The Greater Houston and Harris County area is made up of many diverse and vibrant communities, but they also face myriad challenges to their health due to poor air quality and environmental injustice. We created Campaigns with these challenges in mind to learn more about and address the disproportionate and cumulative impacts on Houston communities of color and with low wealth. Read more about how we are working toward clean air every day for everyone.
Air Alliance Houston’s Executive Director Jennifer (Jen) Hadayia, MPA, works closely with the Board of Directors and staff to ensure that AAH’s mission is fulfilled through strategic planning, programs, and management. Prior to joining AAH, she worked in leadership roles at various state and county health departments and non-profit organizations.
Most recently, Jennifer served as the Senior Director of Public Health at Legacy Community Health Services, where she guided the public health department of the largest Federally Qualified Health Center in Texas to grow in both focus and reach in the middle of a global pandemic. She also worked for several years at Harris County Public Health; while there she directed the design of their first-ever Health Equity strategy.
A prolific public speaker, she has spoken at dozens of conferences about her public health and health equity work as well as served in statewide leadership roles for the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
Jennifer majored in English at Yale University and earned an MPA from Columbia University with a concentration in Gender and Public Policy.
A native Houstonian, Jennifer currently lives in Houston’s Near Northside neighborhood with her husband and a variety of rescue pets, including a 33-year-old box turtle.
“Community voices and needs have always been at the center of AAH’s approach and always will be. It is exciting for me to lead the organization at a time when the field as a whole is aligning with our vision.”
Government Relations and Community Outreach Director
Government Relations and Community Outreach Director
As the Director of Government Relations and Community Outreach, Leticia keeps abreast of policy developments and oversees engagement with elected officials and stakeholders to advance AAH’s goals. She was born in Mexico and came to Houston as a child, eventually graduating from Milby High School and the University of St. Thomas. Prior to joining AAH, she served as the Chief of Staff at the Houston City Council. Her passion for safe air for all started as she raised her children in the East End of Houston, where she noticed the poor air quality, and that one of her children experienced asthma when living there. When Leticia isn’t working, she is likely out volunteering in the community or spending time with her family.
As the Community Air Monitoring Program Manager, Juan oversees AAH’s efforts to bring community-led air monitoring to neighborhoods affected by multiple air pollution sources, working closely with local residents on the campaign. He’s a Houston-area native and holds a degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Houston. When Juan isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his family, sports, the outdoors, and being a part of many great social organizations.
As the Transportation Program Manager, Harrison is proud to lead AAH’s transportation initiatives that will directly affect the livability of his hometown. He’s a Political Science graduate from the Baylor University and brings government knowledge to the team, having previously worked as a staffer for the Environmental Regulation Committee within the Texas House of Representatives. In his free time, Harrison enjoys reading, watching movies, and cooking.
As Transportation Justice Coordinator, Melissa works to build relationships with residents in diverse communities to understand transportation issues they face and advocate for equitable and transformative policy solutions.
Melissa holds a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning, a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a planning certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners. Before AAH, she worked as a transportation planner at the City of Houston and as a community planner at Texas Housers.
Outside of work, Melissa can be found practicing piano, walking her dog or riding her bike.
As Climate Justice Coordinator, it is Spike’s responsibility to amplify the connections between air quality, climate change and environmental justice by coordinating community-based campaigns that educate and empower communities to take action for their health. Spike comes to Air Alliance Houston with a background in mathematics and atmospheric sciences with a concentration in air pollution meteorology. They also completed research with the University of Houston concerning air pollution over the Houston Ship Channel. In their free time, Spike can be found reading or walking his dog.
Genesis is AAH’s Environmental Justice Outreach coordinator. They are responsible for engaging community residents and organizations in implementing community led efforts such as trainings, meetings or forums to prevent air pollution through the Environmental Justice Leadership Lab. Genesis holds a Masters in Psychology from the University of Houston–Clear Lake. In the last decade before joining AAH in April of 2022, they have focused on breaking down health care barriers via advocacy, education and capacity building. At their previous job at Legacy Community Health, they built a deep understanding of the various issues and existing disparities that are worsened by their physical environments.
In their free time, Genesis enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes. They enjoy watching K-Dramas with their two cats and dog. At 13 Genesis started experimenting with their hair color.
