OPPONENTS HINDER PVC PIPE BILL

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A bill allowing for easy use of chlorinated PVC pipe in California homes faces a tough battle in the state Legislature against the copper pipe industry and the pipe fitters unions.

They already have watered down the bill and could stop it completely as it winds through the Democrat-controlled Legislature. Plastics officials consider the current Legislature more friendly to the unions than the Republican-controlled group that passed an earlier version of the law. That earlier version is set to expire Jan. 1, and the replacement bill that would extend it to 2000 has only a 50-50 chance of becoming law, said John Cusey, legislative aide to the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Gary Miller, R-Diamond Bar.

The bill would allow local governments to approve CPVC pipe for water, as the earlier version did, but copper proponents tacked on a provision requiring communities to demonstrate a ``substantial problem'' with copper pipe corrosion. Legislators have yet to define that.

``At this point, anything is possible,'' said Mark Bogetich, spokesman for the Coalition for Consumer Choice, a pro-CPVC organization made up of local builders, plastics trade groups and city officials.

Lobbyists for the California State Pipes Trade Council, who are pushing to restrict plastic pipe, could not be reached.

More than 50 communities received exemptions under the 1995 law, which passed after homeowners complained that copper pipes had to be replaced because of corrosion from acidic water.

CVPC pipe makers could do between $6 million and $14 million in sales each year statewide, with about half that coming in areas with severe corrosion, said Roy Harris, a senior marketing manager with B.F. Goodrich Specialty Chemicals, the nation's largest supplier of CPVC compounds.

Cusey said that without this legislation, very few new homes built in the state will use CPVC.

The two industries also are squabbling over a state environmental impact report on plastic pipes, which CPVC supporters say has been bogged down by the copper pipe industry for at least a dozen years. Copper pipe supporters continually have broadened the scope of the study to delay its release, Bogetich said.

CPVC has been cleared by the report, but other types of plastic such as ABS have not, he said.