California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) created the Environmental Justice Task Force (EJ Task Force) in 2013 to coordinate the compliance and enforcement work of federal, state, and local environmental enforcement agencies in areas of California that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution. CalEPA boards and departments participating in this program include the Air Resources Board, the State and Regional Water Boards, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, and the Department of Pesticide Regulation. Federal and local partners include U.S. EPA, air districts, and local government agencies with environmental regulatory programs, such as local environmental health departments and agricultural commissioners. The EJ Task Force has three main objectives:
- Improve environmental compliance in communities disproportionately impacted by multiple sources of pollution in order to protect public health and safety;
- Provide meaningful opportunities for communities to provide input on potential environmental justice concerns and incorporate that input into the enforcement and other work of the EJ Task Force agencies; and
- Increase coordination among CalEPA boards and departments and with local, state, and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies to facilitate compliance across all programs in disadvantaged communities.
The EJ Task Force works toward these objectives through neighborhood compliance and enforcement initiatives. These initiatives begin with robust community outreach efforts. In addition to partnering with local grassroots organizations, the EJ Task Force conducts a community-led bus tour of the neighborhood and a community meeting where the government partners receive input from residents about their concerns. This initial community consultation and bus tour serve to introduce regulators to the community and community members to the roles of the environmental regulators in protection of the public health and the environment. The EJ Task Force takes this input and develops a targeted inspection and compliance assistance plan for the neighborhood based on the problems that have been identified.
Once the inspection and compliance assistance efforts are complete, the EJ Task Force returns to the community to report results of the initiative. This report-back meeting brings the participating agencies together with the community to give an overview of the work done by the agencies, as well as identify any on-going efforts that will continue. These meetings are also an opportunity to share ways in which the community can work with local agencies to identify violations and share educational resources and complaint hotlines for the community to report violations they see in their neighborhoods.
Results to Date:
The EJ Task Force has conducted three initiatives in Fresno, Los Angeles (Boyle Heights and Pacoima neighborhoods), and Oakland (East and West Oakland neighborhoods). Information about those initiatives and examples of enforcement that resulted are provided below.
- The Fresno Initiative uncovered a number of significant violations at a metal recycling facility related to its management of hazardous waste.
- Seven criminal complaints were filed against businesses for unsafe storage of highly toxic chemicals as a result of the Los Angeles Initiative.
- The inspections of discount stores from the Oakland Initiative led to the discovery of 118 styles of jewelry that contained dangerous levels of lead or cadmium. The Oakland Initiative final report is under development and is expected to be released in fall of 2017.
Environmental Justice Task Force Program Manager
California Environmental Protection Agency