San Francisco Says Polluters Are Pulling a Fast One

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — San Francisco and Santa Clara County sued Sherwin-Williams and ConAgra Grocery Products Co. on Tuesday, seeking “to invalidate a highly deceptive and unconstitutional ballot initiative” the companies filed to try to duck a court judgment for hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up toxic lead paint.

The City and County of San Francisco et al. said in a statement announcing the lawsuit — filed at the California Supreme Court: “The deceptive initiative attempts to eliminate this judgment, allowing Sherwin-Williams and ConAgra to avoid paying up to $730 million to clean up lead paint, and instead saddle taxpayers with $3.9 billion of bond debt to cover those and other costs.”

The judgment at issue is People of the State of California v. ConAgra Grocery Products Company (2017) 17 Cal.App.5th 51.
Nor are the counties enamored of the title of the paint companies’ initiative: the “Healthy Homes and Schools Act.”

“These lead paint companies are shameless,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in the statement. “After being found liable for poisoning children for profit, ConAgra and Sherwin-Williams are now trying to trick voters into footing the cleanup bill. That would be like BP trying to dupe Gulf Coast residents into paying for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It’s reprehensible. This intentionally deceptive ballot measure is an assault on the courts and California’s initiative process. It’s time to stop it.”

Co-plaintiff Ann Miller Ravel, a former chairwoman of the Federal Elections Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission, added: “Not only is this unconscionable initiative a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money, but it is an affront to Californians.”

The counties ask the court to declare the defendants’ initiative unconstitutional.

The defendants could not be reached for comment before office hours Wednesday morning.

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