Martha Romero felt that she had to send her daughters to safety.

She had seen air pollution grow worse in recent years as the truck traffic near her San Bernardino neighborhood increased so she made the difficult decision to send her three daughters to live with her mother, whose home is farther from the worst of the fumes and dust from the unending parade of trucks moving to and from nearby warehouses. “Unfortunately, we cannot keep them in an air bubble,” she said.

A coalition of local organizations is leading the fight against the expansion of the San Bernardino International Airport to accommodate Amazon’s burgeoning logistics needs with a complex that will bring more flights, more warehouses and even more truck traffic and pollution to her area. The coalition has an unusual ally: Xavier Becerra, the attorney general for the state of California, and the choice of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

Opposing the airport expansion plan is the work of the environmental justice bureau Mr. Becerra created in 2018, the first of its kind. Its focus: the unequal effect pollution and other forms of environmental damage have on health in the most vulnerable communities. While local officials, understandably, want to promote economic development, the bureau created by Mr. Becerra is saying that environmental justice needs to be part of the equation.

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