California Air Resources Board implementing provisions of Assembly Bill 617
Opening a new chapter in California’s fight against air pollution, the California Air Resources Board (has taken) key steps toward implementing the Community Air Protection Program, a first-of-its-kind effort to improve air quality in local communities that face the worst impacts of air pollution.
“This program represents a completely new approach to improving air quality in California’s most impacted communities. The state, working together with local pollution control agencies and community-based organizations, will focus monitoring, enforcement and regulatory activities on the sources of greatest concern to residents,” said Chair Mary D. Nichols.
At its monthly meeting, the board adopted a blueprint for the program describing how CARB will work with local residents, air districts and other partners to identify local air quality problems, develop solutions and track progress together. The new approach to improving air quality in heavily impacted communities was established by Assembly Bill 617, signed by Governor Brown in July 2017.
The board also selected the first 10 communities that will be the focus of additional targeted actions. Located across the state and varying in size and population, these communities have among the highest cumulative impacts from multiple air pollution sources in California. More communities will be added to the program in the future.
“Today’s vote starts to repair the harm to communities like mine who are affected by emissions from railyards, trucks and more pollution sources,” said CARB Board Member Senator Ricardo Lara. “CARB is delivering on the promise the Legislature made by passing AB 617 to help those most affected by pollution so they no longer have to accept dirty air as the cost of jobs and opportunity.” Together, these actions are designed to deliver cleaner air to communities, provide accountability and transparency, and promote a collaborative process.
community air protection
The board’s action follows a 10-month public process that included community tours, meetings with residents, and workshops around the state, in addition to feedback received from hundreds of communities. The first draft blueprint was released in February, and the final proposal was released on Aug. 24.
“The blueprint sets in motion our plan to uplift California’s under-served, pollution burdened communities,” said CARB Board Member Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, AB 617 joint author. “It is a great first step in establishing the foundation for AB 617 implementation in a diverse selection of regions, including Imperial County, a rural area in my district uniquely challenged by cross-border pollution, the Salton Sea and severe socioeconomic disparities. We look forward to being able to steer these investments towards community-led emission reduction and air monitoring programs.”
The blueprint describes:
• Steps CARB will take to work with communities and air districts to improve air quality in impacted communities statewide.
• Process for selecting communities for targeted clean air improvements.
• Procedures for air districts and communities to set up air pollution monitoring.
• Better data on pollution sources and making data more accessible.
• Required elements to be included in community emission-reduction programs.
• Incentive investments to help purchase cleaner vehicles and equipment.
• Metrics to track and report progress in reducing emissions.
Focused action in
10 initial communities
The 10 communities selected by the board for focused action face disproportionate impacts from multiple sources of air pollution, including freight facilities, ports, large and small industrial facilities, freeways, oil and gas facilities, and busy border crossings. Residents of these communities also experience high levels of poverty and unemployment.
Under the Community Air Protection Program, these communities will be targeted for focused actions to improve air quality. These include setting up community air pollution monitoring systems, developing community clean air programs focused on cutting emissions from local pollution sources, or both.
Strategies required to be considered under the blueprint include new regulatory and enforcement actions, facility risk-reduction audits, enhanced air quality permitting requirements, incentive programs, and land use and transportation planning.
The first cohort will serve as a model for future efforts in other areas in coming years.