CalEnviroScreen and CHERP
Updated: Apr 3
As one of the activities carried out under the auspices of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), CalEnviroScreen maps show how pollution affects communities throughout the state. In 2017, OEHHA released their third iteration of CalEnviroScreen, done on behalf of the California Environmental Protection Agency. CalEnviroScreen 3.0 was updated the following year to more clearly demonstrate burdens of and vulnerabilities to pollution within California communities.
By using 19 indicators, CalEnviroScreen computes the pollution burden and popular characteristics of a location. These two components are then combined to identify disadvantaged communities, as articulated by California Senate Bill (SB) 535. Areas that fall within the top 25% of the CalEnviroScreen scoring system qualify as disadvantaged. According to SB 535, disadvantaged areas receive 25% of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, established by the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
Since its inception, more than $11 billion have been appropriated to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, continuing to support transportation and sustainable communities, clean energy and energy efficiency, and natural resources and waste diversion initiatives.
The OEHHA developed a model to assess political burdens, namely exposures and environmental effects, and population characteristics, specifically sensitive populations and socioeconomic factors. Exposures include air quality, diesel particulates, drinking water contaminants, pesticides, and toxic releases, while environmental effect indicators take cleanup sites, groundwater threats, impaired bodies of water, and hazardous and solid waste sites and facilities into consideration.
Sensitive populations fall into three main categories, those with asthma or cardiovascular disease as well as low birth weight infants. Education, housing, linguistic isolation, poverty, and unemployment fall under the category of socioeconomic factor indicator.
Indicators for each of these four categories are assessed for each census tract in California, areas defined by the 2010 census. Each track holds roughly 1,200 to 1,800 people, making for about 8,000 total census tracts in the state.
According to the model, a census tract’s overall CalEnviroScreen score is calculated by combining averaged exposure and environmental effect scores and multiplying them by the average sensitive population and socioeconomic factor scores.
The history, procedural, and technical aspects of CalEnviroScreen speak to California's dedication to environmental justice. What the CalEnviroScreen scores found attest to the need to address areas of concern, geographically and environmentally.
Based in the Inland Empire, CHERP’s home falls within one of the areas most vulnerable to and burdened by pollution in California. CalEnviroScreen scores for Pomona, California, for example, placed the area within the top five percent of high scores. Among the most significant indicators were the presence of particulate matter, high levels of poverty, and educational attainment.
We, with the CLGP initiative, address these indicators, among others, directly. With CalEnviroScreen scores indicating air pollution in the air at dangerous levels, calls for safer, more efficient energy production remain essential. By making solar power more accessible, we not only clean up the environment, but we also provide a simultaneous alleviation of economic strain upon lower and middle income groups. As the cost of energy consumption comes down thanks to CLGP, households hold onto income dollars, channeling it back into the local economy rather than off to the Utilities and into the proverbial ether.
The benefits - and mitigation of CalEnviroScreen indicators - don’t stop there. CLGP adds jobs to the local community, establishing a factory that manufactures the solar panels destined for Claremont and Pomona rooftops. Local residents, disadvantaged populations, under- and unemployed individuals all gain valuable incomes by working within their community, while also receiving vocational training to propel them along a successful career path. We estimate the creation of more than 760 direct and indirect jobs during the first phase of CLGP, something that can and will be replicated in more and more communities throughout California, the nation, and the world.
CalEnviroScreen scores may appear disheartening. At CHERP and CLGP, we see them as a roadmap to action. Communities that will benefit most from our efforts have been identified for us, areas that we can help while simultaneously expanding the model for carbon mitigation, economic stimulus, job creation, and environmental justice action.