As the Research and Policy Coordinator, Anthony is responsible for undertaking vital research projects, assisting with community advocacy efforts, and advancing the organizational research and policy agenda to achieve greater equity and environmental justice in Houston. He holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Science from Rice University and has experience working in Houston’s environmental non-profit sector and community organizations. In his spare time, Anthony enjoys painting, keeping up with basketball and soccer, and spending time with family and friends.
As the Communications Manager, Riikka oversees AAH’s communications efforts and online presence. She also serves as the organization’s media liaison. Riikka is an environmental communicator with experience working cross-culturally in consulting, government, and the non-profit sector. She holds an MSc in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science and an MA in Politics from the University of Edinburgh in the UK. When Riikka isn’t working, she enjoys training for running events, cycling, and spending time with her dog, Carmelo.
As a Communications Associate, Cassandra works to connect with those unfamiliar with Air Alliance Houston and maintain a relationship with those already following us. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Journalism from the University of Houston with coursework focused on American minorities and colonialism in the Americas. After working in the political field during college, Cassandra enjoys seeing another side to public work, especially environmental justice as she was born and raised in Pasadena, Tx, an area with a large minority population and polluted with industry. Outside of the office, Cassandra loves to practice photography and is always looking for a new favorite restaurant.
As the Social Media Strategist, Jahmal leads AAH’s social media activities. Jahmal is a digital marketer with a decade of experience working in brand management, content creation, and social media management. A native of Wichita, Kansas, he has enthusiastically adopted Houston as his new home. When he is not serving community organizations or researching the latest digital trends, he enjoys traveling and practicing yoga.
As the Office and Project Manager, Meosha acts as the financial and HR department, ensuring that all team members at AAH have the tools they need to succeed in their day-to-day tasks. She has over 10 years of administrative experience and is always on the lookout for ways to improve the operations of the office. When Meosha isn’t sharing her contagious smile with co-workers, you can find her watching and playing sports, as well as traveling.
As an Administrative Assistant at AAH, Zach supports co-workers’ projects through research and assisting with day-to-day operations. Currently working part-time alongside his studies at the University of Houston, Zach enjoys being able to contribute toward improving the public health of the city where he was born and raised. If he isn’t in class or at work, Zach’s usually studying, spending time with friends and family, or reading.
Board of Directors
Our Board is made up of leaders who bring a wealth of expertise and enthusiasm to Air Alliance Houston. They help direct our vision and serve as clean air advocates in Houston area communities.
Jonathan Ross, J.D., President Susman Godfrey, LLP
Ernesto Paredes Galena Park/Jacinto City Rotary Club
Graciela Lubertino, PhD
Lauren Salomon, Ph.D.
Phyllis Griffin Epps, JD PGE Consulting
Steve Pavel Lone Star College
Terence Thorn JKM Consulting
The organizational affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.
Air Quality Advocates Committee
The Air Quality Advocates Committee’s mission is to educate Houstonians, empower communities, and mobilize advocates to influence public policies that improve air quality.
Charles Doug Craig
Dulce Lizet Islas
Kristen Young Lee
We’re proud to partner with organizations that share our commitment to creating healthier and more equitable communities. Together, we amplify our voices to create lasting change. Find out more about our coalitions and partnerships below.
Thanks to all of the support from our wonderful donors, we have been able to continue our work on improving air quality, advancing environmental justice, and promoting the health of Houstonians. Their belief in our work allows us to forge ahead toward a healthy future.
Bloomberg Family Foundation
Brighid Charitable Fund
David Rockefeller Family Fund
Environmental Defense Fund
Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation
Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
For over 25 years, we have worked to hear your concerns, research the solutions, educate the public, and affect policy to protect public health.
A few concerned residents join forces to form a group to prevent and eliminate smog in the Houston region. They named the group GHASP: the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. Out of this grassroots effort, GHASP becomes a Texas nonprofit corporation in 1992.
Mothers for Clean Air
Another Texas nonprofit, Mothers for Clean Air (MfCA), is formed with the purpose of providing community-based outreach and advocacy.
Mothers for Clean Air debuts Ozone Theater. From this time through 2019, tens of thousands of students have learned about unhealthy air and its impact on health. In 2007, the program receives an EPA “Clean Air Excellence Award.”
