state Legislature.

State Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, who has announced he will run for AG in 2010, is calling for jail time for polluters who fail to report a hazardous materials spill or make a false report about a spill.

Under current law, the maximum penalty for failing to make a report or making a false one was a $50,000 fine. Nava's proposal would allow prosecutors to seek both a fine and imprisonment. The bill also would extend the statute of limitations from one to five years.

His Assembly Bill 305 cleared the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality on Monday.

"As a former prosecutor I know how important it is to send a strong message to polluters," Nava said. "Companies that handle hazardous materials need to work diligently to ensure that the environment and the public are safe or there will be serious consequences."

Nava also is leading an effort to press Congress to reinstate the federal offshore oil and gas leasing moratorium for the 2009 fiscal year and beyond.

Outlined in Assembly Joint Resolution 3, the measure would formalize the state Legislature's opposition to the proposed expansion of oil and gas drilling off the Pacific Coast.

"Our coast deserves to be protected and it is important that we stand unified in sending a strong message to our leaders in Washington D.C. that we oppose increased offshore oil and gas drilling and that we want the federal moratorium reinstated," Nava said. "New or expanded drilling off California's beautiful and unique coast is a bad idea."

The resolution cleared the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on Monday.

Like other Democrats interested running for attorney general, Nava has said he would not run if Attorney General Jerry Brown seeks reelection. Brown is widely believed to be running in 2010 to replace termed-out Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Other Democrats running for state attorney general include state Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico of Newark, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer for the Web site Facebook.

On the Republican side, Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach and 2006 attorney general candidate and former state lawmaker Chuck Poochigian are considering runs.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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