From a press release from the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
San Joaquin Valley and Ventura County community groups filed a lawsuit on Dec. 12, 2012, against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because they allege the EPA has failed to protect public health when the EPA recently decided to allow more pesticide air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley than what the EPA previously required. The groups also allege that the EPA failed to protect Latinos’ civil rights just over a year after the EPA found that California regulators at the Department of Pesticide Regulation violated the civil rights of Latino school children by allowing them to be exposed to unhealthy levels of methyl bromide, a highly toxic fumigant.
“We need EPA to stand up and tell the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the California Air Resources Board that allowing more pesticide air pollution harms our children, families, and our communities,” said Teresa DeAnda, president of El Comité para el Bienestar de Earlimart. “Instead, EPA is just standing by and doing nothing to actually protect people.”
The lawsuit, filed under the Clean Air Act, challenges the EPA’s recent decision to allow more pesticide air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley when, in 1997, the California Air Resources Board unequivocally committed, and the EPA accepted, an enforceable commitment to reduce pesticide air pollution by 20% from 1990 levels by 2005 in five air basins, including the San Joaquin Valley and Ventura County.
“Jared Blumenfeld, EPA regional administrator in San Francisco, told us that the Valley and our air pollution crisis are one of his top priorities,” said Tom Frantz, president of AIR. “That is obviously not the case because EPA is protecting pesticide users and ignoring the plight of Latino children in rural California.”
“In Ventura, pesticide air pollution affects all of the County’s residents, disparately and adversely affects its communities of color, and is amongst the most severe impacts of the agricultural industry’s use of excessive quantities of agritoxins. The EPA must protect the County’s communities by ensuring enforceable state regulations are in place to achieve the 20% reduction in VOC emissions from pesticides and fumigants,” said Jason Weiner, staff attorney for the Wishtoyo Foundation and its Ventura Coastkeeper Program.
The lawsuit also challenges the EPA’s failure to ensure that Latinos’ civil rights are not violated by California regulators who allow massive amounts of highly toxic pesticides and fumigants to be used every year. The groups contend that the EPA must ensure that California’s pesticide program protects Californians from racial discrimination, as required by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, a recent investigation by the EPA shows that the pesticide air pollution burden falls disproportionately on Latino children. In 2011, the EPA preliminarily found that the regulators’ decision to allow methyl bromide use in California between 1995 and 2001 violated the civil rights of Latino children because they were exposed to unhealthy levels compared to other children.
“The Clean Air Act requires that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the California Air Resources Board demonstrate that their pesticide program does not discriminate on the basis of race in violation of the Civil Rights Act,” said Brent Newell, legal director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. “EPA has already made a preliminary finding that Latino children suffer discrimination, yet EPA refused to do its duty to protect these children.”
“Ventura County communities suffer from massive pesticide air pollution,” said Mati Waiya, executive director of the Wishtoyo Foundation and its Ventura Coastkeeper Program. “The EPA analyzed several schools, many with Latino school children, and found unhealthy air quality. Civil rights violations are right here in Ventura, and we will not tolerate the EPA allowing anyone’s birthright to clean air to be taken by looking the other way.”
For more information, call the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment at 415-346-4179 or visit www.crpe-ej.org.