New Reports to Examine Impact of Climate Change Programs on Disadvantaged Communities

For Immediate Release: February 2, 2017

Media Contacts:
Alex Barnum, CalEPA (916) 324-9670
Sam Delson, OEHHA (916) 324-0955

SACRAMENTO – The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) today released the first in a series of reports looking at the impacts of California’s groundbreaking climate change programs on disadvantaged communities.

“This effort is part of our ongoing commitment to identify and address environmental concerns in our most distressed communities,” said Secretary for Environmental Protection Matthew Rodriquez.

This initial OEHHA report focuses on the Cap-and-Trade Program, which regulates greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities and other sources.

The report is largely based on 2014 emissions data, the only year for which OEHHA could obtain validated data on both GHG emissions and air toxics emissions for most facilities thus far. This limited data does not yet allow for comprehensive analysis of the impacts of Cap-and-Trade on disadvantaged communities; however, some initial findings include:

  • Major industrial facilities regulated under the Cap-and-Trade Program are disproportionately located in disadvantaged communities.
  • There is a moderate correlation between GHG and other air pollutants, although correlations varied among types of facilities. Refineries showed the strongest correlation.
  • Reductions in GHG emissions from large GHG-emitting facilities are likely to result in lower emissions and exposures to other pollutants in nearby communities.

The report recommends co-reporting of data on GHG emissions and conventional pollutants to aid in further investigations. Future reports will look at impacts of other climate programs in addition to Cap-and-Trade, as well as the benefits arising from the investment of the Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds.

California Climate Investments is a statewide program that puts Cap-and-Trade proceeds to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities. As of March 2016, half of Cap-and-Trade investments statewide — $469 million of $912 million – went to projects providing benefits to disadvantaged communities.

The OEHHA reports, which were requested by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., are part of a broad set of initiatives, undertaken by CalEPA and its boards, departments and office, to identify the disproportionate impacts of pollution and improve environmental health in California’s most disadvantaged communities.

Ongoing Efforts to Address Impacts in Low-Income and Disadvantaged Communities

CalEnviroScreen, the nation’s first comprehensive, statewide environmental health screening tool, was released in 2013 and has undergone two major updates, with extensive public consultation. Today, it is used to help implement a variety of environmental justice programs, from targeting Cap-and-Trade investments to prioritizing enforcement and cleanup efforts in disadvantaged communities.

The Legislature passed SB 535 (De León, 2012) recognizing the value of CalEnviroScreen to target Cap-and-Trade proceeds to disproportionately impacted areas. And under AB 1550 (Gomez, 2016), CalEPA and the Air Resources Board are taking additional steps to target funding to low-income communities that might not be represented within CalEnviroScreen.

In developing its proposed Scoping Plan for meeting California’s 2030 GHG emissions reduction target, CARB consulted with its Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and supported 24 environmental justice and local community meetings. The plan prioritizes rules and regulations to directly reduce emissions at large stationary, mobile and other sources, as required under AB 197 (Garcia, 2016).

Last week, CARB announced the appointment of Veronica Eady, a nationally recognized environmental justice advocate, as its inaugural Assistant Executive Officer for Environmental Justice.

The OEHHA report, “Tracking and Evaluation of Benefits and Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Limits in Disadvantaged Communities,” is available here: