CalEPA Endorses Environmental Justice Strategy

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Oct. 17, 2003 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

A statutory mandate to integrate environmental justice (EJ) policies into the regulatory framework for California passed a critical milestone this week. On October 14th, the heads of the CalEPA agencies endorsed EJ recommendations put forth by an advisory committee made up of business, environmental, local government and community interests.

The advisory committee agreed on monitoring, research, public participation, and agency accountability goals for EJ. However, California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance (CCEEB), representing business and labor groups, issued a minority opinion objecting to recommendations in Goal 2, the integration of EJ into the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

Public comment testimony from business interests echoed the misgivings expressed by CCEEB in the minority opinion, including concerns related to:

* Use of the “precautionary” principle or approach to mandate a stricter, non-science based risk assessment for environmental hazards;
* Regulation of cumulative pollution burden before adequate science-based tools are available;
* Assessments of alternative industrial processes and mandated use of certain chemicals, processes or products; and
* Other issues such as buffer zones, facility relocation, the role of communities in land use planning, permit denials and conditions.

CalEPA Chairman Winston Hickox moved to adopt a resolution endorsing the report. Some agency directors appeared uneasy with the motion given the objections in the minority opinion and concerns about agency authority to implement all recommendations in the report, but a motion to amend resolution to “accept” the report rather than “endorse” the report failed on a voice vote. Compromise appeared to be achieved by Hickox' acknowledgment that the minority opinion is a part of, and included in the report.

The next step will be the agencies and the advisory committee working together to create a strategy document, including implementation plans, that set out the steps to be taken to “begin working toward achievement of the goals set out in the report.”
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