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For Immediate Release: February 19th, 2009
Contact:  Tracey Brieger, Californians for Pesticide Reform 415-215-5473

News Release - Republicans Use Budget to Rollback Air Pollution Protections

Rural Californians spared from Republican Demands for more Pesticide Air Pollution

DELANO, CA—Early this morning, the California Legislature approved a state budget loaded with non-fiscal policy changes, concocted in secret negotiations.  Governor Schwarzenegger successfully championed a provision allowing more air pollution from diesel construction equipment that Democrats negotiators accepted.  However, a coalition of air quality and farmworker advocates successfully stopped Schwarzenegger’s and Republican’s effort to allow more pesticide air pollution in rural California.

The Republicans’ proposed language would have rolled back the state’s obligations to reduce smog and fine particle-forming emissions from pesticides.  In the mid 1990’s, California regulators in the Wilson Administration promised to adopt regulations that would reduce volatile organic compounds (VOC) from pesticides by 20% below 1990 levels in five air basins by 2005.  Instead of 20% reductions, Schwarzeneggar and San Joaquin Valley legislators Mike Villines and Dave Cogdill sought to lower the promised reductions to only 10% in Ventura and 12% for the San Joaquin Valley, the Coachella Valley, the Sacramento area, and the South Coast air basin.

“Axing pesticide protections would have had a devastating effect on the health of rural communities,’ said Teresa DeAnda, President of El Comité Para el Bienestar de Earlimart, a community group in the San Joaquin Valley. “These regulations never should have been on the table during state budget discussions.  It’s undemocratic for Governor Schwarzenegger and the Republican minority in the Legislature to take hostage laws that protect the health and safety of Californians that have nothing to do with the budget crisis.”

DeAnda and her environmental justice and farmworker advocate colleagues have pledged to fight for a solution.  “We want a budget process that is about taxes and spending, and not about blackmail,” DeAnda said.  “Over the next near, we will work to stop this madness forever.”

Ozone pollution–commonly called smog–is a summer time pollutant that damages lung tissue, exacerbates asthma, reduces lung capacity, increases respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, and increases school and work absenteeism.  Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is a wintertime pollutant that exacerbates asthma and causes death in people with heart or lung disease. Pesticides are one of the largest contributors to smog and fine particle pollution in the San Joaquin Valley and Ventura County, and a major contributor in the Southeast Desert, which includes the Coachella Valley.

Pesticides are also highly toxic, causing many mass farm worker and community poisonings, and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from pesticides contribute to smog and fine particulate matter formation. The only effective way to reduce smog, particulate matter and toxic emissions from pesticides is to reduce pesticide use.

Schwazenegger successfully rolled back important reductions from diesel air pollution caused by heavy construction equipment, the second largest source of smog-forming nitrogen oxides in the San Joaquin Valley.  Diesel emissions from construction equipment is also a major source of cancer causing PM2.5, the giant black clouds of smoke that spew from the equipment. The move seriously compromises the ability of the Valley to attain smog and PM2.5 standards by the deadlines mandated by the federal Clean Air Act.  According to a 2008 study by economist Jane Hall, San Joaquin Valley residents incur $5.7 billion each year in measurable health costs from the areas’ failure to meet federal smog and PM2.5 standards.

“We will not be blackmailed every year by the Republican minority,” said Tom Frantz, President of the San Joaquin Valley-based Association of Irritated Residents. “It is one thing to have an honest budget disagreement over taxes and spending.  But to bargain away Californians’ health and democratic rights through a back-room deal with Governor Schwarzenegger is nothing more than tyranny.”

Contacts for more information & interviews, contact:

•    Brent Newell, Legal Director, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, 661-586-3724, bnewell@crpe-ej.org
•    Martha Guzman Aceves Legislative Advocate, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, 916-446-7904 x21, mguzmanaceves@crlaf.org
•    Teresa DeAnda, President, El Comité Para el Bienestar de Earlimart, Cell 661-304-4080, teresa@igc.org - community leader
•    Tom Frantz, President, Association of Irritated Residents, cell 661-910-7734, tfrantz@bak.rr.com
•    Gustavo Aguirre, Assistant Director of Organizing, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, aguigustavo@gmail.com, 661-667-0136