NEWS: Long Beach Democrat wants to add 2 EJ members to South Coast air board

Posted April 14th, 2021

The Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Monday approved a bill to add two environmental justice-focused members to a powerful board overseeing air quality in the Los Angeles basin.

What happened: CA SB342 (21R), by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), would add two legislative appointees to the South Coast Air Quality Management Board in an attempt to give environmental justice groups more influence over air regulations in one of the state’s largest, most polluted regions.

The bill would increase the board’s membership from 13 to 15 people. It would reserve the new seats for appointees that live in and work with communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution and have diverse racial and ethnic makeups and low-income residents.

A similar proposal by former Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon to add three environmental justice members to the South Coast board failed in 2016 due to opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

In 2015, however, then-Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins — who is now the Senate president pro tem — succeeded in adding two environmental justice representatives to the statewide Air Resources Board in CA AB1288 (15R).

I think the time is now to turn the page and make sure we have environmental justice voices at the table,” Gonzalez said Monday.

The bill drew opposition from oil industry groups and labor unions representing iron and electrical workers, including the Western States Petroleum Association and the California Independent Petroleum Association.”

We believe that identifying one particular group for appointment will just serve to balkanize the board,” said Scott Wetch, a lobbyist representing pipefitter and electrical workers.

Opposition also came from the Los Angeles County Business Federation, which is opposing a board proposal up next month that would mandate lower emissions from trucks traveling to and from warehouses. The group said SB 342 would give more power to “Sacramento-based unelected” appointees and dilute the influence of regional Los Angeles officials that appoint most of the board members.

What’s next: The bill heads to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.

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