The Environmental Justice Program advocates for poor and vulnerable communities at the local, regional, and state level. We want to see strong protections for Creation and our communities, while ensuring that the neighborhoods most impacted by pollution are the first to enjoy meaningful benefits of new policies and programs.
San Joaquin County
AB 617 Community Air Protection Program
AB 617 Community Air Protection Program: Stockton is the largest metropolitan area in the Northern Region of the Valley Air District, with a current estimated population over 310,000. A number of heavily trafficked freeways pass through the City of Stockton, including interstate 5 and highways 99 and 4, contributing a significant amount of PM2.5 emissions in the community. Specifically, the Stockton AB 617 area is a densely populated community within the City of Stockton directly impacted by large freeways, the Port of Stockton, freight locomotives, industrial sources, and emissions traveling downwind from the northern portion of the city. More info can be found through the report from the SJV EJ Steering Committee. With Catholic Charities EJ program and Little Manila Rising as the co-leads of the process, we will ensure residents’ voices are heard and prioritized. Each month, the Community Steering Committee virtually meets to discuss strategies for the Community Emission Reduction Plan as well as the Community Air Monitoring Plan. The committee is composed of 25 residents being the majority, with environmental justice organizations, schools, school administration, public health agencies, local government, businesses, industry, and the Port of Stockton. To learn more about Stockton’s AB 617 process, please like and follow the Valley Air District’s FB page at https://www.facebook.com/valleyair.
Establishes a setback of 2,500 feet between oil and gas drilling and homes, schools, healthcare sites, daycare facilities, and prisons. This bill stands with frontline communities impacted by the climate crisis. We know that 2,500 feet is the bare minimum to protect people from the adverse health outcomes of living near oil and gas production. Communities of color and lower-income communities in the San Joaquin Valley are dealing with some of the most toxic air quality in the state. Our neighbors to the south are particularly vulnerable to the air pollution impacts of fossil fuel production, which drives higher rates of asthma, cancer, high-risk pregnancy, and increased risk for a serious case of COVID-19.
AB 1087 creates a pilot grant program to provide holistic whole building upgrades in critical community facilities located in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. By enabling the transformation of trusted community spaces into resilience hubs, AB 1087 ensures those most impacted by climate change have access to critical services to cope with ongoing and future climate disasters in the immediate term while simultaneously stabilizing communities for the long haul.
The Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) Program will fund community-led development and infrastructure projects aimed at increasing environmental, health and economic impacts for disadvantaged communities residing within the TCC project area. These community-led projects are a result of a $10.8M grant from California’s Cap-and-Trade program funds, and administered by the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC). The TCC projects, including energy and water efficient upgrades, residential solar programs, and green jobs will be aimed at servicing historically underserved and under-resourced communities in the 5-square mile TCC project area in South Stockton, a historically underserved area. While there are many projects outlined in the program, the three main objectives are to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve public health and environmental benefits, and expand economic opportunity and shared prosperity. The Environmental Justice Program will support the TCC projects by conducting community engagement and communicating TCC progress to the community.
Manteca General Plan
The City of Manteca is in the process of updating its General Plan, a policy document that informs future land use decisions. It is essentially a city’s blueprint for future development, foreseeing a vision of 20-40 years of local land-use planning. Some elements of the plan include: land use, housing, circulation, conservation, open space, noise and safety. In 2016, California’s legislature passed SB 1000, a bill that requires local governments to identify environmental justice communities (referred to as “disadvantaged communities” per the CalEnviroScreen mapping tool) in their jurisdictions and address environmental justice in their general plans. Our role in the update process of Manteca’s general plan is to emphasize SB 1000 and ensure environmental justice is addressed throughout the general plan document. We are also advocating for authentic community engagement of Manteca residents, stakeholders and community members in order to facilitate transparency and promote healthy communities for all.
Supplemental Environmental Project- IQ Air Grant
The Supplemental Environmental Project administered by Catholic Charities and IQ Air is located at Washington Elementary School in the Boggs Tract Community of Stockton. The community surrounding the school has multiple environmental justice concerns that impact the health, quality of life and overall well being of residents. The project entails installing air filtration systems and air quality monitors in various locations at the school. The community already experiences a significant pollution burden and is in the 90th percentile for multiple pollution exposures, according to CalEnviroScreen data. Air quality data at Washington Elementary School is available for review at any moment, and notifications will be immediately sent if the air quality poses any risk to the health of the students, faculty and staff. It is imperative to direct resources and knowledge to communities who bear a disproportionate burden of environmental injustices.
Downtown Manteca Transit Center Connectivity and Enhancement Plan
The City of Manteca will undergo a proposed project to develop a plan to improve multimodal connectivity and access and promote transit-oriented development in the Downtown area. The proposed project aims at developing a coordinated transportation and land use strategy to transform the Downtown into a well-connected, walkable district. Our role is to promote community and civic engagement through education and outreach to historically disadvantaged communities in Manteca to help them take an active role and leverage social action on environmental concerns to improve community health, equity and sustainability. Catholic Charities will be responsible for outreach to residents and businesses in the Downtown Transit Center area and conduct pop-up events to ensure robust community engagement and input.
