Former Senator Dean Florez says the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District isn't doing enough to protect the health of local residents. Last week Florez was appointed to the powerful California Air Resources Board (CARB) by California Senate leader Kevin de Leon.
Florez: "I think there's a lot more they could be doing. I think they should move quicker. There's a lot more tools in their toolbox than there were 10 years ago. Anything I can do to make this board move quicker from the state level, I'm going to do."
Florez made the comments on Valley Public Radio's Valley Edition. The air district has faced persistent criticism from air quality activists who say its efforts to bring the region into compliance with health standards for particulate and ozone pollution have been lacking. The region is currently in non-attainment status for both ozone and PM 2.5 pollution.
Florez says agriculture and heavy industry hold too much sway over the Valley Air District's operations.
Florez: "It's one of the toughest boards in terms of trying to crack the veil of moving past industry."
During his time as a state senator, Florez helped author legislation that ended the agriculture industry's exemption from air quality rules, as well as another law that added a physician to the Valley Air District's board.
In addition to pushing for local officials to do more, Florez says his agenda at CARB also involves working with activists to see that money from the state's cap-and-trade pollution credit program makes its way to the valley.
Florez: "These communities that are the closest to the pollution, are the most affected by the pollution who have the most to gain with our solutions, those types of dollars need to get into those types census tracts. A lot of this money generated off cap-and-trade needs to be invested in those communities to make up for many years of being communities basically dumped on, in terms of the amount of pollution and a lot of its harmful effects."
While Florez says that he supports the state's effort to be a leader on climate change, he also wants CARB to focus on more traditional issues, and tackle problems like mobile sources of pollution which are a big concern in the valley.
Florez: "Before we solve the world's problems, and we become the largest player which we were in Paris, and I applaud those efforts... however, on the ground there is no doubt that we have to turn back to the bread and butter issue of short time pollutants and looking at the issues that effect communities directly."
That could include further regulation of on and off-road vehicles, but also new forays by CARB into issues like transit and land use.
Florez also addressed another issue on the program - his role as a registered lobbyist in California. According to the California Secretary of State's office, Florez and his firm Balance Public Relations and Strategic Solutions Inc, has received over $150,000 in lobbying payments from four clients in the current legislative session. They include the City of Delano and the Semitropic Water District in Kern County, which paid Florez over $113,000.
Florez says he plans to continue his work in that area, and doesn't see an immediate conflict, as most of his lobbying work is in the area of water policy.
Florez: "I think we'll continue to evaluate if there are conflicts and things that somehow move into the realm of the air board."
According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, state law does not currently prohibit an active lobbyist from serving on a state board, though other conflict of interest rules would still apply.