From left, back are Rev. Dr. Sonja Dawson, Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith Pollard, Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang, Rev. Deborah Manns, Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., Kathryn Higgins, Rev. Edward Anderson, Rev. Ernest Young and Derrick Alatorre. In front are Rev. Dr. Mary S. Minor, Fabian Wesson and Rev. Dr. Kerry Allison. (Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel)

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is reaching out to the faith-based community to support the agency’s ongoing campaign for clean air.

During a meeting held on Feb. 19, SCAQMD executives outlined to local ministers the alarming quality of the air being breathed by people who live in work in the L.A. metropolitan area and steps that the nonprofit plans to take to improve the situation, especially in low-income areas.

Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., executive editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel, and Derrick Alatorre, SCAQMD deputy executive officer for Legislative, Public Affairs & Media, hosted the gathering.  The goal was to recruit the attendees in assisting the agency in fulfilling its mission to clean the air and protect the health of all residents through practical and innovative strategies.

Although the agency has reaped many successes throughout its decades-long existence, officials said more work must be done to meet 2023 and 2032 air quality standards and 2050 climate goals. SCAQMD officials believe that with the participation of the faith-based and community leaders, they can succeed in continuing to improve the air quality in the four counties under their regulatory authority.

Danny Bakewell, Jr. and Rev. John Cager III (Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel)

“We urge you to get involved with our efforts and encourage your membership to participate,” said Alatorre.  “We offer financial incentivesto small businesses that implement cleaner technologies such as non-toxic dry cleaning machines and new or retrofit engines for heavy-duty on-road trucks.”

SCAQMD also provides staff to help businesses and governments comply with South Coast AQMD rules and regulations, air quality policies, permit conditions, and recordkeeping requirements.

Sharing some of the resources for residents, Fabian Wesson, SCAQMD assistant deputy executive officer/public advisor, explained, “We have a Clean Air furnace rebate program and the Replace Your Ride program, which provides up to $9,500 to replace your existing car with a newer, cleaner vehicle.”

Agency staff, which included Kathryn Higgins, public affairs manager, also covered achievements over the years along with the challenges SCAQMD may face in the future such as federal government intervention if the district does not meet air quality mandates.

In response to the presentation, the Rev. Dr. Mary S. Minor, pastor of Brookins-Kirkland Community AME Church, noted, “The work performed by our local AQMD is vital to our very existence. We want the AQMD to continue to hold businesses accountable for ensuring healthy air quality. We do not want this responsibility transferred to the federal EPA, especially under our current administration where laws favor big businesses. So let’s do our part.”

“I’m really glad I was able to attend this AQMD meeting with faith leaders. I plan to educate and inform my congregants and community members about the air quality and what we can do to engage the process of improving air quality in Los Angeles city and county. We look forward to doing some more work in this area of going green in our congregation and homes,” added the Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard, pastor of Word of Encouragement Community Church.

The Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang, senior minister of Founder’s Church of Religious Science, remarked, “We definitely should have these types of presentations to ministers and churches, specifically in the Black community. I’m glad we have a source like The Sentinel that can harness a number of important people who make impactful decisions. It is a wonderful way to learn about what is going on in the community.”

The attendees also included the Rev. Dr. Kerry Allison, pastor of Church of the Redeemer; the Rev. Edward Anderson, pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church; the Rev. John Cager III, pastor of Ward AME Church; the Rev. Dr. Sonja Dawson, pastor of New Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church; the Rev. Deborah Manns, pastor of Ruach Christian Community Fellowship; and the Rev. Ernest Young, assistant pastor of Second Baptist Church.