Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) has announced that his Senate Bill 366, which extends the Vehicle Dismantling Strike Team for a period of three years, passed the Assembly Transportation Committee yesterday by a unanimous, bi-partisan vote of 14-0. The Senator used the opportunity to debut new amendments to the measure attacking a massive spike in catalytic converter thefts in California, as well.
“Unlicensed auto dismantling is an environmental justice, economic, and public health issue,” said Senator Umberg. “SB 366 adds on to the important work of my colleague, Assemblymember Santiago, and addresses some newer issues that have arisen pertaining to catalytic converter theft. We owe it to our communities to be more responsible, as a state, in terms of regulation of these illegal activities.”
A significant spike in environmental and public health damage to inner cities attributed to illegal auto dismantling resulted in urgent action from the Legislature in 2016, which resulted in the signing of AB 1858 (Santiago). This measure required the DMV to coordinate enforcement and compliance activity related to unlicensed vehicle dismantling with other state agencies as a part of the Vehicle Dismantling Industry Strike Team. Since then, there have been over 40 operations throughout California, which have resulted in the identification of 824 unlicensed dismantlers.
Unfortunately, the underground economy in California continues to be a huge dilemma facing the auto recycling industry. It is estimated that at least 40% of all end-of-life vehicles are being processed through a thriving underground economy of unlicensed and unregulated auto dismantlers. SB 366 implements the Strike Team’s recommendations to maintain momentum on this issue by extending the Team’s work for 3 more years.
The vehicles processed through unregulated operations and dismantlers represent nearly $100 million in uncollected sales taxes and fees, over 2 million unaccounted for tires, and over 2 million gallons of unaccounted for hazardous fluids along with materials that require special handling, such as, lead acid batteries, mercury switches, catalytic convertors, coolant, lithium-ion batteries and freon.
In fact, unlicensed auto dismantlers play a critical role in the proliferation of catalytic converter thefts throughout California. Thieves target the vehicle exhaust emission control device because it contains precious metals and can be scrapped for quick profit.
“For some reason, people tend to think that auto and auto parts thieves aren’t smart,” said Senator Umberg. “The reality, however, is that catalytic converter theft can be quite lucrative – but only if aided and abetted by illegal auto dismantlers like those targeted by the Vehicle Dismantling Industry Strike Team.”
SB 366 will next be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.
For questions about SB 366 or any of the Senator’s efforts to protect car owners in California, people are encouraged to contact his Capitol Office at (916) 651-4034.