CalEPA Symposium Advocates for Environmental Justice
Earlier this year, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) hosted a symposium to promote environmental justice–the fair treatment of all races, cultures, and incomes regarding the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.
Sponsored in collaboration with CalRecycle and the California Air Resources Board, the EJ Symposium convened in El Monte, California.
Arsenio Mataka (far right), CalEPA’s Assistant Secretary for EJ and Tribal Affairs, spoke about the importance of equity and being “open-minded about experiences and takeaways that CalEPA boards, departments, and offices can use in their work.”
Dr. Manuel Pastor, a professor with the University of Southern California’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, discussed “Environmental Justice and Race.” He captivated the audience by explaining, “Low-income people of color in the United States will suffer more from the economic and health consequences of climate change than other Americans.” He emphasized a consistent pattern of racial disparity in terms of exposure to air pollution, climate risks, and so on in the state.
Pastor believes we can improve this situation by, “identifying ways to address environmental harm and racial disparity, prioritizing greenhouse gas reduction, and creating employment training.”
Diane Takvorian is the executive director and co-founder of the Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. She advocates for “empowering people, organizing communities, and achieving justice” through grassroots and community participation. She shared her dedication to environmental and social justice by empowering communities to act together for social change.
Angelo Logan talked about his personal experience. He grew up in the City of Commerce, an industrial city. As a child, he “played with barrels in an industrial yard.” A yard worker warned him to leave because the substances in the barrels could harm him and his friends. Growing up in Commerce, he began to understand the issues of his community, and it led him to become an activist for change. He eventually co-founded East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice to advocate for health and safety in his community.
Several staff members from CalRecycle and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) volunteered during the symposium. Volunteers included (from left) Jorge Lopez (Recycling Specialist), Stephanie Lewis (Environmental Scientist, DTSC), Eric Alatorre (Staff Services Management Auditor), Davie Chang (Associate Management Auditor), María Salinas (Environmental Justice Program Manager), Cheng Wang (Staff Services Management Auditor), Max Lin (Staff Services Management Auditor), and Jonas Bautista (Associate Management Auditor).
(From left) Jesus Flores (Executive Fellow at CalEPA), Angela Vincent (Recycling Specialist at CalRecycle), and Claudia Espinoza-Castro (Executive Fellow at CalRecycle) coordinated the event. Michelle Shultz-Wood (Staff Air Pollution Specialist and EJ Liaison, ARB), not pictured, also provided leadership and guidance for the event.
Some notable pieces of environmental justice legislation include SB 1000 (Leyva, Chapter 587, Statues of 2016), which requires that cities and counties consider EJ when developing their general plans; AB 2722 (Arambula and Burke and Rodriguez, Chapter 371, Statues of 2016) and AB 1550 (Gomez, Chapter 369, Statues of 2016), which increase investments in EJ communities to fund large-scale climate projects; SB 1015 (Leyva, Chapter 315, Statues of 2016) and AB 1066 (Gonzalez, Chapter 313, Statues of 2016), which support low-wage workers and farm workers by providing overtime protections; and AB 1787 (Gomez, Chapter 507, Statues of 2016), which requires access to translators during public comment periods at public meetings.