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California AB 32 is the Global Warming Solutions Act signed into law in 2006. AB 32 focuses on climate change and includes an environmental justice provision to address the killing and harming of poor and minority communities that is now the status quo. Prop 23 is a ballot measure to nix AB 32.  Some newspaper editorials oppose Prop 23, but the most recent July polls show a slim majority of no votes. One statewide poll showed 67% favor AB 32, but when the question is focused on Prop 23, support softens by at least 14, or a slim majority (53%) (pdf file).  A second statewide poll shows similar results on Prop 23:  yes vote (36%), no (48%) and undecided (16%).

As voters gear up for the election, we must continue work to defeat this anti-climate change and anti-civil rights measure.

Proposition 23 is an initiative on California's November general election ballot that would "suspend" AB 32. It would actually nix AB32 because the suspension would remain effective until state unemployment rates stabilize at or below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. This has only happened three times since 1976. The attack on AB 32 is important far beyond California because this law could greatly influence how other states deal with climate-change, green-energy issues and environmental racism.

The fossil-fuel industry and its band of climate deniers/teabaggers oppose AB 32 for the obvious reason that the greedy industry wants to continue reaping profits unimpeded by climate change measures.  The industry also fears that AB 32 can be a successful model for other states and a national comprehensive climate bill.  There is another reason not often discussed:  The environmental justice measures in AB 32 and the EPA finding put another damper on the fossil-fuel industry, and teabaggers advocating racism to yield profits.

For some in fossil fuel industry, greed trumps lives.

Thanks to the Fossil Fuel Privilege, everyone pays a Fossil Fuel Tax when we pay the external costs (e.g., health care, quality of life) as corporate welfare for the industry. But poor/minority communities pay far more for a "separate but equal" life in areas of the industrial dumping grounds where a number of contaminated sites and industries pollute air, water and land. Society wants the goods and services produced as long as the polluting industries are not in their back yards.  These greater impacts are due to the Eco White Privilege that placed GHG emitting facilities in poor/minority neighborhoods.

This graphic shows the location of facilities based on racial demographics. The yellow represents areas where the percentage of people of color is less than 37%, orange indicates 37%-70% and red represents greater than 70%. The symbols on the map represent the cement kiln (reddish square), petroleum refinery (black triangle) and power plants (green circle). The yellow areas, which represent less than 37% of people of color, have very few facilities.

The fossil-fuel industry supports Prop 23 due to its own self-interests:

In the past, California has been a trendsetter in environmental policy, with other states closely following its lead. If AB 32 survives, oil companies are bound to see similar measures adopted elsewhere, cutting deeper into their market share.

It makes no difference to them that their profits come at the expense of killing and sickening poor and minority communities.

A study by the Ella Baker Center and the California Environmental Justice Alliance concluded that the two Texas oil companies (Valero and Tesoro) that are bankrolling Prop 23 have been "repeatedly citied for producing deadly chemicals at their refineries that are exposing millions of California families to harm."  The study also found that these two corporate oil Toxic Twins locate their facilities such that the "people who bear the biggest health burdens from these facilities are disproportionately people of color." For those who live outside California, another study concluded that these Toxic Twins are the "#12 and #32 polluters in the nation."

Climate-change impacts will worsen the state of poor and minority communities already harmed by environmental racism. Research in 2009 discussed the "climate gap," or the "fact that people of color and the poor in the United States may suffer more from the economic and health consequences of climate change than other Americans."  Disparate impacts include more vulnerability to heat incidents, more exposure to air pollution and possible increased impacts due to "economic dislocations of ongoing climate change."  

Another study (pdf file), Minding the Climate Gap: What's at Stake if California's Climate Law isn't Done Right and Right Away, shows that "people of color and the poor have the most to lose if efforts to confront climate change are delayed. However, they also have the most to gain if we implement climate policies that deliver immediate public health benefits for everyone."

Fossil fuel industry wants to stop AB 32 momentum to prevent other states from following California's lead.

The fossil-fuel industry wants to stop progressive energy policy in California as well as the nation. A Berkeley report (pdf file) argues that suspending AB 32 would delay/harm/affect both state and national movements to transition to a clean energy economy:

AB 32 has contributed significant momentum within California to transition to a clean energy economy and reinforces the state’s role as a national leader on clean air, clean energy, and energy efficiency. Suspending AB 32 would dampen this in-state progress and could also affect the implementation of a multi-state greenhouse gas reduction effort. Moreover, because California is recognized as a national policy leader, and because states learn from and emulate one another, suspension of AB 32 might raise doubts about climate policy efforts being pursued at the federal, regional, state, and local levels. These effects cannot be quantified but are likely to be significant.

