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California Environmental Justice Alliance
CEJA turns up the heat on renewable energy policy

Members of GRID Alternatives install solar panels on low-income houses in San Diego. Photo courtesy of EHC.

CEJA is bringing community and environmental justice voices to the foreground of renewable energy policy and working to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color are not left out of the green economy.
 
Governor Jerry Brown has made an ambitious goal of building 12,000 megawatts of local, small-scale renewable energy projects (called distributed generation) in California. If done right, this goal can generate millions of dollars in clean infrastructure and potentially thousands of jobs in our communities.

CEJA has been working hard to ensure that environmental justice communities have a voice in the design of this 12,000 MW goal. More renewable energy production will reduce the need for the dirty energy producers that disproportionately impact the health and quality of life of local communities. These same communities also need healthy jobs that can small-scale project installation and manufacturing can generate. Low-income communities and communities of color cannot afford to be left out of the environmental and economic benefits of the growing green energy economy.
 
CEJA is one of the few community voices in a field heavily stacked by utilities and industry. CEJA representatives have spoken at the California Energy Commission’s Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) workshops, which is charged with providing policy directions for the Governor’s 12,000 MW goal. In July, Roger Kim of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Nicole Capretz Environmental Health Coalition spoke on behalf of CEJA and their organizations at the invite-only Governor’s Conference on Local Renewable Energy Resources.
 
In September, CEJA hosted a Distributed Generation Stakeholders Convening - an unprecedented convening of environmental justice organizations, environmental organizations, green energy advocates, and energy experts. The goal of this convening was to unite stakeholders around common goals and a policy approach for the implementation of distributed generation. More importantly, this convening helped to strengthen the relationships amongst all partners. 
 
CEJA is preparing for an aggressive energy campaign in 2012. By inserting our EJ voice in the plans to design and implement the 12,000 MW of distributed generation, we hope that the communities that have been neglected for far too long will reap the economic and jobs benefits from distributed generation.

CEJA stands in solidarity with the Occupy Movement


CEJA stands in strong solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Together, and the Occupy Movement around the nation and across the globe. Even as the movement changes and camps may be dismantled, we believe the movement and its momentum will continue.

As as an alliance of organizations working with low-income communities and communities of color across California, we are the 99%. While the Occupy movement has displayed the depth to which people across the country are suffering, the communities where CEJA works have long borne the brunt of these inequalities, and have been most hard hit by the current economic crisis.

CEJA supports the call to stop corporate profiteering, foreclose the 1%, and occupy the banks. Our CEJA members have joined Occupy efforts across California, including the inspiring, historic General Strike in Oakland. The strike successfully shut down the port of Oakland, which not only facilitates the the consolidation of profits in the hands of a few, but has also severely impacted the health and quality of life for the low-income, African American and Latino residents who live next to the Port. We condemn all acts of police brutality on Occupy protesters, especially recent violent police raids and encampment dispersal in Oakland.

As a coalition that works to build the environmental justice movement and to achieve meaningful policy change, we believe the Occupy movement is an example of how people power can wake up our decision-makers and display the vast inequalities that plague our country.

Opposition to corporate profiteering is central to the environmental justice movement, and our work in California challenges these injustices on a daily basis. Large, multi-national companies operate some of the most polluting and exploitative facilities in the country, from massive oil refineries and power plants, to large railyards and trucking centers that choke the life out of vulnerable communities. Chevron, one of the largest oil companies in the world, doubled its profits to $7.3 billion in October, yet it can’t even clean up the refinery in Richmond that spews toxins into the air and causes respiratory ailments for the African American, Latino, and Laotian neighbors. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Rail Co. is the second largest railroad company in the nation, yet in San Bernardino, it emits alarming rates of pollution from its railyards into the mostly low-income communities next door. These corporations are driving a stake into Mother Earth and causing destruction in low-income communities and communities of color across California, and the country.

Compounding these environmental and health impacts, the 1% and corporations falsely pit the environment against jobs. In California, our elected officials have streamlined one of the nation’s premier environmental laws to make way for profit, using the cover of “job creation.” The California Environmental Quality Act allows local communities to have a voice in the approval and conditions of major development projects, but our legislature has passed an exemption that allows corporate developer AEG to bypass CEQA reviews to expedite the construction of a Los Angeles Stadium, all in the name of job creation. Unfortunately, this project is not about job creation – it is about a developer capitalizing on rising real estate prices spurred by the stadium development, thus profiting from the gentrification of the surrounding, historic low-income community. The 99% deserve, and can have, both economic security and a healthy environment.

We stand in solidarity with all people who fight back against the Chevrons, BNSF Rail Companies, and AEG’s of the world. We stand with all people, especially low-income communities of color, to reclaim space, whether it is an Occupy encampment or in a local community, to end corporate profiteering, and to continue to fight for environmental and social justice justice. We call on all communities to build the voice of the 99%.

