Protecting California’s Disadvantaged CommunitiesâAn Examination of How the State’s New Environmental Justice Laws May Affect the CEQA Entitlement Process
by Martin P. Stratte* and George H. Kenline**
According to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s Cal Enviroscreen tool, more than 9 million Californians are exposed to and at risk from high pollution.1 Many of the Californians impacted by high pollution reside in disadvantaged communities. In an effort to reduce the impacts of pollution on these communities, the state has enacted new "environmental justice" legislationâSenate Bill 1000 ("SB 1000") and Assembly Bill ("AB 617").
Although SB 1000 and AB 617 are separate and distinct legislation, the laws are both intended to protect disadvantaged communities. Accordingly, the laws have the potential to work hand-in-hand in practice and may also have significant implications on the entitlement of development projects in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA").
This article will examine some of those potential implications and related questions, such as how lead agencies will substantiate the approval of future projects that will cause significant and unavoidable impacts in disadvantaged communities, yet also demonstrate compliance with applicable environmental justice policies and solutions.