By James Carr, Melanie Porter and Grayson Schmidt | Cronkite News
Two Democratic legislators want Sen. Martha McSally to oppose the Trump administration’s plan to relax fuel economy standards implemented to reduce fossil fuel use and air pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates emissions and fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and motorcycles, has proposed reducing standards set by the Obama administration. Those rules, put in effect in 2012, mandated corporate average fuel economy of 46.7 mpg by 2025; the proposed change reduces that to 37 mpg by 2026.
Arizona Democrats said the change would worsen the state’s already poor air quality and slow economic growth.
“McSally has the opportunity to show Arizona exactly the kind of leader she is,” said state Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe. “Whether or not a state should be able to protect its citizens from pollution should not be a political issue. This proposal is an attack on state’s rights just as much as it is an attack on common sense safeguards to protect us from pollution.”
McSally’s office did not respond Friday to a request for comment. Since 2012, when the Arizona Republican was first elected to Congress representing Tucson, oil and energy political action committees, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Peabody Energy and BP, have donated more than $80,000 to her coffers.
Arizona and California have the 10 worst cities for air quality, of the 100 largest cities tracked by the 2019 report by the American Fitness Index.
As of 2017, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 529,155 Arizona adults had asthma, a long-term condition that is aggravated by air pollution.
Poor air quality forces Columba Sainz of Phoenix, a mother of three, and other parents to make lifestyle changes to keep their children safe.
“As a mother, I want my babies to be able to spend time outdoors,” Sainz said. “Unfortunately, I have been forced to limit their time outdoors because of poor air quality.”
Arizona exceeded acceptable air quality 189 times in 2019, as of Oct. 18, according to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
In addition to public health concerns, Democrats said the fuel economy standards push the economy forward.
“Arizona has already saved $680 million at the pump, and we are expected to add over 9,000 new innovative jobs by 2030,” said Mendez.
Democrats also said that these standards help car manufacturers and people innovate transportation that is more environmentally friendly.
“What it means is that we are looking at how we are looking at technology and making cars much more fuel efficient, and that’s important because it spurs innovation and how we move forward,” state Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe.
President Donald Trump tweeted about the fuel efficiency standards in September, saying that lowering them would lead to safer vehicles and more car production.
The administration’s proposed rollbacks would especially impact 14 states, including California, that have higher fuel economy standards than federally required.
The Trump administration announced in September it intends to revoke California’s decades-long authority to set its own vehicle standards for fuel economy. California, 22 other states and Washington, D.C., have filed suit. Arizona adopted California’s emission standards in 2008 but revoked them in 2012; it did not join in the lawsuit.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month signed the Clean Trucks, Clean Air bill, which mandates emission inspections for big rigs. The new bill could remove 93,000 tons of nitrogen oxides from the air from 2023 to 2031, according to the Coalition for Clean Air, a California environmental group.
The California law will first require the establishment of a two-year pilot program before the law can be enforced. Once a program is in place, the law will also require trucks from other states that operate within California to abide by the new smog check law as well.