John D. Wilson and Jane Laping
John D. Wilson becomes Executive Director of GHASP and Jane Laping becomes Executive Director of MfCA.
Air Exchange Meetings
GHASP and Mothers for Clean Air begin to host monthly Air Exchange meetings where Houston residents get to hear from and engage with local environmental experts and policymakers. The meetings are organized every month from 2004 through 2010.
Earth Day Celebration
MfCA begins hosting the largest Earth Day celebration in Houston. MfCA, and later Air Alliance Houston, continues to host the event from 2004 through 2016. An Annual Earth Day Art Auction is established to support AAH education outreach programs and to provide scholarships to local schools and students.
The GHASP Executive Director John Wilson and Board Members are invited to Houston City Hall to educate Houston Mayor Bill White on the state of Houston’s air quality following the Houston Chronicle’s landmark news series, In Harm’s Way. The Mayor commissions a study outlining air pollutants that pose the biggest health risks in the Greater Houston Area and the neighborhoods in which the risks are highest.
Sabrina Strawn is named as the Executive Director of GHASP.
Dr. Matthew Tejada
Dr. Matthew Tejada follows Sabrina Strawn as GHASP’s new Executive Director.
GHASP and MfCA decide to join together as one organization: GHASP/MfCA. The previous activities of GHASP and MfCA fit together like pieces in a puzzle. The new organization combines and strengthens the goals of both organizations: to influence public policy on air quality and environmental health issues in order to protect the health of residents and improve their quality of life.
Matthew Tejada – GHASP/MfCA
Dr. Matthew Tejada is appointed as the Executive Director of the newly merged GHASP/MfCA.
Results from GHASP/MfCA’s community-based ozone monitoring network prompt UH-Sugar Land to install ozone monitors that are quickly incorporated into the TCEQ’s monitoring network.
In January 2010, the new organization is renamed as Air Alliance Houston (AAH). Air Alliance Houston’s mission is to reduce the public health impacts from air pollution through research, education, and advocacy.
In November 2012, Air Alliance Houston, together with partner organizations, launches the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC). Today, the HPCC continues to be a strong voice in advocating for the health and wellbeing of Houston’s portside communities disproportionately impacted by pollution from the Houston Ship Channel.
Dr. Matthew Tejada becomes Director of the Office of Environmental Justice of the US EPA. Adrian Shelley is appointed as the new Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.
Galena Park Report
Air Alliance Houston publishes the final report and results of a year-long community air monitoring project at Galena Park. The results show unacceptable health risks due to diesel and particulate matter pollution and recommend several steps to reduce the residents’ exposure.
Air Alliance Houston helps pass anti-idling ordinances for heavy diesel vehicles in the cities of Houston, Galena Park and Jacinto City, and subsequently launches anti-idling campaign in the city of Pasadena. Avoiding idling time has multiple benefits, including reducing air pollution exposure, in particular that of children who breathe closer to the ground and therefore closer to vehicle tailpipes.
Petroleum Refinery Sector Rule
Intensive advocacy by Air Alliance Houston and other groups, starting with a lawsuit filed against the EPA in 2012 and subsequent benzene monitoring study in Galena Park, play a central role in the promulgation of a new EPA “Petroleum Refinery Sector Rule.” This legislation will reduce air emissions from petroleum refineries and install fenceline monitoring systems to protect neighboring communities.
Air Alliance Houston initiates its community engagement and advocacy efforts to limit concrete batch plants and their siting close to schools, parks and homes. AAH participates in community meetings with Lindale Farms neighbors to protest against the polluting activities and the around-the-clock noise of the Integrity Ready Mix and Aurora Ready Mix concrete batch plants.
Air Alliance Houston partners with other environmental groups to establish a collaborative effort, branded One Breath Partnership (OBP), in order to elevate awareness about the harmful effects of air pollution by amplifying the work of local researchers and encouraging affected residents to share their stories.
Dr. Bakeyah S. Nelson becomes the first woman of color to lead Air Alliance Houston in March 2017.
Recognizing the need to ensure a more equitable and resilient future for the region post-Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Nelson and Jennifer Powis (The Powis Firm) convene environmental and social justice groups to develop a common policy agenda, leading to the establishment of the Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER) in 2018.
Air Alliance Houston and partners file and win two critical lawsuits – one against the EPA for delaying the Chemical Disaster Rule which requires facilities to strengthen their safety protections, and the other against the Chemical Safety Board for not complying with the Clean Air Act requirement to inform the public about the toxic releases from chemical incidents.
