As a physician (or nurse or health professional), I oppose the EPA decision to revise the clean car standards, which include auto emissions and fuel economy standards. In 2016, after substantial review and public comment, EPA concluded correctly that the 2022-2025 vehicle emissions requirements were appropriate and that auto manufacturers can comply with these standards. The standards offer very real health protections. There is no valid reason to change the earlier decision now.
Transportation is the nation’s single largest contributor of carbon pollution, which drives climate change. Starting a process to weaken clean car standards marks a significant step backward from the fight to curb climate change and a significant threat to the health of Americans.
Climate change already poses serious health threats to millions of people, especially to some of the most vulnerable Americans, including children, older adults and those living with chronic diseases such as asthma. Weakening clean car standards, whether through direct emission standards, or fuel economy standards, will increase air pollution from tailpipes. With hotter weather, the sun will turn those tailpipe emissions into ozone; as ozone levels increase they will cause further irritation to the lungs, and eyes. Those who spend more time outside, like children, are especially likely to experience harm; this is also the case for the nearly 15% of Americans with underlying lung problems such as asthma and chronic lung disease.
This decision also undermines the finances of American households while endangering their health. By weakening fuel economy standards, drivers will face increased costs of fuel for their cars. This is a poor economic decision that unnecessarily places additional financial burdens on Americans who rely on their automobiles for work and for leisure.
A recent poll conducted by the American Lung Association showed that nearly seven in 10 voters want EPA to leave current fuel efficiency standards in place.
Furthermore, by threatening California’s historic authority to set more protective clean car standards, EPA is undermining one of the most effective tools that states have to protect their residents by fighting air pollution and reducing the impact on the climate. This action hampers not only California’s right to protect the health of its citizens but that of a dozen other states that have driven nationwide progress in reducing tailpipe pollution.
National physician organizations, such as the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health support the efforts of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington; they are all moving forward with strong clean car standards. For health reasons and economic reasons, we urge all states to join them. The decision to weaken the standards for states that have gone farther to protect the health of their residents is a threat to the health of my patients and my community.