Environmental Justice Orgs Value Stronger EPA Vehicle Emissions Rule With Concerns And More To Do

March 23, 2024

By Ashley Sullivan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their long-awaited updated rule on emissions standards for model years 2027 and later for light-and medium-duty vehicles.

In response, The Clean Air For The Long Haul Cohrt acknowledges the improvements in the updated rule, but still has concerns, and maintains that there is further need for stronger air pollution regulations. The announcement of these standards demonstrates a necessary advancement for clean air and climate, and is a milestone for reductions. However, as our overburdened communities face the most significant negative health impacts, we recognize that we will experience continued consequences of compromise. 

“The South Bronx has been disproportionately burdened with air pollution for many decades, primarily from a heavy concentration of highways and expressways as well as last-mile warehouses. This has diminished our quality of life and resulted in a range of illnesses, from asthma to heart disease. EPA’s stronger vehicle pollution standards will begin to rectify this injustice so that our community can literally breathe easier, while also addressing the climate crisis,” said Arif Ullah, Executive Director, South Bronx Unite.

Clean Air for the Long Haul, a group of environmental justice organizations nationwide focused on improving air quality representing people of color and low-income communities suffering from disproportionate air pollution exposure for decades, has been growing awareness and investing in federal regulatory action to clear the air and improve public health. A person of color in the United States is up to three times more likely to be breathing the most polluted air than white people and has consistently higher exposure to PM 2.5 pollution, regardless of income or geography. These statistics reflect the realities of our communities who experience disproportionately increased cases of asthma, lung disease, and heart attacks, preterm births and premature deaths. Cars and light-duty trucks account for 94% of on-road vehicles and are the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. These same vehicles generate significant ozone-and particle-forming nitrogen oxide emissions annually.

We are pleased to see that the new EPA emission standards could alleviate pollution and health burdens especially for communities of color living near major roads and highways, while also achieving some of the most significant climate emissions reductions. The standards embolden industry further to shift to zero-pollution cars that could eventually prevent 89,000 premature deaths, 2.2 million asthma attacks, and 10.7 million lost work days

Nevertheless, pollution from gasoline vehicles remains a persistent public health threat. We are appreciative to see strong  standards that would require already available filters which drastically reduce particulate matter from these vehicles. At the same time, we acknowledge that not pursuing the strongest possible rule allows for industry to keep producing new gasoline cars and trucks that will be on the road, polluting our neighborhoods, our climate, and our bodies for decades. Ultimately, we continue to insist on the strongest air pollution standards and enforcement possible to protect lives, with no time to waste. There are opportunities this year for the EPA to advance necessary and strong rules, including the proposed Phase 3 greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles, that would improve health and stave off the worst climate repercussions, as well as realize the justice our communities deserve. We remain vigilant to ensure that these rules are finalized to their most appropriate and strengthened degree.

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“… centering overburdened communities, to reduce air pollution …”

Clean Air For The Long Haul, a nationwide coalition of environmental justice groups, coordinates federal rulemaking campaigns, centering overburdened communities, to reduce air pollution from power plants, cars, and trucks. The coalition seeks to catalyze the environmental justice movement through federal emissions reductions targeting United States power and transportation sectors. Coalition member organizations include: Alternatives for Community and Environment, Clear Air Now, Coalition of Community Organizations, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Duwamish River Community Coalition, Green Door Initiative, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, South Bronx Unite, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, West End Revitalization Association, and Wisconsin Green Muslims.

Ashley Sullivan

Ashley Sullivan, Senior Communications Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice in DC, leverages over a decade of experience in nonprofit communications and digital marketing. With a Master’s in Environmental Science & Policy and a BA in Anthropology, she champions environmental justice, empathy, and equity, originally hailing from Brooklyn, NY. https://www.weact.org

Photo credit: 125th Stree, Harlem, NY.

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