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Collaboration and Ongoing Partnership Are Key To Effective Environmental Enforcement

EJ community members work with DTSC and other government staff as well as academia to solve environmental harms.

T he DTSC Environmental Justice Enforcement Initiative brings a new and unconventional approach to environmental enforcement.

It was designed to address complaints about environmental enforcement in California, particularly the lack of enforcement in EJ communities. The Initiative also furthers DTSC’s compliance with California’s Environmental Justice law, which marked its 10year anniversary in 2009.3

Environmental enforcement authority in California is decentralized, compartmentalized and fragmented. It’s not unusual for state and local environmental agencies to employ different enforcement priorities and strategies. As a result, there are variations in programs, which impact the enforcement of environmental and health laws. A clear result of this fragmentation is that violation rates have been found to be higher in some areas than others, and “hot spots” of unlawful environmental conduct exist in the state.

These hot spots are invariably found in EJ communities.4

The Initiative measures success by looking at enforcement work in specific EJ communities. But we don’t just count cases opened and cases closed. We share the innovative enforcement tools that were employed in the enforcement work and the benefits obtained for the communities.

On one hand, we emphasize the effectiveness of partnering with EJ communities to help enforcement staff identify and reduce toxic harms efficiently. On the other, we examine the extent that EJ communities have been empowered and how a focused, coordinated effort at the community level contributes to specific improvements in the daily lives of the families that work, live and play in environ


________________________________ 3 California became the first state in the nation with an

environmental justice law following passage and signing of SB 115 (Solis) in 1999. Government Code Section 65040.12 defines environmental justice in the state as “the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and policies.” (Emphasis added)

4 For example, see Natural Resources Defense Council

(NRDC), “An Uneven Shield: The Record of Enforcement and Violations under California’s Environmental, Health, and Workplace Safety Laws” (October 2008) at http:// www.nrdc.org/legislation/shield/shield.pdf Also see Marianne Lavelle and Marcia Coyle, “Unequal Protection: The Racial Divide in Environmental Law,” National Law Journal, September 21, 1992, S1S12.


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