This blog was written by Nicole Chang from ClimatePlan. For more information on ClimatePlan, check out their website.

Thanks to the work of advocates, Southwest Stockton has been approved to be a part of the 2019 Community Air Protection Program (CAPP). This program stems from AB 617 (Garcia, 2017); This important air quality legislation laid the groundwork for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to establish the CAPP to reduce the exposure and health effects in communities most impacted by air pollution. The CAPP provides funding to deploy cleaner technology and support community participation in planning. The path to CAPP funding was paved by advocates and residents’ work on the Rise Stockton project and their continued engagement in their neighborhoods to build a groundswell of community support to improve the air they breathe.

Getting the approval to be part of the program is important in Southwest Stockton because of the high environmental burdens. According to CalEnviroScreen—a tool that identifies communities disproportionately burdened and vulnerable to sources of pollution—the Port of Stockton has the highest scores possible in pollution burdens: a burden percentile of 100%. As seen in the figure below, one of causes for this high burden percentile is the rise of PM 2.5 emissions within Stockton. PM 2.5 are very small air particles that can lead to breathing problems such as asthma, heart, or lung disease.

Stockton-Hazelton PM 2.5 Concentrations

While city planners and community based organizations have taken steps to reduce emissions—such as the electrification of some buses—there is more that needs to be done to ensure that Stockton has the same advantages as other Californian communities. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton Environmental Justice (EJ) Program and their partners started their application to the AB 617 Community Air Protection Program because the CAPP would assist the city in its efforts to update and expand clean technologies. Moreover, with the funds, the city would be able to create an air monitoring system, which will identify the sources of these harmful pollutants.

How Southwest Stockton Was Approved

In 2018, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton Environmental Justice Project and their partners formed the San Joaquin Valley Environmental Justice Collaborative Steering Committee. You can find out more about this group and their work here in this report.

While Stockton wasn’t nominated in Year 1, it was the continued work of the Catholic Charities and other environmental justice advocates that made Southwest Stockton competitive. Their work made it possible for them to receive the Transformative Climate Communities Planning Grant (TCC) and create the initiative, Rise Stockton. Rise Stockton strengthened the partnerships between the city, community based organizations, and residents, who together co-created a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. While Rise Stockton was significant in terms of creating strong partnerships and addressing air pollution, more was needed to tackle the challenges faced by Southwest Stockton.

When the deadline for nomination letters for Year 2 for the CAPP came around, Catholic Charities and the rest of the steering committee reconvened with lessons learned from the Year 1 selection process, and updated the assessment and selection methodology.

The Steering Committee nominated Southwest Stockton first because of the significant challenges and opportunities to reduce air pollution. CARB approved Southwest Stockton for the CAPP, in part because of the effective partnerships from the TCC grant, and the fact that Stockton had the highest pollution burden in CalEnviroScreen.

Present and Next Steps for Catholic Charities

With the CAPP in place, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton is currently working with their partners to understand the community in its context. So far, they have convened community experts—residents, students, community based organizations, businesses, public agencies, and city staff—to understand community priorities. They have also gathered interest for the steering committee meetings. The steering committee will then provide the full picture of where emissions are coming from and create a plan to improve air quality.

Up next on the agenda is developing a community survey and assessment to get more information on community needs. Catholic Charities along with its partners will also provide workshops and education around AB 617, air quality, air pollution and health impacts to support advocacy efforts. All of these actions will lead residents and stakeholders to a greater understanding of the Port’s main sources of pollution and find solutions to mitigate the effects.

If you’re in Stockton and interested in sharing your community priorities, please reach out to Veronica or Jonathan at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton’s Environmental Justice Project.