Green Zones team goes to Washington


CEJA's Green Zones Campaign seeks to transform low-income communities and communities of color overburdened with pollution into healthy, thriving "Green Zones." Our member organizations have launched Green Zone pilot projects in 7 communities across the state to identify and implement community-based solutions to pressing environmental justice issues. Simultaneously, we are creating state and federal partnerships to support these solutions and ensure our Green Zone communities are first in line for public resources.

CEJA is excited to have wrapped up a participatory research process mapping cumulative impacts in 11 EJ communities across California with the Environmental Justice Screening Methodoly developed by Manuel Pastor, Rachel Morello-Frosch, and Jim Sadd. Working with approximately 70 residents, we gathered data on the Environmental Justice hazards in each area. The researchers are now completing the maps, which we are excited to share.

On Oct 5th, CEJA's Green Zones team - comprised of Antonio Diaz, PODER, Diane Takvorian, EHC, Penny Newman, CCAEJ, and Amy Vanderwarker, CEJA Co-coordinator, presented to the federal Interagency Work Group on Environmental Justice at the offices of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The Interagency Work Group was originally established under Clinton's Executive Order on EJ, but was dormant for years until EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson revived it. The goal of the group is help all federal agencies better integrate environmental justice into their programs. Together with the Green Impact Zone of Kansas City, we presented to over 30 federal agency representatives on our new model of addressing environmental justice and gave recommendations to the Interagency Work Group on how to better target federal funding and resources into the communities that need it the most.

CEJA's Green Zones team at the new Martin Luther King Jr
memorial in DC

Our recommendations were well-received and we are working to make them a reality, with the ultimate goal of institutionalizing a policy mechanism to ensure that environmental justice communities are prioritized for federal resources and that these programs are better coordinated and leveraged in EJ areas. Click here to read our policy paper on how the federal government can better target resources into environmental justice communities.

Climate change fund for communities put on hold


In September, the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Speaker John Perez put the brakes on SB 535, the “California Communities Healthy Air Revitalization Trust” authored by Sen. Kevin de León. The bill would have brought millions of dollars in investments to environmental justice communities choking from our state’s pollution.  CEJA worked hard to advocate for the passage of SB 535, bringing members from Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego to meet with legislators to hear about the need for investment in our environmental justice communities. In the Capitol, we lobbied with our fellow co-sponsors Coalition for Clean Air, Ella Baker Center, Greenlining Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the NAACP. 
           
SB 535 ensures that low-income communities and communities of color that are unjustly burdened by harmful air quality and suffer respiratory disease would be first to benefit from the implementation of the landmark legislation, AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act (a law that mandates the state to lower its greenhouse gas emissions).  After CEJA and the co-sponsors garnered broad support for the bill both in Sacramento and locally, SB 535 passed out of the Senate and made its way through the Assembly. 
 
The Assembly Appropriations Committee shocked both Sen. de Leon and the co-sponsors by turning the bill into a 2-year bill, where the legislature will take up the bill again in 2012. CEJA is disappointed in this turn of events and are aware that the utilities and industry had a big hand in lobbying to stall this bill by calling it a “job killer.” CEJA will continue to advocate for revenues to come to EJ communities where these much needed dollars will go towards renewable energy, energy efficiency, and local green jobs in the communities that need it the most.

CEJA members in the news:
fighting cap and trade, warehouses & demanding equitable transportation planning


In August, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and Communities for a Better Environment protested California's disastrous plan to implement a market-based system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Below are pictures from their recent rally in Sacramento.
CBE Executive Director and CEJA Steering Committee member Bill Gallegos speaks out against cap and trade. Photo courtesy of Eliana Sanchez, CBE.

Read EHC Executive Director Diane Takvorian's op-ed on the need for environmental justice and equitable transportation planning in San Diego.

CCAEJ's lawsuit against pollution-causing warehouses in Mira Loma gets a big boost from the CA Attorney General.

In this issue:


CEJA members

CEJA Member profile:
PODER


PODER organizes with Latino immigrant families to address environmental injustices and implement solutions to achieve healthy, sustainable communities. PODER works in San Francisco's Mission, Excelsior, and southeastern neighborhoods. PODER uses a mix of community-based campaigns and projects, with collaboration from a wide range of partners such as other neighborhood-based organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions, and have helped secre more affordable housing, open space, improve public health and achieve cleaner air in the neighborhoods where they work, while securing more government accountability. PODER is a founding member of SF Rising, working to build political power for working class people of color and immigrant communities, the Bay Area Environmental Health Collaborative, Emerald Cities San Francisco and other local, regional, and national collaboratives. PODER's Green Zones pilot projects focus on creating community-based assets in 2 neighborhoods: SF's first environmental justice park and affordable housing at 17th and Folsom Streets, and affordable housing and other community uses at Balboa Park BART Station. Take a look at PODER's website to learn more about their great work!

CEJA's mission

The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) is a coalition of base-building organizations. Our mission is to strengthen the progressive environmental justice movement in California. By building on the local organizing efforts and advocacy successes of our member organizations, we will achieve state policy change. We are working to achieve environmental justice by organizing in low-income and people of color communities - those most impacted by environmental hazards - and by pushing for policies at the state, regional and local levels that protect public health. Together, we are building a movement for environmental health and justice.

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