In March 2019, Dr. Bakeyah Nelson testifies before the US Congress regarding stalled Clean Air Act enforcement since the 2016 Presidential Election.
ITC and KMCO fires
During March and April 2019, Air Alliance Houston staff lead the way in providing information to the public regarding the devastating ITC and KMCO industrial fires. The ITC fire cast thick plumes of toxic smoke over the region for several days, causing shelters-in-place and halting traffic in the Houston Ship Channel. The KMCO explosion kills one plant worker and injures 10 others. AAH, together with partners, express the urgent need to address the deficiencies in emergency preparedness, enforcement, and air monitoring by regulatory agencies.
Air Alliance Houston releases results of a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the Texas Department of Transportation’s North Houston Highway Improvement project (NHHIP), or I-45 expansion. The report informs decision-makers about the project’s potential harmful health effects to communities, specifically those impacting children that go to school nearby the planned expansion, and urges TxDOT to adopt a number of mitigation strategies.
Air Alliance Houston and partners advocate for a delay in the vote to move ahead with TxDOT’s controversial I-45 expansion project. Over 130 Houstonians rally on July 23 to air their concerns to the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council. Following the community outcry, the Council commits an additional $51.5 million toward community planning and mitigation.
Emergency Response Infrastructure
Air Alliance Houston and partners successfully advocate for the Harris County Commissioners Court to grow the county’s emergency response infrastructure. September 10, the Court unanimously votes in favor of investing a total of $11.6 million to modernize and better equip the fire marshal’s office, pollution control and public health departments.
Kinder Institute Study
A new study by Air Alliance Houston and the Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research documents the location of hazardous facilities and sites in Houston’s initial five pilot Complete Communities and associated health risks faced by people living near polluting industries.
Soto Ready Mix withdraws
On January 22, in a huge win for healthy neighborhoods everywhere, Soto Ready Mix withdraws its application to build a concrete batch plant in Houston’s Acres Homes neighborhood thanks to the resolute opposition of AAH, community leaders, and Houston’s elected representatives.
Nomadic Aggregates withdraws
In another big win for healthy communities, Nomadic Aggregates, LLC, withdraws its application to construct a concrete batch plant in Aldine during a public meeting on January 30, after being faced with fierce organizing and opposition from residents supported by AAH and elected officials.
Houston launches CAP
Air Alliance Houston plays an important role in the development of Houston’s first-ever Climate Action Plan (CAP), launched April 22nd, by co-leading the Transportation Working Group (WP). AAH continues to direct the Transportation WG and advocate for greater equity as the city moves to the implementation phase.
AAH launches community air monitoring program
Air Alliance Houston kicks off the new year by launching a Community Air Monitoring Program to create a custom air monitoring network for five Houston-area communities: Pasadena, Galena Park/Jacinto City as well as Kashmere Gardens, Near Northside, and Gulfton Complete Communities. The program aims to identify air pollution hotspots, install air monitors, track data, and develop neighborhood action plans to address air quality and work towards environmental justice.
FHWA I-45 pause directive
In response to official complaints filed by advocates drawing attention to the I-45 Expansion’s civil rights and environmental justice issues, on March 8, federal authorities ask the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to pause the project in order to review potential violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Right after, on March 11, Harris County Attorney’s Office sues TxDOT over the project in response to community concerns about displacement and environmental impacts. The federal intervention and local officials’ opposition is a huge win for impacted residents along the I-45 and in setting a precedent for highway fighters across the country.
County Climate Action Plan
Air Alliance Houston and other local environmental groups’ efforts in urging Harris County to create a regional initiative to address climate change pay off on July 20 as the County announces the creation of an Office of Sustainability and the development of a Climate Justice and Action Plan.
COVID and Transit in the Houston Region Report
Air Alliance Houston, in partnership with LINK Houston and the Robert D. Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University, releases a new report, “COVID and Public Transportation in the Houston Region,” that looked at the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Houstonians’ relationship with public transportation. The study shows COVID further highlighted the importance of reliable public transportation and the need for increased support for transit agencies from all levels of government. The findings and recommendations inform the future transportation policy and planning as the Houston region, and the country, creep toward a “new normal.”