Thursday, August 11, 2022
South Coast AQMD Helps Improve Air Quality in Environmental Justice Communities
By William A. Burke Ed.D.
Published July 5, 2018

Heavy-duty truck with battery-electric technology. (Courtesy Photo)


This year marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most successful clean air programs in the state’s history. Since 1998, the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program has provided $467 million to clean up dirty diesel engines across the Southland, including environmental justice communities. 

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is dedicated to improving air quality so that all residents can breathe healthful air. But we are particularly concerned about improving air quality in environmental justice communities, including those in South Los Angeles and southeast Los Angeles County. 


In September 2017, the governor signed AB 134 to fund early-action projects that will reduce emissions in disadvantaged and low-income communities. Through the Carl Moyer Program, this bill will direct a total of $107.5 million in funding to the SCAQMD. 

Earlier this year, SCAQMD approved $51.7 million from AB 134 funds for 101 projects, with 88 percent of them located in environmental justice and low-income communities. These included two planned projects with Compton-based firms to reduce emissions from a waste-hauling vehicle and construction equipment company. 

Through the replacement of older, high-polluting vehicles and equipment, all AB 134 projects will reduce smog-forming pollutants, toxic air contaminants and greenhouse gas emissions.  SCAQMD is now evaluating projects to be funded from the remaining balance of AB 134 funds.  

Overall, Southern California still has some of the worst air pollution in the nation, in spite of dramatic progress in recent decades in reducing smog levels. But certain areas bear the largest brunt of dirty air. Many of those areas are in southeast Los Angeles County. The reason for this disproportionate impact is largely due to diesel emissions from big-rig trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. 

Diesel emissions can cause cancer, and are responsible for 88 percent of the cancer risk from air pollution, according to SCAQMD studies. 

Since 1998, SCAQMD has used Carl Moyer funds to replace more than 6,700 older diesel engines with newer, cleaner models. As a result, nearly 7,600 tons of smog-forming NOx emissions and more than 220 tons of fine particulate matter per year have been removed from the Southland’s air. 


The program targets a wide range of heavy-duty vehicles from big-rig trucks to transit, solid waste collection, public agency and utility vehicles, as well as construction equipment, agricultural tractors, marine engines, cargo-handling equipment, shore power for ships, and locomotives. 

The program provides funding to incentivize the early adoption of engines cleaner than those now required by law. Carl Moyer funds also have been used to replace older, dirty school buses with cleaner models, helping to protect our young children and communities from harmful diesel exhaust. Since 2001, SCAQMD has provided $280 million from the Carl Moyer Lower-Emission School Bus Program to replace 1,600 diesel engine school buses with buses that use compressed natural gas engines. An additional 3,400 diesel school buses have also been retrofitted with diesel particulate filters, which reduce diesel particulate by 85 percent or more. 

The Carl Moyer Program is funded through a portion of state motor vehicle registration, Smog Check and tire purchase fees.  

For more information on the program, see 

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