Over the past several years, the environmental justice movement has won a historic number of new policies at the statewide level in California, and now there is increased awareness and effort to address EJ issues at state agencies. Across the state, CEJA members and partners and other community groups are engaged in agency proceedings of every type, bringing the voice of residents who are most impacted by statewide regulations into the decision-making processes. This hard work has generated significant momentum to increase the understanding and responsibility of our regulatory agencies to achieve EJ.
CEJA is proud to release our 2018 Environmental Justice Agency Assessment that provides an overview of how well environmental justice issues are being integrated or championed at state agencies, and where there are areas for improvement. To our knowledge, this assessment is the only one in the nation to look at how well state agencies develop, implement, and monitor policies that address environmental issues that impact low-income communities and communities of color.
Our 2018 EJ Agency Assessment reveals that many state agencies are not successfully integrating environmental justice into their decision-making and continually fail to prioritize long-standing health and quality of life needs of constituents. We need our state officials to be resolute in fulfilling mandates to protect the public’s health and safety in executing regulatory duties, and to double-down on commitments to do so justly and equitably.
The following nine state agencies were seen by CEJA and our members and partners as critical implementers of — or roadblocks to — EJ policies and programs, especially in the last year. EJ advocates shine a light on key policies that these agencies were responsible for — from basic human rights like clean water and clean air, to innovations in renewable energy and sustainable development.
Assessment of Key Agencies:
1. California Air Resources Board
2. California Department of Pesticide Regulation
3. California Department of Toxic Substances Control
4. California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources
5. California Public Utilities Commission
6. California State Lands Commission
7. California State Water Resources Control Board
8. California Strategic Growth Council
9. California Coastal Commission
Agencies to Watch:
10. California Department of Food and Agriculture
11. California Department of Water Resources
12. California Energy Commission
13. California Transportation Commission
In order for any new statewide policies, including those diversifying decision-making at state agencies, to result in on-the-ground changes in communities most impacted by pollution, there must be aggressive, equitable implementation at California’s environmental, energy and transportation agencies.
It is in the regulatory space where state policies are developed and implemented to the benefit or harm of disproportionately impacted communities. We embrace the opportunities and challenges of community-led advocacy in this regulatory realm.
Without strong leadership from our regulatory agencies, these groundbreaking policies will not lead to the meaningful reduction of pollutants, reduced climate change, increased environmental benefits, and improved environmental health for communities most harmed by pollution burdens. In addition, the many ongoing issues that communities have been working on for years will continue to go unaddressed. The actions of state regulatory agencies are also a reflection of the Governor’s priorities, as state agencies fall under his executive administration and leadership.
Our climate and political reality is sobering, and the need for state agency leadership is greater than ever. We will continue to see increased wildfires, worsening air and water pollution, and a climate crisis that continues to exacerbate the racial and social inequities in California and the nation. We have a federal government that eviscerates environmental protections and recklessly disregards health and equity, placing EJ communities at great risk. We hope this assessment contributes to a robust and active conversation about how regulatory agencies can proactively improve the health and future of low-income communities and communities of color in California.