On Monday, RCRC joined the League of California Cities in providing comments to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on proposed regulatory changes to their permitting process for SEP programs.
Under existing law, SEP programs may be authorized either by a county’s board of supervisors and local health officer or by the city council and mayor of a city. Alternatively, CDPH may allow several different types of public health, drug abuse treatment, and housing programs to provide hypodermic needle and syringe exchange services. CDPH’s regulations require an applicant to attest that their program complies with state laws, regulations, and local ordinances.
CDPH’s proposed regulatory changes delete the requirement for a SEP applicant to certify compliance with local ordinances. In justification of their proposal, CDPH argues that existing law preempts local land use ordinances regulating or prohibiting SEPs. The League and RCRC vigorously reject these preemption claims and argue that such a regulatory change will mislead applicants into a false assumption that they need not comply with local regulations and lead to costly litigation.
This regulatory effort is similar in nature to pending legislation. AB 1344 (Arambula) would have exempted SEPs from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and from public nuisance claims, including for the illegal disposal of used needles and syringes. RCRC and the League of California Cities strongly opposed AB 1344 because it would have seriously eroded the ability for local governments to address any public health problems arising from SEPs. As a result of strong local opposition, the author removed the public nuisance exemption and AB 1344 now simply exempts SEP applications from CEQA. With these changes, both RCRC and the League of California Cities removed their opposition.