Group of Alaskans call out EPA clean car rollbacks

A group of Alaskans, including elected officials and local advocates, are calling for a return to previous federal Environmental Protection Agency clean car standards.

The EPA rolled back the standards for lowering the fuel efficiency and emissions standards for new vehicles in March.

The rollback still increases the stringency of corporate average fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions standards by 1.5% each year through the model year 2026. The previous annual increase was 5%, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao called those goals "increasing unachievable."

But some Alaskans call this change irresponsible.

"Rolling back clean car standards during a global pandemic that's caused by a respiratory virus, when the Department of Defense has declared climate change a national security threat, is irresponsible, and an abandonment of science and reason," said Kimberly Slone, a registered nurse in Alaska, in a virtual press conference hosted by the Alaska Center on Thursday.

She was joined by Sen. Bill Wielechowski, Anchorage Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson, Native Peoples Action Executive Director Kendra Kloster and Jenny-Marie Stryker of The Alaska Center.

Wielechowski called Alaska "ground zero for climate change" and encouraged other lawmakers to speak out against the new standards that he says weakens state powers.

The group wants the congressional delegation to go on the record against the clean car standard rollbacks.

“Clean car standards are an essential tool to ensuring the over 20,000 adults and 5,000 children living with asthma in Anchorage can breathe clean air," said Stryker. "By rolling back these standards, we will have dirtier air at the worst possible time, and we need Sen. Murkowski to stand up the Trump administration’s reckless actions while we continue to battle COVID-19.”

In a release from March announcing the changes, the EPA said it will help carmakers lower the average price of new cars, making cleaner, safer vehicles more affordable.

"We are delivering on President Trump's promise to correct the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "Our final rule puts in place a sensible one national program that strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry. This rule supports our economy and the safety of American families."

But Wielechowski says the more stringent regulations besides being better for the environment also save the average Alaskan thousands of dollars at the pump.

By Jennifer Summers

Originally posted August 14 by KTVA

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