En­vi­ron­men­tal injustice map

Low-in­come and mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties in South­land are among worst ar­eas in U.S. ‘You think of Cal­i­for­nia as one of the rich­est states and yet there are still com­mu­ni­ties that are suf­fer­ing.’ — Ce­sar Cam­pos, direc­tor of the Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia En­vi­ron­men­tal

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Tony Bar­boza tony.bar­boza@la­times.com Twit­ter: @tony­bar­boza

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­ni­ties stand out, in a bad way, on a new fed­eral map.

Com­mu­ni­ties in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia are among the na­tion’s worst en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice hot spots, ac­cord­ing to a new map re­leased Wed­nes­day by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The in­ter­ac­tive on­line map cre­ated by the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency high­lights low-in­come mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties that face the great­est health risks from pol­lu­tion. The anal­y­sis com­bines de­mo­graphic and en­vi­ron­men­tal data to iden­tify where vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions face dis­pro­por­tion­ate bur­dens from air pol­lu­tion, traf­fic con­ges­tion, lead paint, waste sites and other haz­ards.

The map, called EJSCREEN, com­pares com­mu­ni­ties in all 50 states, al­low­ing users to see how they stack up. It in­cludes eight mea­sures of en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, such as lev­els of ozone and fine-par­ti­cle air pol­lu­tion, prox­im­ity to haz­ardous waste fa­cil­i­ties and Su­per­fund dump­ing sites. Each cri­te­rion is in­dexed to de­mo­graphic data — the per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion that is low-in­come and mi­nor­ity — to iden­tify ar­eas that face dis­pro­por­tion­ate ef­fects from pol­lu­tion.

The EPA anal­y­sis of more than 217,000 cen­sus block groups — small ar­eas of about 1,400 res­i­dents — found that many com­mu­ni­ties in Cal­i­for­nia, es­pe­cially in southeast Los An­ge­les County, the In­land Em­pire and the San Joaquin Val­ley, are among the most at-risk in the na­tion.

The EPA found some of the na­tion’s most af­fected block groups in places such as South Los An­ge­les, May­wood and Santa Ana, where low-in­come and mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions face in­creased risk of ex­po­sure to lead paint.

In some parts of those com­mu­ni­ties, the agency es­ti­mates the risk of lead paint ex­po­sure is higher than 99% of the coun­try based on the per­cent­age of hous­ing units built be­fore 1960.

A num­ber of low-in­come, mostly Latino ar­eas of River­side and San Bernardino coun­ties rank near the top of the EPA’s anal­y­sis be­cause of poor air qual­ity, prox­im­ity to cleanup sites and heavy traf­fic con­ges­tion. Peo­ple in Bev­erly Hills and West Hol­ly­wood live amid sim­i­larly high traf­fic vol­ume, the map in­di­cates, but they do not rank as high risk be­cause they are wealthy, ma­jor­ity-white com­mu­ni­ties, con­sid­ered less vul­ner­a­ble to pol­lu­tion.

En­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice groups have for decades bat­tled the con­cen­tra­tion of land­fills, re­finer­ies, rail yards and other pol­lut­ing fa­cil­i­ties in poor com­mu­ni­ties of color. They said they would use the map to press for more emis­sions-cut­ting projects and en­vi­ron­men­tal en­force­ment in the most af­fected ar­eas.

Ce­sar Cam­pos, who di­rects the Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia En­vi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice Net­work, said the map showed that parts of Cal­i­for­nia were “com­pa­ra­ble to places in Mis­sis­sippi or the Ap­pala- chian Moun­tains.”

“You think of Cal­i­for­nia as one of the rich­est states and yet there are still com­mu­ni­ties that are suf­fer­ing as if they were in the poor­est states in the na­tion,” Cam­pos said.

The EPA anal­y­sis fol­lows a sim­i­lar en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice map Cal­i­for­nia agen­cies com­pleted last year. The state is al­ready us­ing that map, called CalEn­viro-Screen, to dis­trib­ute funds from its cap-and-trade pro­gram and to di­rect pol­lu­tion-cut­ting projects to some of the state’s most dis­ad­van­taged neigh­bor­hoods.

The EPA said it would not use the data to la­bel spe- cific ar­eas as en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice zones or as the ba­sis for en­force­ment, fund­ing and per­mit­ting de­ci­sions. Rather, the map will guide the agency’s en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice work.

The agency has al­ready used EJSCREEN, cre­ated nearly five years ago and used in­ter­nally since 2012, as part of a pro­gram tar­get­ing 50 en­vi­ron­men­tally bur­dened and eco­nom­i­cally dis­tressed com­mu­ni­ties over the next two years. In Cal­i­for­nia, the agency chose to pri­or­i­tize the Im­pe­rial Val­ley and the Santa Clara County city of Gil­roy.

‘You think of Cal­i­for­nia as one of the rich­est states and yet there are still com­mu­ni­ties that are suf­fer­ing.’ — Ce­sar Cam­pos, direc­tor of the Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia En­vi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice Net­work

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

THE EPA found some of the na­tion’s most af­fected ar­eas in places such as South Los An­ge­les, May­wood and Santa Ana, where low-in­come and mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions face in­creased risk of ex­po­sure to lead paint. Above, a thick haze hangs over L.A. in Jan­uary.

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