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Environmental Justice as Environmental Impact: The Intersection of Environmental Justice, Climate Change, and the California Environmental Quality Act

Bloomberg BNA’s expert authors analyze how Environmental Justice advocates in California have integrated climate change into traditional environmental concerns, not by pushing new legislation, but by presenting arguments based on existing language in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

 

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By Peter Hsiao, David Gold,Miles Imwalle, and Jennifer Jeffers

Environmental justice (EJ) has long been an area of significant policy interest in California. More recently, new social, demographic, and economic considerations, including new challenges associated with climate change, have become increasingly integrated with traditional “environmental” concerns. However, there have historically been few legal tools available to aggressively promote EJ principals, particularly with respect to the development and siting of major new projects. EJ advocates have recently attempted to change that, not by pursuing new legislation, but rather by presenting new and creative arguments based on existing language in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While it is commonplace for environmental advocacy organizations to push the law in new and novel directions, this latest effort is distinctive in being aggressively promoted by the California Attorney General Kamala Harris. If her efforts are successful, it would mark a radical expansion in the role played by CEQA from environmental protection to social justice.


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