The top regional official for the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the southwestern United States says he intends to step up work in vulnerable and urban communities. KPCC's Molly Peterson explains what that could mean for Southern California.
For three weeks, Jared Blumenfeld has been on the job as administrator for the EPA region that includes California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii. Before that he ran San Francisco's department of the environment. He said local experience has interested him in clearing the way for local agencies to help federal protection efforts. He hopes to aid environmental protection activities in big cities like Los Angeles in part by making sure the EPA doesn’t get in the way.
In Southern California, Blumenfeld said he'll monitor the Imperial Valley and the 710 Freeway corridor. There, he said, some people - particularly poor ones - feel greater effects from changing climate and higher pollution. "Communities across California and the West have been overpromised and under delivered," said Blumenfeld. "We need to do our part. If we can't deliver we shouldn't be promising and setting clear expectations."
Blumenfeld said his office would rely on existing law and scientific studies to inform work that protects human health and the environment. But he emphasized that the agency won't wait for a smoking gun if it can act quickly to solve a problem. "We need to exercise both our legal and moral authority to make sure that not only our agency and other federal agencies but state and local officials and companies seeking permits understand the needs of those communities," he said.
He said he believes better policy will generate better opportunities for green jobs. Federal regulators can build a better culture for green industries by enforcing laws against polluters. "Nothing can be built unless you create a level playing field for the community where there's certainty that if you break the law you can be held accountable," he said. But Blumenfeld added that in order for those policies to work, the must be fair to the most vulnerable people.