Environmental justice is defined as “the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies” in Government Code Section 65040.12. In 2016, the Governor signed AB 2616 (Burke), which amended the Coastal Act and gives the Commission new authority to specifically consider environmental justice when making permit decisions. This legislation also cross-references existing non-discrimination and civil rights law in the government code and requires the governor to appoint an environmental justice Commissioner to our board.
Governor Brown appointed Vice Chair Turnbull-Sanders as the environmental justice commissioner in 2017.
In 2019, the Coastal Commission unanimously adopted its first environmental justice policy to provide guidance for Commissioners, staff, and the public on how the Commission will implement its environmental justice authority and integrate the principles of environmental justice, equality, and social equity into all aspects of the Commission’s program and operations.
The Coastal Commission acknowledges its role in making California’s coast accessible for all Californians, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status or place of residence. Following extensive public outreach, as well as racial equity and environmental justice training, Commission staff initiated a three-phase approach to integrate the principles of environmental, racial, and social equity throughout the agency.
The three-phase approach includes an environmental justice policy, a racial equity plan, and an ongoing five-year strategic plan, of which the environmental justice policy is the leading effort. The environmental justice policy will guide the Commission to make even better, stronger decisions that protect coastal resources in an equitable manner. It is not meant to be a rigid list of pre-determined responses to every type of development issue, but rather a framework for identifying and analyzing project impacts on underserved and disadvantaged communities. The policy is meant to achieve more meaningful engagement, equitable process, effective communication, and stronger coastal protection benefits for all Californians.
The Tribal Consultation Policy is a separate and distinct policy and process than the draft Environmental Justice Policy. More information about the Tribal Consultation Policy can be found here.