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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A gathering at the State Capitol Tuesday was led by the California Environmental Justice Alliance and supported by the Sierra Club.

Their target was gas-fired power plants, especially those in poor and minority neighborhoods where critics say nitrogen oxide emissions harm children.

“I have students coming into my class daily with headaches from playing outside, random nosebleeds and just feeling ill from playing outside like a kid,” said teacher Justice Sandoval.

Natural gas power plants are far cleaner than coal-burning plants that are the primary target of the green movement. Although still a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming, gas plants account for just 1% of the nitrogen oxide emissions in the air, compared to mobile sources like motor vehicles.

It was not that long ago that natural gas-fueled power plants were the solution to America’s air pollution problems.

So what has changed? It turns out that half of all gas-fired plants in the state operate in disadvantaged and polluted neighborhoods.

Global warming has also taken center stage and renewable power generation like water, wind and solar are farther along.

“We can do it,” said Shannon Lazeraw with Communities for a Better Environment. “We have the technology. We need the pathway.”

Still, natural gas is essentially power on demand, rather than depending on Mother Nature. That means asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to come up with a concrete plan to close the dirtiest natural gas plants could be a hard sell.

But that’s not stopping them from trying.

A few decades ago, it was nuclear power plants that were in the crosshairs of environmental zealots. It seemed like a longshot at the time but plants like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s decommissioned Rancho Seco facility are no longer being built.

In many cases, natural gas plants were constructed instead.