- Associated Press - Thursday, August 14, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A statewide survey released Thursday ranks Fresno and other Central Valley communities as the most disadvantaged areas in California when it comes to challenges ranging from polluted water to joblessness.

The ranking by the California Environmental Protection Agency earmarks those and other areas hardest hit by environmental, economic and health problems for a greater share of the more than $800 million in funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

The program collects financial fees from companies and other entities that emit the most climate-changing carbon.

The agency assessed 19 criteria such as percentage of people with asthma, quality of drinking water and air, prevalence of pesticide contamination, and nearness to toxic-waste cleanup sites.

Fresno neighborhoods dominated the ranking, with Bakersfield, Los Angeles, El Monte, San Bernardino and Ontario also making the top 20 among the thousands of census districts in the state.

“When people think of pollution” and other environmental and economic challenges, “they often think of inner-city neighborhoods,” said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the state environmental agency. “What our data has shown is that these challenges are not limited to urban neighborhoods.”

Legislation accompanying the state’s cap-and-trade program mandates that 25 percent of its proceeds go to the state’s most disadvantaged communities.

No San Francisco Bay Area communities made the top 20 most disadvantaged areas, although several rank in the top 20 percent of most disadvantaged overall, meaning they will likely be considered for some of the money set aside as part of the cap-and-trade program.

San Francisco Bay Area public agencies and cities have complained that the way the survey is compiled means that communities in that region likely will get a smaller share of the funds than they believe is warranted.

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