Local legislators are opposing a proposal that would eliminate funds promised to help reduce pollution in the Central Valley.
In 2012, the state passed SB 535, which allocates 25 percent of cap-and-trade revenues to the most disadvantaged communities in the state. In response, the California Environmental Protection Agency developed the CalEnviroScreen to measure environmental and socioeconomic indicators across the state and determine which communities have the greatest needs. The tool uses existing environmental, health, demographic and socioeconomic data to create a screening score for communities across the state. An area with a high score would be expected to experience much higher impacts than areas with low scores.
West Turlock and areas of north Merced County are ranked in the Top 10 percent for high pollution in the state, according to the CalEnviroScreen map. The Central Valley is also ranked at the top on the list of worst areas in the country for air pollution, according to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2014 report.
Opponents to the CalEnviroScreen favor a regional allocation based on population levels, instead of need.
“The State made a promise to invest in the long-term health of our most disadvantaged communities,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray. “But at the last minute, a cash grab from the wealthiest areas of the state is letting politics trump that promise.”
A coalition of Valley legislators, headed by Assemblymember Gray, submitted a joint letter to the State Legislature’s chief budget committee in opposition to the proposal. The letter is also signed by Assemblymembers Henry Perea, Rudy Salas, Kristin Olsen and Senators Anthony Cannella, Cathleen Galgiani, Tom Berryhill, and Andy Vidak.
“This really shows the different worlds we come from,” said Assemblymember Olsen. “While coastal communities worry about freeing whales, we are worried about underweight births and childhood asthma.”