Neighborhood Assessment Program Background
This page last reviewed October 21, 2010
Representatives from some communities and environmental groups have for sometime maintained that minority communities and communities of lower economic status are more impacted by environmental pollution than other communities. They argue that current regulatory protocols continue to promote disproportionate impacts by allowing greater air pollution exposures in some communities compared to others, and that government agencies must pay attention to environmental equity (in terms of health protection) when drafting regulations. There is growing acceptance for this argument by many public interest groups, but no clear guidance exists as to how to assess air pollution impacts at the neighborhood-scale.
Efforts are underway to address this issue at local, state, and federal levels. Pursuant to the President's Executive Order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has recently set up an environmental justice (EJ) Program.
One effort at the local level that has gained wide recognition is the
South Coast Air Quality Management District's (SCAQMD) 10-point EJ initiative. As part of this effort, SCAQMD and ARB conducted the Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study II (MATES II) with a final report released in March 2000. MATES II was a community oriented monitoring,
analysis, and modeling study specifically targeting residential areas which could be influenced by nearby sources of toxic emissions. At the state level, Governor Davis signed the Senate Bill 115 (Solis, 1999). This bill requires the California Environmental Protection Agency
(Cal/EPA) to develop an EJ mission statement by January 1, 2001. In the bill, EJ is defined as "the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and
In recent months, various stakeholders have approached Dr. Alan Lloyd, the ARB Chairman, to discuss the options available for reducing impacts in a community adversely affected by multiple emission sources. Additionally, ARB staff, after reviewing the state's air toxics program, recommended that the state's program be enhanced by conducting cumulative impact evaluations (mobile, stationary and area sources).
Staff also recognizes that scientific limitations as well as the lack of definitive legal mandates have constrained the assessment of impacts of multiple emissions sources on a receptor-site within a community. From an air quality perspective, evaluating EJ issues and identifying differences in impacts among communities will require determining cumulative exposures, which is a technically difficult task. Subsequently, the exposure data would be used to project potential health impacts at the neighborhood-scale as well as explore risk reduction strategies.
Within this context, Dr. Lloyd directed his Community Health Advisor to evaluate the issue of neighborhood impacts and to prepare a work plan for addressing it. The Chairman also directed his staff to meet with stakeholders to discuss and gather their views, opinions, and recommendations. Accordingly, staff from the Chairman's Office met with over 20 outside individuals in addition to key ARB management and staff. Based on these discussions, staff from the Office of Community Health recommended that the establishment of an internal ARB work group would be a useful first step. This work plan reflects the input of the work group and is based on the following principles:
- The program should lead to the development of guidelines for performing a receptor-based air pollution impact assessment that addresses both criteria and toxic pollutants by the end of 2003.
- The program should receive high priority, and should, wherever possible, rely on ongoing and planned ARB programst to save resources.
- The program should build on the existing state air toxics data and programs, the MATES II analyses, and the ongoing Barrio Logan monitoring and evaluation efforts.
- Public/stakeholder participation should be provided at appropriate stages of the program development process.
While the primary focus of the work plan is to develop assessment tools, by necessity, selected risk reduction related tasks have been included to address high-exposure or high-risk situations. In this regard, if staff encounter a high-risk situation during NAP-related air quality monitoring and modeling efforts, appropriate action will be taken, in consultation with the local air district and stakeholder groups. Staff will work within the existing regulatory structure to develop near-term solutions to any high-risk situation encountered.
Although the critical first step of the work plan is the development of assessment tools, staff believes that it is equally important to begin exploring long-term policy options as soon as possible. This is a difficult task and will require input from various stakeholders. Thus, the plan includes the establishment of a stakeholders group to begin this work. Ideally, a consensus can be reached on the mechanism for incorporating cumulative impact assessments into the decision making process in the same time frame that the assessment tools are developed.
Work Plan Steps: