A small portion of the garbage and debris left in the forest at a drug trafficking organization’s marijuana grow site on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. – U.S. Forest Service — contributed

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced this week that his office had created a new enforcement bureau focused on environmental protection. The Bureau of Environmental Justice will focus on communities that endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and public health hazards.

The new bureau will be funded through Assembly Bill 2636, which was introduced by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.

Becerra said in a news release “the harsh reality is that some communities in California, particularly low-income communities, rural communities and communities of color, continue to bear the brunt of pollution. To all who advocate for environmental justice the California Department of Justice will work with you to fight for a clean, safe and healthy environment.”

There are an estimated 4,000 illegal trespass marijuana grows in Humboldt County and those sites can contain a multitude of dangerous chemicals and rodenticides. They often result in water pollution through illegal diversion and often lead to poor water quality which affects local wildlife.

Cathy Mudge, communications director for North Coast Assemblymember Jim Wood, said in an email that “Wood has worked hard to acquire funding, for instance, for environmental cleanup from rogue cannabis grows from other sources and that will continue from Prop 64 revenues.”

Mudge added that from their reading, Humboldt County could technically qualify for assistance and enforcement action from the new bureau but it is too early and the details of the final bill are still unknown.

In May of last year, Wood announced that he had gotten Gov. Jerry Brown to include $1.5 million dollars in the fiscal year budget, money that would be directed at cleanup efforts at illegal grow sites.

“I’ve seen firsthand how some of the irresponsible illegal grows have left behind chemical pools, hundreds of butane canisters and other hazardous materials and all the risks to our land and waters,” Wood was quoted by the Ukiah Daily Journal during a presentation to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors in November. “People enjoy these lands for recreation, hiking, fishing. As we implement regulations around the Cannabis Safety Regulatory Act, which now have been replaced with Prop. 64 regulations, we will hopefully have more revenue to support law enforcement and cleanup efforts.”

The Bureau of Environmental Justice will focus on penalizing those individuals or parties who violate CEQA regulations, pollute air and water sources and reduce exposure to toxins in the environment and in consumer products.

Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.

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