“You`d think that in a state with a strong environmental policy, where we follow what`s issued where, our regulatory system could do a good job of protecting everyone equally,” Burney said. “But it`s really strong evidence of systemic bias. Sources of pollution from everything that has been closed, transportation, shops, restaurants, etc. add up under conditions of status quo. This will overthrow the entire system and expose racial and ethnic minorities to more pollution. DARIAN WOODS, BYLINE: David says the best example of the California effect is government regulation of car emissions. So think back to the 1970s, and the air pollution in Los Angeles was really, really bad. And when Congress passed the Clean Air Act, California wanted a special exception to pass even stricter emission standards than the federal government would require of other states. And Congress said, OK. A long-dead proposal to flood a valley about 70 miles north of Sacramento and create a huge reservoir to supply water to Southern California is finding new life — and resilience — amid the effects of climate change and worsening drought.
The Sites Reservoir project, located about 10 miles west of the small town of Maxwell and Interstate 5 in Colusa County, was abandoned in the 1980s. Recently, Southern California`s Metropolitan Water District allocated $20 million to project planning, saying the reservoir would make the region`s water supply more resilient during droughts. The proposal also received bipartisan support led by Gov. Gavin Newsom, with $816 million coming from a voter-approved bond and more than $2.2 billion in loans from state and federal agencies. California`s aggressive environmental policies build on a long history. In 1965, the state was the first to regulate vehicle exhaust by setting limits on hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. Two years later, the newly formed California Air Resources Board (ARB) — now part of the California EPA — set the nation`s first air quality standards for total suspended particulate matter, photochemical oxidants, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other pollutants. The center has filed dozens of comments and filed a number of lawsuits against companies such as the cities of Banning, Desert Hot Springs and Perris for approving development plans that failed to take action to deal with the effects of global warming. In 2007, we partnered with other conservation groups and California Attorney General Jerry Brown to challenge San Bernardino County`s failure to consider greenhouse gas emissions when adopting its long-term growth plan. Our lawsuit, along with that of the Attorney General, led to a settlement that required San Bernardino County to inventory greenhouse gas emissions, set greenhouse gas reduction targets, and take concrete steps to achieve those goals over the next 20 years.
The center was recognized for this victory in Environment Now`s 2007 Top Achievements Report, an annual overview of the most successful environmental initiatives led by nonprofits in Southern California. In response to the report`s message, Senator Joe Simitian, who chairs California`s Senate Environment Quality Committee, is exploring options for a new green chemistry policy that could address the shortcomings of the TSCA. Bruce Jennings, a senior adviser to the California legislature simitian works with, says a number of green chemicals laws could hit the ground this year. It would create a clearinghouse on alternatives to hazardous chemicals for small businesses that do not have access to this type of information and are aligned with a similar U.S. EPA program, Design for the Environment. Another would require manufacturers of high-volume chemicals to submit environmental health information to California in addition to information about the use and disposal of those chemicals. In January, Governor Newsom released his budget proposal, which gives us an overview of the government`s funding priorities. With another budget surplus expected, we call on leaders to increase their investments in key environmental, climate justice and public health priorities. These preventive legislative efforts, which come from one of the world`s largest economies, have an impressive influence. “California is an example [for other states],” says Cympie Payne, deputy director of the California Center for Law and Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Other states find it easier to base their own laws on those that another state has already put in place.” They also found that Black communities did not see a similar disproportionate air quality benefit during the shutdown. Black California residents were exposed to higher levels of pollution than whites during the shutdowns, while only large corporations were in business. The same was true after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. This suggests that power plants, power generators and other emission sources that were not limited during on-site shelter arrangements regularly expose these populations to cleaner air. The Supreme Court`s decision to cut federal environmental regulations will have little or no impact on California`s carbon-reducing policy, experts say — and heads of state say they are doubling their climate commitment. Meanwhile, stakeholders around the world are eager to see if California can limit greenhouse gases without ruining its economy. “It`s going to be tricky,” admits Dominic DiMare, vice president of government relations at the California Chamber of Commerce, who rejected AB 1493 and AB 32. “The law could hurt the economy, but it could also help it, and it depends on how it`s implemented, which we still don`t know. What worries me is that some companies may leave California instead of facing these restrictions.
Then they could end up in other areas where they pollute even more than here. When it comes to ecological diversity, California has it all: snow-capped mountains, vast deserts, scenic beaches, and some of the nation`s worst environmental problems. Six of the ten most polluted cities in the country – Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera, Visalia-Porterville, Merced and Sacramento – are located in California, where children are five times more at risk of decreased lung function than children living in less polluted areas. Beyond its air pollution problems, California could also face the catastrophic consequences of climate change. Assuming warming trends continue at their current rate, experts generally agree that the Sierra`s snow cover – which is crucial to the state`s drinking water supply – could decrease by 50 to 90 percent by the end of the century. Simitian was quoted in the Capitol Weekly on November 2, 2006, saying he wanted to apply a precautionary approach to California`s emerging chemicals regulations. This approach, which is popular in European Union countries, shifts the burden of proof of chemical safety to manufacturers rather than regulators. The precautionary principle, as it is often called, is behind some of the European Union`s most comprehensive – and controversial – environmental initiatives, in particular the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) Directive, which requires chemicals produced or imported in quantities greater than one tonne to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency. Under the REACH initiative, which will enter into force in June 2007, some toxic chemicals could be phased out in favour of less toxic alternatives. And, of course, for the environmental result. California lawmakers have apparently decided that the sacrifices made now to achieve environmental goals are worth the future benefits, not only for health and ecology, but also for the long-term sustainability of state-owned industries.
Ultimately, California is paving the way for the future that others might inevitably follow. “California has its own state laws that regulate carbon dioxide emissions, so it`s less important to California in that regard,” Donahue said. “However, we are all affected by climate change. California is doing a lot to try to reduce its own emissions, but we won`t have a safe climate unless everyone joins us and the federal government`s efforts are really important. The study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, suggests that California`s environmental regulations as a whole favor protecting the state`s non-Hispanic whites from air pollution. Since the differences in air pollution experienced by racial and ethnic minorities are not explained by income, this means that environmental strategies based solely on income cannot be expected to lead to strong racial and ethnic justice. This suggests that different parameters should be taken into account when assessing environmental regulations in order to meet average environmental standards and promote fairness. “There is no clear quantitative justice criterion applied in regulatory analysis to protect against environmental racism,” said co-author Katharine Ricke, an assistant professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “For example, if an industry wants to build a plant, they have to fill out an environmental assessment report, but that report doesn`t need to include a set of measures to show the impact of different demographic groups in the vicinity. If the industry were to apply atmospheric models to show that the proposed plant will not disproportionately affect nearby minority neighborhoods, this could lead to a significant change in the fairer design of environmental regulations.
“Today`s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to significantly reduce the federal Environmental Protection Agency`s power to regulate global warming-related emissions irritates environmentalists, but experts say so does not necessarily pose a threat to California`s ability to maintain its own strict rules for reducing greenhouse gases.