Environmental Justice in California Government
Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) | October 1st, 2003
In California, we have spent over a century and billions of dollars to preserve and protect the environment for current and future generations. The EJ movement asks us to put real people in that environment, particularly the most vulnerable populations such as ethnic minorities, low-income persons, the young and the elderly. In a nutshell, EJ can be said to be the vision and process of creating socially just, sustainable human and ecological systems, where all participate fully in decisions affecting their lives.
The Governor’s Office of Planning & Research (OPR) assists the Governor and the Administration in land use planning, research, liaison with local government, small business advocacy, rural policy, and various interagency taskforces. 1999 legislation defined EJ in California law and also established OPR as the coordinating agency in state government for environmental justice (EJ) efforts. The placement of the central EJ program within OPR demonstrates the Legislature’s understanding that EJ efforts require coordination at the highest level of state government. Indeed, California is the only state that has placed its EJ effort within
the Chief Executive’s Office.
The legislation establishing OPR as the “coordinating agency in state government for environmental justice programs” (California Government Code § 65040.12) directs the OPR director to consult with state agencies and interested members of the public and private sectors in this state, coordinate its efforts and share information regarding EJ programs with federal agencies, and review and evaluate any information from federal agencies that is obtained as a result of their respective regulatory activities.
This policy report is intended to provide a brief history of EJ, report on the status of OPR’s efforts, and provide an outline of EJ findings, goals and policies for future EJ efforts within state government. Much work remains to ensure that the most vulnerable of Californians, including people of color and low-income persons, are treated with dignity and respect regarding environmental decisions. OPR views its work thus far as a modest, although significant beginning.