Tri-Caucus Members Oppose Weaker Clean Car Standards, Warn of Disproportionate Impact on Communities of Color

Aug 7, 2018 Issues: Other Issues

WASHINGTON, D.C.—  Members of the Tri-Caucus sent a letter to Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in opposition to the Trump Administration’s recently announced plan to weaken federal clean car standards. The bicameral letter, which was led by U.S. Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Doris Matsui (CA-06), A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), expressed Members concerns that the new standards will result in an increase of air pollution, climate change impacts, and fuel costs that will disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color.

“Tailpipe pollution has been linked to a variety of health problems, including asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular conditions that can lead to premature death, as well as low birth weight and impaired fetal brain development, with lasting health and cognitive impacts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes this fact, stating that ‘economically disadvantaged and minority populations share a disproportionate burden of air pollution exposure and risk’ and ‘experience higher residential exposure to traffic and traffic-related air pollution than nonminorities and persons of higher socioeconomic status,’” wrote the Members of Congress.

They added, “climate change, like air pollution, disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. From coastal towns suffering from more severe tropical storms, to urban neighborhoods suffering from increasing heat waves, our communities are hit earliest and hardest by climate change. With transportation surpassing the energy sector as the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, federal vehicle emissions standards are the most effective policy we have on the books to combat climate change.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Green for All applauded the lawmakers for their effort:

“Our nation’s clean car standards work to protect low-income households and communities of color who bear the brunt of harmful tailpipe pollution and suffer most from paying more at the pump,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Members of Congress who represent frontline communities should join with these leaders to prevent the Trump administration from driving these protections into a ditch.”

Michelle Romero of Green For All said, “Tailpipe pollution is a huge health and safety issue, and the Trump Administration is playing fast and loose with it. Recent studies have shown that traffic related pollution results in more death than traffic related accidents. Attempting to weaken fuel economy and emissions standards while forcing working families to foot the bill in increased gas prices and medical costs, is unconscionable.”

Text of the letter follows:

August 6, 2018

The Honorable Andrew R. Wheeler
Acting Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler and Secretary Chao,

We write to you today with deep concern about your intent to severely weaken federal clean car standards covering vehicle emissions and fuel economy for model year 2021-2026 light duty vehicles. Air pollution, climate change, and fuel costs affect all Americans – but they disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. The current clean car standards protect these communities while also supporting jobs in areas that are still recovering from the auto industry collapse a decade ago. For these reasons, as members of the Congressional Tri-caucus representing these communities, we urge you to substantively engage with relevant state, territorial, and federal stakeholders to establish strong clean car standards through the next decade.

Families who live near high traffic zones and highways are exposed to high levels of hazardous air pollution from vehicle emissions. Tailpipe pollution has been linked to a variety of health problems, including asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular conditions that can lead to premature death, as well as low birth weight and impaired fetal brain development, with lasting health and cognitive impacts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes this fact, stating that “economically disadvantaged and minority populations share a disproportionate burden of air pollution exposure and risk” and “experience higher residential exposure to traffic and traffic-related air pollution than non-minorities and persons of higher socioeconomic status.”

Climate change, like air pollution, disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. From coastal towns suffering from more severe tropical storms, to urban neighborhoods suffering from increasing heat waves, our communities are hit earliest and hardest by climate change. With transportation surpassing the energy sector as the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, federal vehicle emissions standards are the most effective policy we have on the books to combat climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must act to protect public health and should fully consider and adequately weigh the adverse public health impacts of air pollution and climate change as the agency proposes any changes to the existing standards.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is required by law to set fuel economy standards to reduce dependence on oil and protect American consumers from global price shocks. Fuel savings make a real difference for families who spend large proportions of their income on gasoline, and our constituents benefit greatly from strong fuel economy standards that save them money at the pump. Significantly and indiscriminately rolling back these standards will force families to spend hundreds of billions more on gasoline in the coming years, instead of spending their hard-earned income on more efficient vehicles, food, housing, medical care and other family needs.

The current fuel economy standards are on track to save families an average of $3,200 per car and $4,800 per truck over the lifetimes of model year 2025 vehicles. And as more fuel saving technology is adopted into new models, they will benefit used-car buyers in the future as well. These savings make a difference for many of our constituents who are working hard to stretch every dollar. As we see oil prices rising again, it makes no sense for DOT to roll back these standards.

Strong clean car standards have helped support over a quarter million jobs throughout the country since they were enacted a decade ago. For communities experiencing higher unemployment than the national average, policies that support job growth and push American automakers to innovate and stay competitive globally should be kept in place.

Clean car standards benefit all Americans, especially low-income communities and communities of color. Protecting our children from dangerous air pollution and the pervasive impacts of climate change is a moral imperative. Economically, it will also save families money at the gas pump and help support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. Millions of Americans, many of whom we represent, benefit from these standards. As such, we strongly urge you to keep our nation’s current clean car standards in place and work to ensure that America’s auto industry has the regulatory certainty it needs to thrive through the 2020s and beyond.

Sincerely,

 

The PDF version of the letter can be found here.

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The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.