Brown Signs Bill to Combat Air Pollution at Neighborhood Level

By Gloria Alvarez, Managing Editor

Gov. Jerry Brown in Bell Gardens Wednesday signs AB 617 authored by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).

Gov. Jerry Brown in Bell Gardens Wednesday signs AB 617 authored by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).

BELL GARDENS – Gov. Jerry Brown was in Bell Gardens Wednesday to sign a bill state legislators say will help local communities monitor and fight air pollution in their neighborhoods.

Assembly Bill 617, authored by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) “establishes a groundbreaking program to measure and combat air pollution at the neighborhood level – in the communities most impacted.” Garcia said in a statement.

AB 617 is one of two bills aimed at fighting climate control. The other bill, AB 398 extends to 2030 cap-and-trade program, which allows industry to pay for permits to pollute.

Lawmakers in areas with high levels of air pollution lobbied hard for AB 617’s passage in return for their support of the governor’s cap-and-trade bill, one of his top legislative priorities. They s wanted to ensure that local neighborhoods like those surrounding the now shuttered Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon had additional resources and control mechanisms to combat the damage caused by industries polluting in their constituents’ backyards.

Back in May, Assemblywoman Garcia took the governor on a close-up tour of Commerce and Bell Gardens so he could sample first hand the traffic, pollution, and industries that have long wreaked havoc on the health of residents living in east and southeast Los Angeles County.

The tour included stops around the 710 overpass at Florence, the perimeter of the Commerce rail yard, Bandini Park and the brownfield at Garfield and Gage (in Commerce).

“Today, the Governor got to breathe the same air as I have all my life,” the assembywoman said in a statement following the tour. Gov. Brown “looked across the brownfields that surround my communities and met with my neighbors who share our communities’ concerns,” she said.

The authors of AB 617 did not believe governor’s cap-and-trade program was doing enough to protect local communities from pollution-related health hazards.

On Wednesday, their effort to allow greater local control was signed into law.

“We passed these bills today for people like Maria who takes care of her five grandchildren in a one bedroom apartment in Bell Gardens but is afraid to let the kids play outside in the poisoned air, and for Rocio who grows vegetables for her family in Commerce, but worries they could be toxic from the contaminated soil,” said Assemblywoman Garcia, Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

“This package, though historic, is only a strong down-payment. We have much work ahead of us to address regions, like mine, that have been treated like wastelands for generations. Justice is never swift. Environmental justice won’t be either. California is at the tipping point of greatness and I have no intention of letting my home go backwards again.”

AB 617 establishes a statewide program to address air pollution in neighborhoods with the dirtiest air. It aims to improve local air quality “through neighborhood air monitoring and targeted action plans that require pollution reductions from mobile and stationary sources with strong enforcement and timetables.”

The new law also requires large industrial facilities, including oil refineries, in California’s most polluted communities to upgrade old, dirty equipment with cleaner, more modern technology by December 2023 at the latest. It also increases penalties against polluters for the first time in more than 35 years.

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July 27, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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