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South Coast AQMD finds justice for Blacks, Latinos and underserved communities
By Randy Tanner, Contributing Writer
Published September 12, 2019

Three SoCal disadvantaged neighborhoods will soon breathe easier.

South Coast Air Quality Management District Chairman Dr. William Burke. Courtesy Photo.

 

Three underserved communities will soon see improvements in air quality following action taken by the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Governing Board. The Governing Board today adopted emissions reduction plans that will cut exposure to toxic air pollution in the communities of: Wilmington/West Long Beach/Carson; San Bernardino/Muscoy; and Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles/West Commerce.

The action is part of South Coast AQMD’s ongoing efforts to improve air quality and public health in environmental justice communities, as part of the groundbreaking Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617) by Assembly member Cristina Garcia. Since its passing in September 2017, South Coast AQMD has received $10.8 million in state funding to lay the groundwork for a new program designed to spark local community involvement in disadvantaged communities.

“We embrace our responsibility to ensure that all residents, especially those historically underrepresented, have access to resources that can improve the air they breathe,” said Dr. William A. Burke, South Coast AQMD’s Governing Board Chairman. “This level of collaboration between the agency and these communities is unprecedented. Never before has something of this magnitude been attempted, and we will do everything within our power to make real changes for impacted residents.”

AB 617 Community tour of the Port of Los Angeles. Courtesy photo.

In spite of the progress made over the last 25 years to improve air quality, communities continue to experience inequities caused by air pollution from freeways, ports, railyards, warehouses, refineries and more. In Fall 2018, South Coast AQMD began focusing on the first three selected communities. Meetings were conducted and air monitoring stations were installed to find valuable information about sources of air pollution, the types of pollutants and the overall impact they are having on these particular communities.

The air monitoring, which officially began in July 2019, is unique to each of the three communities and is being used to help increase agency understanding of major priorities in each community, and helped to formulate emissions reduction strategies.

The AB 617 program is defined by its commitment to community input and involvement. Community Steering Committees were created for each community, comprising of individuals who live, work or own businesses within the specified communities, along with representatives from community based organizations and schools.

South Coast AQMD produced the plans, known as Community Emissions Reductions Plans, following 42 meetings, workshops and community tours, and more than 60 individual meetings, to ensure that air quality priorities were identified and included for each community.

Public Comment on AB 617 CERPS at Sept. 2019 Governing Board Meeting.
Courtesy photo.

The adopted plans include specific actions that go beyond existing efforts by the air district to reduce emissions and/or exposures, an implementation schedule, an enforcement plan, and a description of the process and outreach conducted to develop them.

The plans now head to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for final approval before official implementation can begin.

The AB 617 program will continue next year with the South Coast AQMD Governing Board approving two new communities: the Southeast Los Angeles community (South Gate/Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park/West Huntington Park/Cudahy/Southern Bell Gardens); and Eastern Coachella Valley community (Indio/Coachella/Thermal/Oasis/Mecca/North Shore). The Governing Board’s recommendations will be forwarded to CARB for final selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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