Attorney General Becerra Establishes Bureau of Environmental Justice
Bureau to Protect Communities that Endure Disproportionate Share of Environmental Pollution
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that he is establishing a Bureau of Environmental Justice (Bureau) within the Environment Section at the California Department of Justice. The Bureau’s mission will be to protect people and communities that endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and public health hazards. This will be accomplished through oversight, investigation, and enforcement of the law. The Bureau’s attorneys will work primarily with attorneys in the Environment Section handling environmental enforcement matters on behalf of Attorney General Becerra. They will also coordinate with and utilize the expertise of other sections within the Attorney General’s Office, as needed.
“Today is a special day. The harsh reality is that some communities in California – particularly low-income communities and communities of color – continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land use decisions, transportation, and trade corridors. Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention. That’s why I’m establishing the Bureau of Environmental Justice,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “To all who advocate for environmental justice, the California Department of Justice will work with you and fight for a clean, safe and healthy environment. We have a moral and legal responsibility to do so.”
“Far too many disadvantaged Californian communities, like those in my district, have been rendered vulnerable due to disproportionate impacts of pollution, contamination, and other egregious environmental violations. I commend the Attorney General’s leadership and I am proud to put forward legislation to extend resources into this critical new Environmental Justice Bureau,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Justice should not be reserved for communities who can afford to investigate and litigate parties that break the law. The launch of this bureau along with the introduction of AB 2636 is the first step of empowering environmentally disenfranchised areas with tools to take charge of their own destiny with the means to significantly improve their public health and overall prosperity.”
"We commend Attorney General Becerra for this unprecedented commitment and effort to prioritize enforcement actions and legal protections for communities that have borne unconscionable health and safety impacts from polluting industries and sources,” said Gladys Limón, Executive Director of California Environmental Justice Alliance. “The establishment of the new Bureau of Environmental Justice is a significant step in providing the necessary level of protection for those communities at greatest risk from those impacts and that have for too long been neglected. We look forward to working with the Bureau to ensure that its promise for these communities is realized.”
"Far too many families in California suffer from both poverty and pollution – in fact, they usually go hand in hand. That’s why the Dream Corps and Green For All applaud Attorney General Becerra for his leadership in fighting for families and creating the Environmental Justice Bureau,” said Vien Truong, CEO of Dream Corps & Director of Green For All. “Families across the state will breathe a sigh of relief with the promise of justice and accountability for polluters.”
The Bureau will use the law enforcement powers of the Attorney General’s Office to identify and pursue matters affecting communities on the frontlines of the pollution battle. In addition, the Bureau will work with stakeholders from all sides, along with local and state agencies, to address enforcement objectives.
The Bureau’s oversight and enforcement work will focus on:
- Ensuring compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and land use planning laws;
- Remediating contaminated drinking water;
- Eliminating or reducing exposure to lead and other toxins in the environment and consumer products;
- Challenging the federal government’s actions that repeal or reduce public health and environmental protections; and
- Penalizing and preventing illegal discharges to air and water from facilities located in communities already burdened disproportionately with pollution.
Since taking office, Attorney General Becerra has made protecting the environment a top priority. Of the nearly 30 lawsuits he has filed at the federal level, almost half have been aimed at ensuring that our children can breathe clean air and drink clean water. Attorney General Becerra has not lost an environmental lawsuit to date. Among his many efforts, he has joined, through an amicus brief, the City of Oakland’s efforts to prohibit for health and safety reasons the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke at one of its port terminals; filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over its decision to repeal regulations governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of oil and gas wells drilled on federal and Native American tribal lands; challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to suspend the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which would protect California’s lakes, rivers, and streams from pollutants; submitted a 30-page comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on due process violations, lack of fairness, and ethical lapses that arise from Administrator Scott Pruitt’s involvement in the proposed rulemaking to repeal the Clean Power Plan; and called on the Administration to immediately withdraw its proposal to open California’s coast to new offshore drilling.