As 2021 came to a close, our members continued to fight for our children’s right to clean air and a livable climate, standing by EPA Administrator Michael Regan—quite literally—as he finalized the Clean Car Standards late last month. The ambitious new tailpipe emissions rule curbs greenhouse gas pollution from cars and light trucks by 3.1 billion tons by 2050, which is a 50% greater reduction than the original proposal. This is great news for everyone living near highways or dense traffic, especially the millions of children with asthma, and Black and Latino communities that are disproportionately exposed to tailpipe pollution. Join us in thanking the EPA for listening and leading.
SETTING A HIGH STANDARD FOR CLEAN CARS
Our National Field Manager, Elizabeth Brandt (pictured above), attended the Clean Car Standards signing event and told Environment & Energy News that in her home state of Maryland, “We breathe tailpipe pollution every day.” Maryland isn’t alone: “Lots of America is flunking the clean air test,” Elizabeth said. “We have a lot more work to do to clean up pollution from cars, but today we are celebrating a much-needed step forward, which has taken into account the input from stakeholders like us.” She “thanked Administrator Regan and pressed him to ‘keep going.’”
Molly Rauch, our Public Health Policy Director, spoke to Grist about the new standards: “Moms have been urging EPA to finalize the strongest possible tailpipe pollution standards.” She went on to highlight that the standards are “good news for the millions of children whose asthma is made worse by car pollution. It’s good for the Black and Latino communities that are disproportionately exposed to tailpipe pollution. It’s good for all people living near highways and around dense traffic—and suffering poor health because of it.”
The Washington Post coverage and the Boston Herald coverage of the new tailpipe emissions rule featured an Associated Press photo (and caption) of the signing ceremony. Both featured our youngest Kids Clean Air Force members who are holding a sign reading “Less pollution, more solution.” Thanks to our dedicated members and volunteers, we are making sure EPA will continue to work toward this urgent goal.
BEST TO BUILD BACK BETTER NOW
Four days before Senator Manchin announced that he would vote “No” on Build Back Better, our Arizona field organizer, Columba Sainz, wrote in Latino Rebels about the environmental injustice of the climate crisis and why the Senate must pass Build Back Better now: “The Build Back Better Act would protect the environment and help our communities modernize infrastructure and improve resilience to increasing disasters. It would create high-paying jobs in the clean energy sector and boost local economies while reducing dangerous pollution levels. This plan would also bring several positive changes to our communities by cutting pollution from dirty power plants, reducing electricity bills, holding fossil fuel companies accountable for pollution, and extending tax incentives to make electric cars and trucks more available to all consumers.”
Columba emphasized that the Build Back Better plan also makes historic investments in environmental justice efforts, which is critical because: “The climate crisis does not affect everyone equally—Latinos and communities of color suffer disproportionately. We are more likely to live in one of the 10 most polluted cities in the country and near energy production plants. We are more prone to the negative effects of extreme heat since we work in construction and agriculture. And we live in areas with little access to parks. Many of us have parents who emigrated due to hurricanes, fires, and droughts, making climate an intergenerational issue.”
MORE METHANE, MORE FAMILIES AT RISK
Pennsylvania-based organizer Vanessa Lynch spoke up about the methane rules proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which would exempt about 63,000 oil and gas wells from having to perform leak detection surveys. She was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Most low-producing wells in the state are owned by larger companies with profits that dwarf the compliance costs of taking an optical gas imaging camera to inspect the sites once or twice a year.” She continued: “In Allegheny County, about 120,000 people living within a half-mile of these wells could be exposed to hazardous air pollutants and the operators of these wells are under no obligation to find and fix those leaks.”
WESA and State Impact Pennsylvania also highlighted Vanessa’s perspective. As Vanessa warned, “Not only does this put the health of Pennsylvania families at risk, but it also means more methane pollution, that’s accelerating climate change, will be released into our air.”
Vanessa wrote to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that in spite of the “woefully inadequate” Pennsylvania rule, she is hopeful that the recently proposed EPA methane rule, which establishes nationwide methane pollution standards, will “help protect families like mine who live near oil and gas operations from the pollution that increases the risk of having adverse birth outcomes, heart disease, cancer, asthma attacks and respiratory problems.” Vanessa emphasized, “There is no time to waste, and we must protect the health of our children and the future of our planet.”
CLIMATE ACTION CAN’T WAIT
Celerah Hewes, our Project Manager for Campaigns, wrote in the Santa Fe New Mexican that climate pollution is a serious threat to our children and their future: “Our children now spend large portions of the year inside because the air outside is harmful to breathe or due to extreme heat, and scientists are telling us this will only get worse. New Mexico is already experiencing extreme temperatures and exceptional drought—conditions that fuel catastrophic wildfires and strained water supplies.” But Celerah is encouraged by the EPA methane rule and the climate and justice provisions in Build Back Better. “It gives me hope that New Mexico’s leaders are showing real climate leadership in pursuing regulations and legislation that reduce methane and other climate pollution that can accelerate the transition to a cleaner energy and a healthier future. Our children deserve nothing less.”
GREEN IS THE NEW YELLOW
Molly Rauch, our Public Health Policy Director, and Trisha Dello Iacono, our Senior Legislative Manager, talked to Forbes about why it’s so important to replace diesel-run yellow school buses with clean, green electric ones. Molly explains: “Diesel engines produce plenty of harmful air pollution in the form of particles that can pass directly into the bloodstream when breathed in and other pollutants that can that are [sic] precursors to ground level ozone formation, which is a lung irritant.”
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act commits $2.5 billion to buying electric school buses and another $2.5 billion to purchasing school buses that run on electricity or alternative fuels. Trisha told Forbes that Moms Clean Air Force and our partners “will be advocating for that additional $2.5 billion to be used for solely electric school buses.” She added, “It’s important to note that this is a historic investment, as we’ve never had this kind of money dedicated towards electrifying our fleet of diesel buses before.”
- In a live radio interview with Pandhandle News Network, West Virginia organizer Lucia Valentine was asked why she is a proponent of the renewable energy focus in the Build Back Better Act when she lives in West Virginia, where there is a large extraction industry. Lucia replied, “As West Virginians, we also have a birthright to be the energy producers for our nation… It’s important for us to be ahead of that curve and be included in this [just] transition so that we can make investments to bring energy jobs back to West Virginia to improve our economy, protect our public health… Lucia also sang a bit from her song “We are One”, which she composed for West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
- Michigan field organizer Elizabeth Hauptman was quoted in Michigan Information & Research Service about the need for climate solutions as part of a Build Back Better media briefing: “Michiganders want the necessary investments scientists have said are needed to address the climate crisis and transition to electric vehicles to help clean up our air for our kids in our communities.” She went on to say, “This transition to clean energy and electric vehicles also reduces carbon pollution heating up our climate and threatening America’s future.”