The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released the public review draft of the Proposed California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) 3.0.  This latest update incorporates recent data for nearly all indicators, improvements in the way some indicators are calculated, and two new indicators – cardiovascular disease and rent-adjusted income.  The update also removes the “age” indicator for children and the elderly, as it did not adequately measure age vulnerability, and includes additional information on pollution sources in Mexico.  

The CalEnviroScreen uses a suite of statewide indicators and assigns scores for each indicator in a given geographic area (census tracts).  Scores for the pollution burden and population characteristics categories are then multiplied together, thus basically eliminating areas of the state with good air quality from being defined as disadvantaged communities, no matter what the population’s socioeconomic characteristics represent.  While the intent of this tool is to provide state agencies with a means to prioritize and direct their resources and make policy decisions intended to benefit the most impacted communities, RCRC is concerned that strictly using the CalEnviroScreen scores unfairly limits rural county eligibility for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) monies earmarked for disadvantaged communities.  Rural areas cannot compete in many of the AB 32 programs since they cannot demonstrate the “biggest bang for the buck.”  Being denied access to the “disadvantaged community” designation basically eliminates these counties from any access to the funds.

RCRC believes that CalEnviroScreen should keep the pollution burdens scores separate from the population characteristics scores, allowing the top scores from both categories to be defined as disadvantaged communities and the opportunity for rural areas to receive some direct benefit from the GRRF monies.  In addition, there should be a mechanism to allow a local jurisdiction to demonstrate how a community, smaller than a census tract, can meet the definition of a disadvantaged community. 

Comments on Proposed CalEnviroScreen 3.0 are due October 21, 2016.  The Proposed CalEnviroScreen 3.0 and additional information can be accessed here.