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Cumulative environmental vulnerability and environmental justice in California's San Joaquin Valley.

  • Author(s): Huang, Ganlin;
  • London, Jonathan K
  • et al.

The identification of "environmental justice (EJ) communities" is an increasingly common element in environmental planning, policy, and regulation. As a result, the choice of methods to define and identify these communities is a critical and often contentious process. This contentiousness is, in turn, a factor of the lack of a commonly accepted method, the concern among many EJ advocates and some regulators that existing frameworks are inadequate, and ultimately, the significant consequences of such designations for both public policy and community residents. With the aim of assisting regulators and advocates to more strategically focus their efforts, the authors developed a Cumulative Environmental Vulnerability Assessment (CEVA). This CEVA is composed of a Cumulative Environmental Hazard Index and a Social Vulnerability Index, with a Health Index as a reference. Applying CEVA produces spatial analysis that identifies the places that are subject to both the highest concentrations of cumulative environmental hazards and the fewest social, economic and political resources to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to these conditions. We recommended that these areas receive special consideration in permitting, monitoring, and enforcement actions, as well as investments in public participation, capacity building, and community economic development.

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