The Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN) was formed in 1999 as a partnership of groups from Kern, Tulare, and Kings Counties. In 2001, the founders recognized that the CCEJN’s target communities – small, isolated, poor, rural communities with little political recognition and multiple environmental problems – could be found throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley, and so the network was expanded. In 2002, CCEJN’s first Board of Directors was elected and a mission statement was adopted. Since then, CCEJN’s coalition of grassroots environmental justice groups and individuals has had the mission to preserve our natural resources by seeking to minimize or eliminate environmental degradation in San Joaquin Valley communities.
CCEJN supports grassroots leadership to promote environmental health education, community organizing, collaborative dialogue, and political involvement among rural, underserved communities of color in the San Joaquin Valley. We:
- Educate and empower communities, especially rural communities, to advocate for themselves by providing technical assistance and resources
- Network with like-minded organizations
- Promote alternative methods for a safer environment
Disseminate important information about environmental injustices in the Central Valley
Encourage youth to be aware of and participate in environmental issues
In early years, CCEJN’s work consisted primarily of raising awareness of environmental justice issues via the organization of conferences.In 2001, CCEJN held its first conference, focusing on the cumulative impacts of environmental degradation in rural and low-income communities in the Central Valley. Since then, CCEJN has hosted eight more successful biannual conferences that have become a trademark event to convene and unite grassroots leaders throughout the San Joaquin Valley.
In its first decade, CCEJN was run by volunteer board members. It wasn’t until 2013 that the organization hired its first paid staff and expanded its programs beyond environmental justice conferences.
CCEJN’s Pioneer Work
The San Joaquin Valley Cumulative Health Impact Project
CCEJN has an extensive history of developing successful and innovative initiatives to change our region’s history of environmental injustices. For example, CCEJN led the ground-truthing efforts of the San Joaquin Valley Cumulative Health Impact Project (SJV CHIP). SJV CHIP was a collaborative of community, health, and environmental justice organizations that address disproportionate exposure to multiple sources of pollution (unhealthy air and water quality, pesticides, toxic waste and garbage dumps, power plants, incinerators, superfund sites, mega-dairies, and diesel pollution) among low-income communities of color in the San Joaquin Valley. The goal was to guarantee better health for residents through the adoption of enforceable measures to reduce cumulative pollution, particularly in communities that are heavily burdened by pollution exposure. SJV CHIP ensured the public’s access to information and participation in regulatory decision-making. Over the years, most of this work had continued through other CCEJN’s projects.
The IVAN Reporting Networks
In 2013, CCEJN became the administrator of the IVAN Reporting Networks in Fresno and Kern County, known as the Kern Environmental Enforcement Network (KEEN) and the Fresno Environmental Justice Network (FERN). The two networks have successfully empowered residents to report environmental violations and, most importantly, have successfully formed taskforces that bring together regulatory agencies, community groups, and residents to investigate and solve reported issues and to advance health protective regulations.
CCEJN has also implemented community-monitoring and resident-led participatory research projects that engage residents in the documentation of pollution. Since 2014, CCEJN has led various projects to engage community members in monitoring activities (i.e., stationary PM 2.5 monitoring, VOC mobile grab sampling, and sensors to monitoring of other air pollutants) to inform communities about the pollution characteristics of their own neighborhoods. This information is used by residents and CCEJN to advocate for stricter regulations, especially in fenceline communities.The reporting networks have yielded concrete benefits for disadvantaged communities, such as: access to government funds in communities where wells went dry (i.e., Tombstone); thousands of dollars in fines against polluting companies (i.e., Covanta Biomass in Delano); and approval of community benefit agreements that include provisions to mitigate environmental impacts (i.e., Parlier).
Water Quality in Fresno and Kern Counties
Given the multiple reports of water contamination that were received through the FERN and KEEN reporting networks, CCEJN launched its first Water Quality project in 2014. Over a two-year period, CCEJN enhanced residents’ ability to identify, monitor, and report potential threats to groundwater and surface watersheds. A series of workshops were held to educate communities about prevalent sources of water pollution and best practices for identifying and monitoring threats. Community members learned about illegal water discharge, dairy nutrient management plans, produced water injection methods, wastewater runoff, and household sources of pollution, among other topics. Additionally, residents learned how to report hazards through the FERN and KEEN reporting networks.
Partnerships & Collaboration
CCEJN has fostered working relationships with grassroots groups, regulatory agencies, and academia. CCEJN is an active member of state coalitions that seek to advance regulations to protect our environment, such as Californians Against Fracking, California Environmental Justice Network, and Central Valley Air Quality Coalition.