“It is time environmental policy tackles the issues our communities struggle with on a daily basis, from asthma epidemics to local polluters that violate environmental laws over and over. This shift is already happening because of the growing power of communities of color, and our new Environmental Justice Scorecard will be an important tool to help us build even more awareness about our issues in statewide policy.”
-Strela Cervas, CEJA Coordinator
People of color are California’s new majority, and polling data has shown over and over that people of color care about the environment and want to see strong government action to address climate change, among other things. People of color are also a growing force in the voting booth, helping swing critical elections and pass ballot measures such as Proposition 30 in 2012.
These shifting forces mean that California environmental politics will have to more directly tackle the issues that communities of color care about to be successful. We are releasing the environmental justice scorecard as a way to push forward the dialogue in state policy about environmental justice.
What does the 2013 Environmental Justice Scorecard find?
CEJA looked at 10 bills that moved through the legislature in 2013.
- Environmental justice is a relatively new force in the Capitol – there was not even a definition of “environmental justice” in state statute until 1999. Thus, we are not surprised that there were no scores of 100% or A grades.
- High-scorers included the Legislature’s future leaders: Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins and Senator De León, future Speaker of the Assembly and Senate pro Tem, respectively
- Other legislators that scored well include: Asssemblymembers Wesley Chesbro, Chris Holden, Nancy Skinner, and Das Williams, and Senators Jim Beall, Marty Block, and Ted Lieu.
- Many legislators had ‘middle of the pack’ C grades, many of whom are part of the freshmen class of legislators, represent communities of color that are highly impacted by pollution issues, but might not consider the environment as their area of expertise. We have high hopes that many of these leaders will become stronger environmental justice champions over the course of the year.
- Many of Sacramento’s most well-known environmental leaders did not emerge as high-scorers, showing some of the differences between traditional environmentalism and environmental justice.
- We included some controversial bills. We thought carefully about whether to include them or not, but in the end felt the issues they covered were so important to the our communities that we could not leave them out: SB4, the bill that created regulations on fracking, and AB 327, the electrical rate reform bill.
CEJA will continue our work to advance environmental justice in statewide policy. In the coming year, we will be:
- Discussing our scorecard and related issues with any office that is interested.
- Developing a 2014 Legislative Agenda that reflects our analysis and priorities during the 2014 Legislative Session
- Supporting Speaker Perez’s AB 1330, the Environmental Justice Act. We applaud Speaker Perez’s leadership on introducing this very exciting Environmental Justice bill! Stay tuned for more updates on the bill.
- Producing a 2014 Legislative Scorecard at the end of the session.
More about CEJA’s process developing the Scorecard
- This is CEJA’s first scorecard, so we welcome feedback!
- Many, but not all, of the bills were drawn from our 2013 Legislative Agenda, a list of 11 bills our coalition took positions on and actively tracked. All of the bills had at least one CEJA member in recorded support or opposition.
- We chose bills that had significance to the community-based organizations we worked with, in either a good way or a bad way.
- We chose bills that reflect a range of positions within the California legislature, not just ones that sailed through with unanimous support.
- BIG THANKS to the amazing Scorecard team that authored the report: Sylvia Betancourt, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Sofia Parino, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, and Strela Cervas and Amy Vanderwarker, Co-coordinators for CEJA.