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California EPA to focus on improving enforcement in target areas

June 28th, 2013 | by Ian James | Comments

The state Environmental Protection Agency is forming a new working group focused on improving enforcement of environmental laws in communities that face particularly hazardous pollution problems.

Secretary Matthew Rodriquez said in a statement Friday that creating the working group will “ensure that California communities disproportionately affected by pollution are given particular consideration.”

The effort will bring together enforcement efforts by the agency’s boards and departments, said Alex Barnum, an agency spokesman.

“It allows them to work collaboratively and take action on multiple types of pollution,” Barnum said. “That’s important in these communities that are facing pollution from multiple sources.”

Those sources, depending on the area, can include a combination of air and water pollution, waste sites and pesticides.

The working group will use a new tool called CalEnviroScreen to pinpoint communities disproportionately burdened by pollution and establish priority areas. The tool provides a map showing the top 10 percent of highest scoring zip codes in the state, and among them is Coachella (92236), where officials have determined there are relatively high levels of ozone, pesticides and “groundwater threats.”

Luis Olmedo, executive director of the local environmental health advocacy group Comite Civico Del Valle, praised the creation of the statewide working group as an important step in aiding communities exposed to pollution.

“This is definitely one of Secretary Rodriguez’s finest hours,” Olmedo said. “However, the seriousness of this effort will need to be matched with financial support.”

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