Let’s Get Together:

Increasing Community Involvement in Local Air Pollution Reduction

By Christian Paullin, Environmental Journalist

According to an American Lung Association report, the Los Angeles – Long Beach area has the worst air quality in the United States.

Why is our air quality so poor? Los Angeles is home to the two busiest ports in the US (Los Angeles and Long Beach), the world’s 15th busiest airport and it has some of the most crowded freeways anywhere. Frequent wildfires and the influx of smoke from wildfires across the state are among other contributors. To make matters worse, the geographical location is a recipe for a buildup of particulate matter and ozone pollution. Los Angeles is a basin surrounded by mountains; dominant northwest winds and scarce rain let pollution accumulate.

There has been progress. Since 1990, after the Clean Air Act was amended, Los Angeles has seen a year-over-year reduction in air pollution. With the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006, particulate matter in the ports has decreased by 87%, and nitrogen oxides, an ozone pollutant, by 58% (3). These are huge improvements but more can be and needs to be done. 

Thirty-five air districts throughout California are responsible for regional air quality planning, monitoring, and stationary source and facility permitting. They also administer air quality improvement grant programs to the most affected communities (4). However, these air districts never included local community members in these grant decisions or pollution reduction strategies until the 2018 passage of AB617, which requires community participation in decision making. Joseph Piñon, a representative for the Wilmington/ Carson/West Long Beach area (and member of our PV-SB Executive Committee), said that this allows a more grassroots approach to air quality improvement. His hometown of Carson, which, in addition to being close to the port, is home to two refineries and two oil source facilities, and its hospitalization for childhood asthma is the highest in the state. Now he and other representatives can help steer where our financial resources are being spent to improve our local air quality.

These community representatives meet with our local air district, Southern California Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), frequently and in the last three years have made significant progress. They got $25 million from Electrify America to invest in charging station infrastructure in the LA/LB ports for future electric municipal buses and trucks servicing the port. SCAQMD will provide $2,400,000 in incentive funds for school air filtration systems and another $5,570,000 in incentive funds for trucks and harbor craft to upgrade to cleaner technology.  By 2042 all high priority fleets (approximately one-third of all trucks in California) have to be zero emission vehicles. 

These improvements are huge steps toward decreasing our local air pollution, a benefit to everyone in Greater LA.

But more can be done. As a community member, you can also play a role. Vote for candidates who care about the environment. See where candidates get their funding. And stay up to date with the SCAQMD meetings with the link below.


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