Agriculture Improvement Act
The Agriculture Improvement Act provides reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023. Its purpose is to reverse food insecurity in domestic and foreign territories as climate change and loss of biodiversity affect the worldwide food chain.
This bill amends the Agricultural Labor Relations Act to facilitate the ability of farmworkers to vote for or against unionization. The bill expands voting options for farmworkers by allowing them to choose if they want to vote at a physical location, or vote by mailing or dropping off a representation ballot card to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) office. Farmworkers would be able to receive assistance in filling out and returning their representation ballot card as long as the person assisting them co-signs it, and it is returned to the ALRB office in a sealed and signed envelope.
Safe Routes to Schools CalWalks Collaboration
The Safe Routes to Schools initiative advocates for children to walk or bike to school safely while encouraging physical activity. Utilizing input of surrounding communities, this project aims to raise equity in schools and encourages families and community members to push for district policies. Meetings have been held at multiple public schools in pursuit of creating leadership roles amongst community members.
Modesto General Plan
Our current emphasis is to continue engaging with the City of Modesto to strategize what is ahead for the General Plan. Catholic Charities is regularly meeting with city officials to promote a robust integration of community input. These efforts include strategizing local meetings to raise consciousness of the pivotal process centered around SB1000.
In collaboration with the Strategic Growth Council, the Partners Advancing Climate Equity (PACE) program will provide training and technical assistance to community members seeking to build community capacity to drive climate action and resilience. As a member of this cohort, Catholic Charities seeks to build grant-writing skills and learn how to leverage current capacity.
This project is centered on utilizing non-motorized transportation pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists. The work is currently in the assessment stage, and Catholic Charities has been meeting with officials to establish the election of a consultant firm. Catholic Charities will also be focusing on assisting residents into the process of assessing their community needs to overcome their disparities for access to safe walkways and roadways.
AB 617 Air Monitors
The Central California Asthma Collaborative, using resources from the California Air Board, has connected with other community-based organizations in the Central Valley to bring purple air monitors to the most disadvantaged communities in our state. Currently, Catholic Charities has a stronger effort in San Joaquin County as VIP has led the integration of air monitors in Stanislaus county. During a meeting, it was brought to light that the neighboring county of Merced lacked sourcing for placing the monitors. However, a few air monitors were installed in Merced County at select locations.
Fund For Inclusive CA
Fund for Inclusive CA is a collaborative funding initiative which consists of engaging with stakeholders in efforts to create spaces for learning, finding equity-centered approaches to housing, and addressing many other disparities facing families in Central California. Our efforts currently include establishing a community platform around initiatives such as SB 3088 and the moratorium for rental payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Historically speaking, colonization took its toll on many indigenous people of the San Joaquin Valley. No one single act of reconciliation will remove the pain that so many endured. However, recently through the efforts of the Environmental Justice Program there may be an opportunity for the future. On June 5th, 2021 the United Tribes of California invited our team to attend a tribal ceremony in their own backyard. We were given the honor of being emcees at an event in which tribute was paid to a departing elder as well as the installation of a new tribal elder. The Environmental Justice Program hopes to provide resources and assistance for the indigenous people of the San Joaquin Valley in accordance to our mission and principles of helping others.
California Climate Investments: Because of AB 32 (see below), California is investing millions in local communities to fight climate change, with a special emphasis on the most disadvantaged communities. We are working to ensure that money flows to the most vulnerable neighborhoods to meet needs residents have identified and results in meaningful change. You can read the stories of real people benefitting from California’s Climate Investments at UpLiftCA.org, a project of our partners at the Greenlining Institute. You can also see what investments are being made in your community with TransForm’s Climate Benefits for California mapping tool.
Climate Pollution Reduction Beyond 2020 (Pavley). California’s 2006 climate law, AB 32 (see below), requires a reduction in greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020 and we are over halfway toward meeting this goal. SB 32 continues this success calls for reducing greenhouse gas pollution to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This legislation is necessary to continue improving air quality, public health, and protecting poor communities from greenhouse gas pollution. You can read our SB 32 Backgrounder from Catholic Advocacy Day, as well as the California Interfaith Power and Light SB 32 Letter of Support, signed by Stockton Bishop Stephen Blaire and Elvira Ramirez of Catholic Charities.
Active Transportation Program (Bloom). This measure would require 5% of Active Transportation Program funds be allocated for community master plans in disadvantaged communities, and 10% of ATP funds be allocated for non-infrastructure safety education and encouragement programs. Learn more about AB 2796 from the California Bike Coalition.
