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Rubi Barreto stands with her daughter in their backyard in the Delhi neighborhood of Santa Ana, CA, on October 29, 2019.

Four years ago, California passed a groundbreaking environmental justice bill that requires the state’s local governments to address pollution, contamination, and other hazards in disadvantaged communities by integrating environmental justice principles into their municipal planning processes and thoroughly engaging communities before updating their general plans. The goal was to reduce pollution exposure and improve air quality for the communities that need it the most.

But implementation of the new law, known as Senate Bill 1000 (SB 1000), has been tricky. To try to ensure that local governments comply, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s bureau of environmental justice has sent letters to nearly a dozen municipalities offering feedback, pointing out shortcomings, and giving guidance on how to better comply with the law. In a June letter to rural Tulare County, for example, the bureau urged the county not to rush through its general plan update before fully engaging with disadvantaged communities, and to account for the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic poses for community engagement.

Those were the same concerns that environmental justice advocates h... Read more

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