There have been few times, historically, when we in the Central Valley of California looked to Sacramento leadership and thanked them for considering the unique needs of our region when making important decisions that affect our lives, our families and more importantly — the air we breathe.

On Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon made a historic legislative appointment to a game changing board that will define the Central Valley’s clean air and carbon reduction future.

Senator de Leon has demonstrated, though my appointment to the California Air Resource Board, his philosophy of providing more opportunities for both urban and rural communities. This view will help advance the State’s climate mitigation efforts while bringing his goals of environmental justice, economic sustainability and health benefits to our residents. I am proud to be the Pro Tem’s first appointment to a board whose members were previously all appointed by the governor.

When AB 1288 passed last session, it rightly mandated that environmental justice communities have a seat at the table. California’s climate strategy has always emphasized the importance of considering and addressing impacts and benefits to California’s most vulnerable communities, and this change will help make that a reality.

Having represented one of the most polluted regions of our nation — California’s Central Valley — for more than a decade, I am honored by this opportunity to continue pushing groundbreaking work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of disproportionately impacted disadvantaged communities.

As a clean air advocate and former Senator, our historic efforts to clean the Valley air faced intense opposition nearly a decade ago, yet represented the most important work during my tenure in the Legislature. Our landmark package of air pollution bills were propelled by a large coalition of environmental justice groups with whom I worked hand-in-hand. I plan to continue and strengthen my partnerships with environmental justice communities throughout the State, especially those communities with low-income populations heavily burdened with high levels of pollution.

Today, as the public sentiment across our state, nation and world turns towards realizing lasting reductions in carbon output, I plan to remind members of CARB that disadvantaged communities are also at risk from the impacts of climate change, yet with fewer resources to respond and adapt to these impacts.

As California leads the world in the climate fight, I plan to be an anchor reminds board members that we must reduce short-lived climate pollutants through fully funded emission reduction programs yet continue to create new additional strategies. More importantly, I plan to emphasize the plight of disadvantaged to communities whose children must carry too many inhalers to school, and who find their opportunities limited due to the underinvestment of needed cap and trade dollars in their communities.

I would like to publicly thank the leadership, Senate Rules Committee and its Chairman, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, for entrusting me with this important position that will help define California's clean air and carbon reduction future. Time to get to work.

Dean Florez, a former member of both the California Senate and Assembly, is a Shafter native.