California's frontline communities remain under significant financial and health pressure, as the ongoing pandemic and climate crisis continue to disproportionately impact the health and livelihoods of their low-income and Black, Latino, and Asian American and Pacific Islander residents. The weakness of the California Legislature's response to this reality is reflected in the recently released 2022 Environmental Justice Scorecard from the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), which graded state legislators on their 2022 votes on environmental justice issues.
Last year fewer legislators received "A" grades than in previous years, and 50 legislators received an "F" grade. While this downward trend is alarming, there were encouraging bright spots as several important environmental justice bills were passed. However, those successes did not outweigh the negative impact of legislators helping pass bills that undercut the California Environmental Quality Act, and voting against bills that would create transformative solutions to our climate and economic crises.
Deep, systemically racist health and economic injustices continue to plague California's communities. Pollution disproportionately endangers the health and life expectancy of communities of color that already suffer from higher rates of pre-existing medical conditions.
Unless equitable, environmentally just policies are enacted to correct historic environmental racism-exacerbated by the ongoing climate crisis-inequities and health disparities will only get worse for California's Black, Indigenous, and people-of-color communities.
In 2022, grassroots action from environmental justice advocates and engaged communities of color saw four environmental justice bills pass the legislature with three signed by the governor into law. A ban on exploiting carbon capture by the oil and gas industries will prevent increased pollution in our communities, while health and safety buffer zones between oil and gas drilling sites and homes, schools, and hospitals will benefit all Californians. Additionally, community electric storage and solar energy will help working families save money on energy bills while unplugging communities from dirty energy.
While these measures will positively impact the health and livelihood of all Californians, in last year's legislative session it still proved difficult to achieve commonplace health protections in the legislature without making significant concessions to industries that may well undermine positive outcomes.
As our state faces extended drought, climate-amplified wildfire, and an ongoing pollution and health crisis, California lawmakers must address long-standing environmental racism with bold, equitable policies for low-income and working-class families across the state who are living on the frontlines of poverty and pollution.
Read CEJA's 2022 Scorecard and voice your disappointment about poor environmental justice voting records and help drive our representatives to recommit to the communities they represent and the reverse the disproportionate suffering faced by their residents. Contact your legislator now and let them know that taking actions to improve our health and quality of life matters to you. Urge them to prioritize and support environmental justice and remind them that their failure to do so will not go unnoticed.