Another report (pdf file) by the Clean Energy Network (CEN), a national organization of business, investors and researchers, agreed that Prop 23 could roll back energy and climate policies in other states and DC.

Past efforts to codify environmental justice failed, new approach is to incorporate environmental justice in AB 32 and EPA endangerment finding.

For years, our country has practiced institutionalized Eco White Privilege, otherwise known as environmental racism.  A litany of studies prove the existence of disparate treatment of poor and minority communities. Our government acknowledges the racism. Yet, there is no law prohibiting it, which provides another layer of racism. For years, lawmakers have tried to pass legislation to expressly address environmental justice.   Various lawmakers (e.g., Al Gore, John Lewis, Hilda Solis, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) have introduced legislation for environmental justice or to codify Clinton's executive order on environmental justice:  Environmental Justice Act of 1992 and Environmental Justice Act of 1993 and Environmental Justice Act of 2005 and Environmental Justice Act of 2007 and Environmental Justice Renewal Act of 2008. Barack Obama introduced (co-sponsor Hillary Clinton) an environmental justice bill called the Healthy Communities Act of 2005 and again in 2007.

After the direct approach of legislation to codify environmental justice has failed, a new approach is to incorporate environmental justice into climate-change measures. One study concluded that measures to address climate change could "benefit poor and minority communities long burdened by industrial pollution if the state takes into account the needs of communities hurt most by climate change."

President Obama is trying to reduce disparate impacts at the federal level with the Clean Air Act regulatory powers that the deniers and GOP want to eliminate in proposed climate change legislation.   The EPA endangerment finding (pdf file) includes consideration of environmental justice by discussing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on certain segments of our population, including the poor and indigenous populations dependent on a few natural resources. The Technical Support Document (TSD) for the EPA endangerment finding provides "an overview of all the major scientific assessments available at the time."  The TSD recognizes that the potential impacts of climate change raise environmental justice issues (pdf file) particularly for those living in urban environments without air-conditioning and vulnerable groups, such as the poor.

AB 32 addresses environmental justice by including an environmental justice advisory committee (EJAC) to advise the Air Resources Board when implementing the law as part of the AB 32 law that Prop 23 wants to kill:

  1.  (a) The state board, by July 1, 2007, shall convene an environmental justice advisory committee, of at least three members, to advise it in developing the scoping plan pursuant to Section 38561 and any other pertinent matter in implementing this division. The advisory committee shall be comprised of representatives from communities in the state with the most significant exposure to air pollution, including, but not limited to, communities with minority populations or low-income populations, or both.

AB 32 addresses environmental justice by reducing impacts for everyone and by the EJAC providing a voice at the table for the minority and poor communities. If it survives, then other states may adopt similar measures.

As Robert Bullard says:  Cleaning up our air saves lives and money – Now is the time for "moving environmental justice to the forefront!"

You can help defeat Prop 23! by donating, telling your friends or joining Stop Dirty Energy.

There are five volunteer campaign offices where you can volunteer for No on 23.

Credo also has a citizen endorser campaign for its campaign of Hell no on 23.

You can sign a pledge to vote NO on Prop 23.

California NAACP Opposes Prop 23

Latino leaders reject Proposition 23:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told Texas oil companies to "go home" at a "No on 23" rally this week. He joins numerous prominent California Latino leaders in denouncing the initiative.

...Finally, organizations like Green for All, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, and Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Prop have begun to successfully mobilize the Latino community to fight back against this harmful campaign.

The EcoJustice series discusses environmental  justice, and the disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation and the climate crisis  on communities around the world.

Almost 4 decades ago, the EPA was created partially in response to the public health problems caused in the United States by environmental conditions, which included unhealthy air, polluted rivers, unsafe drinking water and waste disposal.  Oftentimes, the answer, both here and abroad, has been to locate factories and other pollution-emitting facilities in poor, culturally diverse, or minority communities. EcoJustice demands equal rights for all persons to clean, healthy and sustainable communities.

Please join EcoJustice on Monday evenings at 7PM PST.

Originally posted to Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 07:00 PM PDT.

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