No matter where you live in West Virginia, chances are you’ve benefited from strong clean car standards.
We all deserve to breathe clean air — and these standards play a vital role in reducing pollution from the transportation sector while saving drivers money at the pump and providing well-paying jobs in clean vehicle technologies. These protections are all desperately needed as we fight a pandemic that preys on those with diminished respiratory function. However, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler finalized a rollback of these standards just when we needed them most.
As I cautioned in an event on July 16, alongside other local leaders in Charleston, this rollback is the last thing our community needs. Kanawha County is already home to nearly 18,000 adults and over 3,000 children living with asthma. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that our county also regularly receives poor grades on ozone pollution. Gutting standards that address this pollution makes zero sense and further puts our communities at risk.
Beyond the immediate effects of this assault on public health, this rollback also has dire implications for our ability to fight the worst impacts of climate change. Between 2007 and 2016, West Virginia experienced seven extreme weather events that cost over $1 billion in economic losses each. The clean car standards are widely known as one of the best protections we have on the books to fight air pollution that exacerbates climate change. Without them, extreme weather events will become more frequent and severe — placing West Virginians at risk and limiting the tools we have available to mitigate the climate crisis.
It’s no secret that gasoline is a big part of any family’s budget. To date, it’s been estimated that strong clean car standards have saved West Virginians a total of $220 million. Moving forward, advancements in fuel efficiency will pay for themselves as technology continues to evolve. People throughout West Virginia will continue to save more and more at the gas pump. In fact, it’s been estimated that the average household in West Virginia could expect to save $3,500 by 2030 thanks to strong clean car standards. Among the economic benefits of strong clean car standards, West Virginia can also expect to add 2,300 desperately-needed new jobs if these standards remain in place.
Another problematic aspect of this rollback is the heavy-handed manner in which it is being done. How does an administration that claims to champion states’ rights justify attacking their authority established under the Clean Air Act to adopt stronger standards than those set by the federal government? If fulfilled, this rollback would severely limit states’ ability to control vehicle pollution and protect the health of their residents.
It is imperative that our leaders in Washington – Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, and our entire Congressional Delegation – join me in speaking out in support of strong clean car standards. They should defend West Virginia’s authority to adopt vehicle pollution limits stronger than those set by the federal government.
Serving on the Charleston City Council has been one of the greatest honors of my life — just as I’m sure serving in Congress has been to them as well. Honoring the trust that brought us to these positions of power entails doing the right thing in difficult circumstances and putting smart policy over political calculations. There is simply too much at stake for them to be silent on this issue. West Virginia needs strong clean car standards.