Tuesday, June 12, 2012

California Cap & Trade Discrimination Complaint To EPA

The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment has filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday on behalf of a coalition of environmental justice and civil rights activists alleging that cap-and-trade provisions in California's pioneering program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions discriminate against people of color.

The groups, which represent minority communities, accused the California Air Resources Board of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it agreed to allow polluters in low-income areas to use carbon offsets to buy their way out of pollution reduction under the state's global warming reduction plan. Cap and trade allows them to buy allowances from other facilities or offsets from out of state or even internationally, denying communities next to refineries and other polluting businesses the benefits that would occur through direct regulationwhich filed the complaint.

The groups assert that it is discrimination because these communities, which are overwhelmingly populated by people of color are very close to cap-and-trade facilities. In particular, the African American population is disproportionately affected.

The groups fought against oil companies and global warming skeptics to support - AB32, the landmark law passed in 2006 that requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  However, the groups opposed the cap and trade provision of AB32 and want to see the benefits on site in the communities that suffer from disproportionately large numbers of pollution-caused illnesses. The EPA complaint mirrors a lawsuit previously filed by the same groups that is still pending in state court.

The Air Resources Board believes efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, including cap-and-trade provisions, will benefit every community, but the goal of AB32 was to reduce statewide carbon emissions, not localized smog. There are separate regulations, he said, that control diesel emissions from buses and trucks and restrict smokestack pollution in ports and rail yards.

The EPA's Office of Civil Rights now has 20 days to decide whether to accept the complaint. If it is accepted, then regulators will have 180 days to investigate the case and make a preliminary finding. The complaint cites studies that show that people of color make up 66 percent of the state's population most heavily hit by pollution, with African Americans making up the vast majority of the victims. (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/12/2012)

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