Coalition for Clean Air

As part of our commitment to serving diverse and disadvantaged communities, we are profiling some of our grantees serving these communities. Read our letter detailing this work here.

Coalition for Clean Air

Families living near the San Pedro Bay Ports showed support for cleaning up the dirty diesel trucking system. Photo courtesy of the Coalition for Clean Air.


Pedro Aguilar, a Los Angeles car wash worker, was burned on the job from contact with towels soaked in toxic cleaning fluid. Like many of his fellow workers, he mistrusted authorities and spoke little English. But thanks to the Coalition for Clean Air, last year Eduardo received training, support, and funds that enabled him to travel to Sacramento and testify before the California Air Resources Board. His testimony encouraged bipartisan support for reductions in toxic emissions from cleaning products.

“We find that when regulators hear from communities and those communities are vocal, that’s when they start working for public health rather than for the industries they are regulating,” says Liz Ernst, development director at the Coalition for Clean Air, a Hewlett Foundation grantee. According to a 2010 Hewlett-funded study, “Minding the Climate Gap,” poor and minority communities and workers suffer disproportionately from poor air quality. Through the Coalition’s unique collaborative model, people affected by pollution are recruited, educated, and taught how to be effective advocates.

The Coalition for Clean Air has formed relationships with workers who are directly exposed to hazardous emissions and toxic chemicals in consumer products. Many of these workers, including car washers, nail-care workers, and school janitors, are from Latino, Asian, and other ethnic groups.

Coalition for Clean Air 2

A port employee looks at the crushed remains of a dirty diesel truck retired at the rollout of the Clean Trucks Plan.


The Coalition for Clean Air also assists residents of communities affected by poor air quality. According to the 2010 study, people of color in California are exposed to 70 percent more pollution in their communities than other residents. Ernst cites the Coalition’s partnership with the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, a group concerned with high asthma rates related to activities at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Twenty mothers, many with limited English, testified in Sacramento and contributed to the passage of new regulations for air quality. The Coalition also worked with the Long Beach group, unions, and marine industry groups to persuade the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to adopt the Clean Trucks Program in 2008. In its inaugural year, the program halved the diesel soot from trucks at the ports and is ahead of schedule to cut truck emissions by 80 percent by 2012.

Hewlett Foundation grants also have been used to support Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking communities with training, the creation of websites, and the translation of reports in support of work to improve air quality in their communities.