Adds Environmental Justice Element to General Plans (Leyva). This bill would ensure that local governments include an environmental justice element in General Plans when they are updates, which will promote a healthier community for all by mitigating existing adverse conditions and prohibiting new development from negatively impacting vulnerable populations. Having a General Plan with specific environmental justice policies will help position local governments to access state funding to support projects that can benefit local environmental justice communities. Learn more about SB 1000 from the California Environmental Justice Alliance.
Heavy duty trucks are cumulatively one of the largest sources of toxic diesel particulate and ozone- and PM Forming NOx in the San Joaquin Valley. SB 210 would mandate an inspection and maintenance (I&M) program for in-state heavy-duty vehicles to ensure compliance with clean truck rules. SB 210 would prohibit the operation of a heavy-duty vehicle on a public road if the vehicle were to have an illuminated malfunction indicator light displaying a specified engine symbol. Learn more from the CA Legislative Information website.
Air Resources (Pavley & Atkins). This measure adds two seats to the California Air Resources Board. Both are to be representatives from environmental justice communities in California. Diane Takvorian is founder of the Environmental Health Coalition in San Diego, and Dean Florez is a former Senator from the San Joaquin Valley and advocate for clean air. He meets regularly with San Joaquin Valley environmental justice advocates. Read our AB 1288 Letter of Support.
Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program (Eggman). Also signed by Governor Brown in October, 2015, this bill allocates $100 million annually to a new program installing solar panels on multifamily affordable housing complexes. Tenants then have savings on their energy bills, easing some financial burden for low-income families and allowing everyone to benefit from the green economy. Read our AB 693 Letter of Support and “Ray of Hope for Solar Power” from the Stockton Record.
Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Nunez & Pavley). Passed in 2006, this legislation requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. We are over halfway toward meeting this goal through numerous state programs. Funds generated under this legislation by the state’s largest polluters are being successfully re-invested in local communities. Our partners at California Delivers have put together some great resources to help you understand the programs and benefits of AB 32, including specific factsheets on health, equity, and more.
Thanks to the efforts of the Environmental Justice Program, the City of Empire has been awarded participation in the Community Pedestrian Bicycle Safety Training Program. Which is a joint project of UC Berkeley SafeTREC and California Walks. Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The purpose of the CPBST program is to train local neighborhood residents and safety advocates on how to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and to strengthen collaboration with local officials and agency staff to make California communities safer and more pleasant to walk and bike.
Disadvantaged Community Investments (Gomez). This bill raises the percentage of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds spent in disadvantaged communities, and directs a percentage of the GGRF to be spent for the benefit of low-income households. You can learn more about AB 1550 and other environmental justice bills from our partners at the California Environmental Justice Alliance and you can read our AB 1550 Letter of Support.
Transit Pass Program (Holden). This bill creates a Transit Pass Program within the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for public school students to receive free and reduced-cost transit passes. Transit passes are an efficient way to reduce greenhouse gases, rein in transportation costs for students and families, and help smooth the path to opportunity for millions of Californians. You can learn more about AB 2222 from TransForm or read our AB 2222 Letter of Support.
Transformative Climate Communities Program (Burke). This bill will help communities accelerate sustainability plans and help California meet its ambitious climate change goals through transformative climate investments that achieve multiple greenhouse gas, public health, and economic benefits. The investments will be focused on communities most impacted by pollution and vulnerable to climate change. Learn more about AB 2722 from the California Environmental Justice Alliance.
The Southern San Joaquin Valley is responsible for 75% of California’s oil and gas production. Oil sites release air toxins, such as benzene and formaldehyde, fine and ultra-fine particulate matter (PM), methane, and ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs). AB 345 would mandate all new oil and gas development or enhancement operations on state land to be located at least 2,500 feet from a residence, school, childcare facility, playground, hospital, or health clinic. Learn more from the CA Legislative Information website.
Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 (De Leon & Leno). This bill, signed into law by Governor Brown in October, 2015, calls for a doubling of energy efficiency in buildings and a 50% increase in renewable energy by 2030. This is a win for cleaner, healthier, more sustainable communities and the creation of new green economy jobs. Read the SB 350 Group Letter of Support and our own SB 350 Letter of Support.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (De Leon). Signed into law in 2012, this program directs money from the cap-and-trade program (part of AB 32) into California’s most disadvantaged communities. This was a big win for the most vulnerable neighborhoods as it ensures they benefit from the pollution fees collected by the state. The Coalition for Clean Air and others put together this helpful fact sheet on how money actually gets to neighborhoods under SB 535.
Sustainable Communities & Climate Protection Act of 2008 (Steinberg). Because much of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, this legislation called for an integrated approach to land use and transportation planning. If communities grow in a way that demands less driving, it will help improve air quality and a number of other co-benefits. You can learn more about SB 375 from our partners at ClimatePlan, and learn more about our local implementation of this program on our Community page.