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Health

California Environmental Protection Agency Maps Areas Most Burdened By Pollution

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Gas is flared as waste from the Monterey Shale formation where gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is on the verge of a boom on March 22, 2014 near Buttonwillow, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Gas is flared as waste from the Monterey Shale formation where gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is on the verge of a boom on March 22, 2014 near Buttonwillow, California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – The California Environmental Protection Agency has identified the areas of the state that are facing multiple pollution burdens, mapped through a science-based tool.

The California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen) was first released in April 2013.  It was primarily designed to assist Cal/EPA in identifying the portions of the state that have higher pollution burdens and vulnerabilities than other areas, and therefore are most in need of assistance.

The first version used existing environmental, health, demographic and socioeconomic data to create a screening score for communities across the state. Areas with higher scores would be expected to experience much higher impacts.

This latest version also incorporates the additional indicators of drinking water and unemployment rates, modifies the geographic scale by using census tracts, and enhances the current indicators by incorporation of the most up-to-date information.

CalEnviroScreen informs state officials of disadvantaged communities pursuant to Senate Bill 535 from state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). The bill, signed into law in 2012, requires the California EPA to identify disadvantaged communities based on geographic, socioeconomic, public health and environmental hazard criteria. It also requires that the investment plan developed allocate no less than 25 percent of available proceeds from the carbon auctions held under California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 to projects that will benefit these disadvantaged communities.

The maps using the CalEnviroScreen methodology identify the highest 10 and 20 percent of the census tracts with the highest scores.

While the majority of the census tracts with the highest scores are located in Southern California, many areas of the Bay Area also rank in the top 10-20 percent. The areas that are affected the most are in the South Bay, East Bay (Oakland, Richmond and Concord in particular), and Gilroy.

The residents of many of the areas with the worst pollution pockets include largely low-income residents who don’t have much of a say in improving conditions in their area.

Click here for a map of the highest scoring areas.

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