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California Air Resources Board presents 2022 climate action plan in Fresno

CARB presentation 8-5-22.jpg
Soreath Hok
A Fresno listening session drew dozens of participants to comment on California Air Resources Board's 2022 Scoping Plan.

The California Air Resources Board is finalizing its 2022 Scoping Plan, an outline of policies that will shape California’s economy toward carbon neutrality by 2045. Representatives of the agency, known as CARB, toured the state in a series of community listening sessions this week, including a Fresno meeting held Wednesday at Fresno City College where Valley air quality and agriculture were main topics of concern.

The agency develops a new plan once every five years as part of The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which requires by law a sharp reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to transition the state into a low carbon future. This year’s plan is aimed at achieving the state’s interim goal of reducing carbon emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 emissions by 2030. Dozens of recommendations from the agency's Environmental Justice Advisory Committee include increasing incentives for electric vehicles, solar power and other forms of renewable energy, as well as phasing out fossil fuels for transportation and all electric appliances in new and commercial buildings by 2030.

At least 60 people signed up to comment during Fresno’s listening session. Many business advocates voiced concerns about the scoping plan. Clint Olivier, CEO of the Central Valley Business Federation, said it will limit California’s energy resources and cause prices to rise for food and fuel. “Jobs will be affected and economic output will be stifled for so many who are already struggling financially, and especially here in the Central Valley,” he said during public comment.

Others addressed the Valley’s air quality, which the American Lung Association has consistently ranked as some of the country’s worst for particle and ozone pollution. One of the first to address air quality concerns was Brandi Nuse-Villegas, an advocate for Fresno’s unhoused community. “This is very, very pertinent to them because they cannot escape the air,” she said.

Agricultural workers also exposed to outdoor conditions spoke about air pollution concerns, particularly from the use of pesticides. Yalasa Ambriz, a farm worker advocate for the non-profit Central California Environmental Justice Network, called for CARB to better address the use of pesticides in its plan. “I currently live next to a field that is spraying pesticides and I find it important because they do contaminate our communities,” she said. She believed CARB needed to do more than hold a listening session to understand the concerns of the Valley’s ag community. “Actually going out to these sites should be something that should be in their plan. They should be going out to take tours,” she said.

CARB listening session 8-5-22.jpg
Soreath Hok/KVPR
Central Valley residents, business owners, farm workers and advocates packed the meeting at Fresno City College on August 3rd.

Stanley Young, communications director for CARB, emphasized the importance of the listening sessions. Young said the agency has been working on the plan for the past five years. “We've been working on developing the approaches to every single sector in the economy,” he said. “We're in a climate emergency and we need to move as fast as we can.” CARB will consider the comments in developing the final proposal. Three listening sessions were held in Oakland, Fresno, and Los Angeles, and a virtual session will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 9 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Olivia Seideman, climate policy coordinator with the non-profit Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability said the listening sessions didn’t do enough to reach communities in the Central Valley which she said experience the worst effects of climate change. “It’s prohibitive for folks we work with in Kern County, for example, to take four hours out of their day just to travel, not even counting the time at the hearing,” she said.

On its FAQ page, CARB states that in developing the draft plan, over a dozen public workshops, webinars and public meetings were held, including a 45 day public comment period when the first draft of the plan was released in May 2022. The agency held the first of two board hearings to comment on the plan in June 2022, followed by the community listening sessions. A final draft will be released in the fall for public comment, and a final board hearing and vote is expected later in the fall.

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with over 16 years of experience in radio, television and digital production. She is a 2022 National Edward R. Murrow Award winner. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.