New Report Finds California’s Clean Energy Law Could Improve Air Quality, Environmental Justice

A new report, Minding The Climate Gap, authored by Manuel Pastor, Ph.D., Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ph.D., MPH, James Sadd, Ph.D., and Justin Scoggins, M.S. concludes that in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, California’s climate and clean energy law, known as AB 32, could result in air quality benefits for many of the state’s most disadvantaged communities — if properly implemented. The state’s most significant air polluters (power plants, petroleum refineries, cement kilns) are disparately located in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. As a result, these communities bear disproportionate health costs from poor air quality.  Minding The Climate Gap finds that AB 32’s greenhouse gas regulations could further environmental justice in California by reducing traditional air pollutants, including particulate matter, sulfates, and volatile organic compounds. 

Our clean air and energy law is currently under attack in the California Legislature and by an initiative group led by two Texas-based oil companies, whose facilities would be subject to the new regulations. Several bills threaten to derail successful implement of the law. For example, SB 1263 (Wyland – R) would essentially render AB 32 inoperative, and AB 2529 (Fuentes – D) would create legislative and administrative roadblocks to the law. Notwithstanding a recent report from the California Air Resources Board, which concludes that AB 32 will result in steady job creation and will support modest economic growth over the next ten years, opponents of the law are currently circulating signature petitions to place a measure on the November ballot that would essentially shelve it.

Minding The Climate Gap urges California legislators and air quality regulators to properly implement AB 32 in order to simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traditional air pollutants in communities bearing the brunt of California’s poorest air quality.  The report’s authors recommend several policy options aimed at efficiently regulating these pollutants. They advise using AB 32 not only to effect substantial health and air quality benefits, but to create jobs when establishing regulatory mechanisms for California’s most polluted regions.  In sum, Minding The Climate Gap details California’s opportunity to remedy one of the state’s most persistently overlooked instances of environmental injustice.  The full report can be found here.