(CN) – Shell Oil is not entitled to a $3.9 million refund based on its claim that the gasoline industry should not have to pay for 85 percent of a childhood lead-poisoning prevention program, a California appeals court ruled.
Equilon Enterprises, the parent company of Shell, claimed that the California Board of Equalization is entitled to a refund of the money it paid toward the program in 2002.
Shell claimed it was forced to pay an unconstitutional tax because the paint industry, not the gasoline industry, is responsible for most cases of childhood lead poisoning, and other responsible industries pay nothing at all.
The trial court disagreed with Shell’s theory, as did the Sacramento-based Third District Court of Appeal. Both courts said the proper measure was not of childhood lead-poisoning cases, but of environmental lead contamination.
The appeals court also ruled that the money Shell paid was not a tax, but a regulatory fee.
“Obviously, the risk of childhood lead poisoning results from childhood lead exposure,” Justice Ronald Robie wrote (original emphasis).
“[T]he Legislature specifically focused on exposure rather than poisoning when it imposed the fee to fund the lead program on those responsible for significantly contributing to ‘environmental lead contamination,'” Robie added.
The three-justice panel affirmed dismissal of Shell’s bid for a refund.