As Gov. Jerry Brown seeks support to extend a key environmental policy in California, he is planning a trip to a gritty corner of the state: the blue-collar neighborhoods southeast of Los Angeles, where thousands of people live alongside rail yards that spew plumes of smoke and freeways rumbling with big rigs.
Brown is better known as a global environmentalist: His zeal for fighting climate change has taken him to Paris, Rome and Canada for meetings with world leaders, and he’s going to China next month for a clean energy forum with officials from two dozen countries.
But his Los Angeles trip reflects the rise of environmental justice concerns inside the Capitol. A new generation of legislators and the growing clout of eco-advocates from urban communities is changing the focus of environmental debates in California. Once sidelined as a fringe voice of activism, the “environmental justice” perspective — focused on how environmental decisions impact poor communities and people of color — is now at the center of high-profile deliberations.
It’s emerged at the California Air Resources Board, which is overseeing plans by Volkswagen to invest $800 million in the state as part of the legal settlement over its emissions cheating scandal. And it’s become pervasive at the state Capitol, where lawmakers are wrestling with proposals to extend California’s cap-and-trade program, a key piece of the state’s fight against global warming that makes industry pay for emitting too many greenhouse gases. The environmental justice perspective is gradually coming into the…
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