Low-income communities and communities of color often bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and associated health risks. Environmental justice seeks to correct this inequity by reducing the pollution experienced by these communities and ensuring their input is considered in decisions that affect them. "Environmental justice" is defined in California law 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. (Cal. Gov. Code, § 65040.12, subd. (e).)
California is a leader in enacting laws specific to environmental justice, including laws directing funding to environmental justice communities (SB 535 and AB 1550), a law creating a community air quality protection program (AB 617), and another that requires environmental justice to be addressed in local government planning (SB 1000). In addition, the California Environmental Protection Agency and its Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment have developed an easy to use web-based screening tool called CalEnviroScreen that the public and government can use to help identify communities that are disproportionally burdened by multiple sources of pollution. These agencies have also documented the disproportionate impacts of climate change on environmental justice communities.
In an effort to address the inequitable distribution of pollution and associated health effects in low-income communities and communities of color, the Legislature passed and Governor Brown signed SB 1000 in 2016, requiring local governments to identify environmental justice communities (called “disadvantaged communities”) in their jurisdictions and address environmental justice in their general plans. This new law has several purposes, including to facilitate transparency and public engagement in local governments’ planning and decision making processes, reduce harmful pollutants and the associated health risks in environmental justice communities, and promote equitable access to health-inducing benefits, such as healthy food options, housing, public facilities, and recreation.
The Attorney General is working to ensure local governments comply with SB 1000. Below are the comments we have submitted in an effort to promote effective environmental justice planning at the local level.
Several tools are available to assist local governments in their implementation of SB 1000. Below are links to these helpful resources.