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Map of Blighted California “Neighborhoods”

The California Environmental Protection Agency released a statewide list of census tracts (about 8,000) that are most impacted by pollution, providing a ranking to influence regulators to clean up specific neighborhoods with a long history of health risks.

Most of the areas are located in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles County, and Inland Empire. This objective list of environmental conditions serves as a strong tool to encourage regulators to take action on specific highly-polluted neighborhoods. As a result, highly-valued state resources can now be targeted where they are needed the most.

map1Source: LA Times 20140423

The screening tool is called Cal EnviroScreen and it takes into account multiple environmental conditions, such as polluted air, water, waste facilities, and contaminated soil, in the neighborhood. In addition, the Cal EnviroScreen considers socioeconomic traits like poverty, education, and unemployment.

In 2012, Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) wrote SB 535 which says that states should require to spend 25% of the auction proceeds from California’s cap and trade program towards disadvantaged communities that have high concentrations of pollution. SB 535 has been signed into law and Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for 2014-15 would reserve approximately $225 million from the cap and trade proceeds ($850 million) for these distressed communities.

Governmental agencies can now zero in on these environmental risks in communities with as few as 2,500 people through a variety of actions including environmental enforcement, cleanups, and economic solutions like sustainable development projects that create jobs.

(Source: Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2014)