Taking a Stand for Their Communities' Health

Low-income California communities concerned with environmental justice have launched a 21-point "Environmental Justice Movement Declaration." Their position is a challenge to the policies of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is a "national advocate of a cap-and-trade program that would allow heavy polluters, often located in poor neighborhoods, to partly buy their way out of lowering their emissions." Eighteen groups signed the Declaration, including San Joaquin Valley Latino Environmental Advance Project, Oakland's West County Toxics Coalition, the L.A. chapter of the Physicians for Social Responsibility and Delano's Assn. of Irritated Residents. Absent were the "Big Green" groups like Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. "'Under a trading scheme, 11 power plants to be built around Los Angeles could offset emissions by extracting methane from coal seams in Utah or planting trees in Manitoba,' said Jane Williams of the California Communities Against Toxics, which fights pollution in low-income areas." "Cap and trade is a charade to continue business as usual," said Angela Johnson Meszaros, director of the California Environmental Rights Alliance. Cap and trade is an element of the climate bill that has the most support in Congress. It is sponsored by Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.