ARB Adopts Environmental Justice Policies
SACRAMENTO – After a marathon Thursday night meeting, the California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted broad-ranged policies for its Environmental Justice Programs that assure clean air for all Californians.
"These policies are being woven into the very fabric of the ARB's daily activities," said Dr. Alan Lloyd, ARB Chairman. "We intend to see that these policies are second nature to every effort of the ARB with tangible actions, not just words," he added.
The policies follow laws adopted in California, which define environmental justice as "the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies." These laws respond to growing concerns about the potential health effects of exposure to multiple pollutants and toxic compounds. Local community groups have repeatedly called for better protection from diesel truck and bus emissions and the pollutants from factories, refineries, power plants and landfills, often sited in or near low-income communities.
The new policies, some of the most comprehensive ever adopted by a state agency, are the product of a nearly two-year project by ARB staff in cooperation with the state's 35 local air pollution control districts, environmental and community groups, as well as industry representatives. The seven-point document establishes the framework for improving air quality and public health in all California communities. The policies will help advance this goal by making environmental justice considerations a standard practice in ARB activities. The ARB is responsible for a broad range of programs including pollution prevention, research, education, monitoring and enforcement. In each program, the ARB will keep an environmental justice perspective when setting priorities and assessing the impacts of ARB programs and regulations.
The policies state that it shall be ARB's policy to:
|Integrate environmental justice into all of our programs, policies and regulations.
|Strengthen our outreach and education efforts in all communities, especially low income and minority communities, so that all Californians can fully participate in our public processes and share in the air quality benefits of our programs.
|Work with local air districts to meet health-based air quality standards and reduce health risks from toxic air pollutants in all communities, especially low income and minority communities, through the adoption of control measures and the promotion of pollution prevention programs.
|Work with the local air districts in our respective regulatory jurisdictions to strengthen enforcement activities at the community level across the state.
|Assess, consider and reduce cumulative emissions, exposures and health risks when developing and implementing our programs.
|Work with local land-use agencies, transportation agencies and air districts to develop ways to assess, consider and reduce cumulative emissions, exposures and health risks from air pollution through general plans, permitting and other local actions.
|Support research and data collection needed to reduce cumulative emissions, exposure and health risks, as appropriate, in all communities, especially low income and minority communities.
"These policies reflect the ARB's commitment to improve air quality for all Californians, including residents of low income and minority communities," Dr. Lloyd added.
The document acknowledges the need for added research into the potential health effects of exposure to a variety of emissions from sources that include factories, power plants, refineries and small businesses, such as gasoline service stations and dry cleaners, as well as motor vehicles. It also acknowledges the need for further research into the health effects of exposure to a variety of air toxics simultaneously and into the improvement of air monitoring and computer modeling techniques. In addition, the document points out the need for greater outreach to both residents and to local planners and elected officials to help prevent future problems that can occur when communities are sited near pollution sources.
Since 1999 the ARB has conducted a unique monitoring program in the Barrio Logan area of San Diego and incorporated new techniques of reviewing the individual exposure of people in that area. It also has focused its enforcement of diesel vehicle emissions on trucks and buses in the area and conducted sensitive "tracer studies" to determine the routes of wind-blown pollution through the region. Those test procedures have been the blueprint for similar programs being conducted throughout California in cities such as: Fresno, Oakland, Crockett, Wilmington and Boyle Heights. Results of the work in Barrio Logan are expected next summer.
As a result of legislation which established the "Children's Health Initiative," the monitoring and research techniques developed in Barrio Logan are already being used in other communities. The ARB is also working on other projects that may help identify and reduce health risks from toxics to all Californians, for example the ten year Diesel Risk Reduction Plan will cut toxic diesel soot emissions by 75 percent over the next decade. In addition, the ARB's ongoing Children's Health Study, now in its eighth year, will provide valuable information about the long-term health damage that can result from living in a polluted area.