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News broke this week that the Environmental Protection Agency, led by climate change denier Scott Pruitt, has begun the process of undoing car pollution standards that have been cutting toxins from the air and saving money for consumers. The Trump administration’s latest action is an affront on our state’s hard-earned climate protections, an attack on public health, and an impracticality for our economy.
Pollution standards for cars may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of aggressive climate action, but perhaps they should be. As one outlet put it, Pruitt’s actions “would reverse one of the single biggest steps any government has taken to tackle climate change.” This is because transportation recently overtook our energy sector as the number-one source of carbon pollution in the United States.
While the U.S. and Colorado are taking significant steps to move towards a clean energy future, we have much work to do to cut carbon pollution across other sectors of our economy. We can’t make progress against climate change without tackling pollution from transportation.
Before they were rolled back, the car pollution standards were already working. According to the EPA itself, these standards would have cut oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels and reduced carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations. In addition, these standards were not hindering the auto manufacturing industry; in fact, the industry has outperformed the standards every year since they started — because Americans want to buy more efficient cars that benefit their wallets and air.
Already, Coloradans have saved $550 million at the pump since the standards were set in 2012. Under these standards, the average Colorado household would have seen $2,700 in savings by 2030—savings that won’t happen with this rollback.
Moreover, these standards would have helped clean up Colorado’s air and mitigate climate change. Because of the rollback, emissions of smog-causing air pollutants from vehicles will increase by about 15 percent, making it harder for places like Colorado’s Front Range to meet federal air quality safety standards that protect our health. And, carbon pollution in Colorado will increase by 3.9 million tons per year, undercutting Governor John Hickenlooper’s recent executive order that sets goals to address our changing climate.
For Coloradans, especially the 343,000 people who are living with asthma, more air pollution means more coughing and wheezing, increased risk of infection, and permanent damage to lung tissue. These health impacts disproportionately impact working families and communities of color. The greater Denver area ranked the sixth-worst in the country for bad air days in 2015, and we are still in not in alignment with federal air quality safety regulations. Removing the car pollution standards puts our air quality and health even more at risk.
Colorado needs to step up its game in order to keep our skies blue and our lungs healthy. We can’t sit by and allow the Trump administration to wage this egregious attack. Governor Hickenlooper has shown his commitment to clean air so we look forward to working with him to give Coloradans what they deserve: a healthy environment and a strong economy.
Sophia Guerrero-Murphy is a Transportation and Energy Advocate at Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization.