Future of Pollution Standards Up in the Air
SACRAMENTO, MARCH 2, 2017 – Last week, the California State Senate confirmed the new administration’s potential to negatively impact the state’s aggressive environmental goals.
The Federal Clean Air Act sets national standards and regulations for vehicle emissions. Considering the state’s historic pollution problems, the CAA allows California to submit a “waiver” and set stricter regulations within the state. Since 1960, over 100 California waivers have been approved on a bipartisan basis. Other states have followed California’s lead, also implementing a number of the approved regulations. The catch — the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) must approve the proposed regulations before they can be implemented.
“If this administration refuses to uphold the waiver… If Washington doesn’t want to lead in cleaning up our air, they should stay out of our way,” stated California senator Kevin De León during the California Senate Environmental Quality committee hearing.
De León explains since the inception of the waiver process 50 years ago, great strides have been made to clean the air. “Back then, the LA skyline looked like that of Beijing’s today.” However, there is still a long way to go. According to De León, over 3,000 people in California die annually from breathing polluted air. Governing Board Member of the American Lung Association, Afif El-Hasan, agreed, confirming 5 cities in the state rank among the most polluted in the nation. “If our population now was driving back then we can just imagine what the air quality would be if we didn’t move forward.”
Luciana Da Silva, Adroit Energy’s VP of Marketing, explains committee members fear the authority could be taken away. “The hearing explained the extreme health and economic implications. The number of people affected by polluted air would only rise. We’re told it would increase healthcare costs and drag down quality of living in some areas. If Californians are healthy, so is the state’s economy.”
According to El-Hasan, the continued upkeep of the act and new waivers, there can be over 770 fewer deaths and 76,000 less sick days by 2020, saving over $4.2 billion in healthcare costs. The waiver literally is California’s “light through the smog and haze,” said Kevin Hamilton, CEO of the Central California Asthma Collaborative.
Don Anair, deputy director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the auto industry is also thriving under the standards, “…dollars spent at the pump, are now dollars spent somewhere else in the local economy.” In the past 7 years, Anair explains, zero emission vehicles have saved Californians over $100 million in gas. The reinvested fuel savings have potential to create an estimated 650,000 new jobs in the future.
These changes made in California do not only impact the state, but create change nationwide.
Nevertheless, the committee agreed California’s need for the Federal Government’s help to control some of these sources of emissions. However, Anair warns the state must also prepare for the worst.
“We need to be ready for the possibility the administration will not be providing help… we need to be ready to set our own standards, and be able to go to court with the attorney general in order to get those standards.”