Senate Bill Adding 2 Environmental Justice Reps to SCAQMD Passes CA Senate Environmental Quality Committee, Moves to Next Step

April 12, 2021
Sacramento, Calif. –The Senate Environmental Quality Committee today passed Senate Bill No. 342 (SB 342) out of committee and is now headed to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee. The bill adding two environmental justice representatives to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) was introduced by Senator Lena Gonzalez and sponsored by San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Nathan Fletcher and  Communities for a Better Environment.
AQMD regulates air emissions from stationary sources located in the South Coast Air Basin. SB 342 will empower community involvement and promote equity by adding two environmental justice representatives to the South Coast Air Quality Management District governing board. Currently there are 13 members composed of representatives from all across the south coast air basin region. The two new members will be required to live in and work directly with communities in the South Coast Air Basin that are disproportionately impacted by high levels of pollution. Adding these seats will empower the community and enhance local decision-making.
“The voices of low-income communities of color disproportionately impacted by air pollution must be heard and involved in the decision-making process at AQMD in order to achieve environmental justice, a healthier future and cleaner air for all” said Senator Lena Gonzalez. “I am proud to author SB 342 to empower community involvement and promote equity as we address air pollution challenges that threaten the health of Californians and I am thankful for the partnership and support of Chair Nathan Fletcher and environmental justice advocates such as Communities for a Better Environment.”
The addition of environmental justice advocates to AQMD would follow similar actions by the San Diego Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) –both entities that have benefited from community voices. Chair Fletcher serves on both CARB and APCD and has firsthand experience for how each entity has been strengthened by their environmental justice representation. 
“Air quality and the protection of public health is vitally important. It is a moral obligation and goes beyond a local challenge, it is one that we must tackle together as a state,” said Chair Fletcher during today’s testimony. “Changing the AMQD composition proposed under SB 342 will create greater participation and consideration of multiple sides of air quality challenges. It also places more focus on accountability and relief for communities overburdened by air pollution. Passing this bill is the right thing to do and I appreciate Senator Gonzalez for her partnership.”
“We greatly appreciate the leadership of Senator Gonzalez in recognizing that AQMD needs to start listening to and addressing the needs of working class communities of color by putting in place aggressive health protective policies,” said Bahram Fazeli, Director of Research and Policy at Communities for a Better Environment. “This can only be done by reforming AQMD at the top and adding environmental justice voices to the Board.”
The partnership between Senator Gonzalez, Chair Fletcher and Communities for a Better Environment is one rooted in their dedication and tireless work for a clean environment. All provided passionate, fact-driven testimony in support (Gonzalez, Fletcher & Fazeli) of SB 342 during today’s Environmental Quality Committee Hearing.
Others who testified in favor of the bill today were: California League of Conservation Voters, Coalition for Clean Air, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
The next steps for SB 342 to become law are as follows:
  • Will be heard in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee
  • Will be heard on the Senate Floor and referred to the Assembly
  • Will be heard in the relevant Assembly Policy Committee
  • Will be heard on the Assembly Floor and be referred to the Governor’s desk for signature.
Senator Gonzalez and Chair Fletcher aren’t alone in their fight for SB 342. Others who support or are sponsors include:
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • California Environmental Justice Alliance
  • California League of Conservation Voters
  • Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment
  • Coalition for Clean Air
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • Earthjustice
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Environment Health Coalition
  • Esperanza Community Housing Corporation
  • Holman United Methodist Church
  • Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability
  • Liberty Hill Foundation
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • People’s Collective for Environmental Justice
  • People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility- Los Angeles
  • Redeemer Community Partnership
About Senator Lena Gonzalez
Senator Gonzalez represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes the City of Long Beach and portions of South Los Angeles and Southeast Los Angeles including the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, and South Gate. Senator Gonzalez lives in Long Beach with her husband Adam and three sons.
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About Chair Nathan Fletcher
Nathan Fletcher is Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. As Chair, he is leading the effort to confront COVID-19 and ensure we build back better through the recovery. He is also focused on transforming San Diego County’s approach to behavioral health, making substantial investment in mental health and drug treatment programs. A committed environmentalist, Chair Fletcher uses his position on the California Air Resources Board, San Diego Air Pollution Control District, and as Chair of the Metropolitan Transit System to ensure the County is tackling climate change and working to ensure environmental justice. Chair Fletcher is leading a new group of Supervisors with a democratic majority, and more progressive values.
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About Communities for a Better Environment
Founded in 1978, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) is one of the preeminent environmental justice organizations in the nation. The mission of CBE is to build people’s power in California’s communities of color and low income communities to achieve environmental health and justice by preventing and reducing pollution and building green, healthy and sustainable communities and environments. CBE provides residents in heavily polluted urban communities in California with organizing skills, leadership training and legal, scientific and technical assistance, so that they can successfully confront threats to their health and well-being.
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