Commentary: Utahns want and need clean car standards

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This year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are expected to finalize their rollback of America’s clean car standards. These successful standards to increase fuel economy and reduce tailpipe pollution are already saving people money at the pump and cleaning up pollution in our communities. As co-chairs of the Clean Air Caucus in the Utah Legislature, we were proud to join local leaders in Salt Lake City to speak out against this dangerous and costly clean cars rollback.

One of our most important jobs as state representatives is to bolster Utah’s economy. By standing up for clean car standards, we are doing just that, because any rollback will cost Utah families hard earned dollars.

According to a new report released by Consumer Reports, if EPA and NHTSA move forward with their rollback, American consumers stand to lose about $460 billion in fuel savings in the coming years. In Utah, drivers have saved $270 million to date due to the current standards, and if they remain in place, the average Utah household will be $3,050 richer by 2030. Rolling these standards back would undermine local economies by pulling these savings right out of the pockets of Utahns.

These standards are also already spurring job growth in our state and across the country. Nationwide, there are 288,000 jobs associated with clean vehicle technologies. In Utah, we can expect 4,700 new jobs by 2030 if the clean car standards remain in place. We must encourage job growth in Utah, and these standards help fuel our growing clean energy economy. However, if they are rolled back, it could prevent the creation or cause the elimination of between 89,000 and 202,000 jobs nationally. Our communities cannot afford to go backwards, which is why we are standing up for these critical standards and for jobs in Utah.

In addition to economic benefits, clean car standards also reduce pollution that drives climate change and threatens the health of Utah families. As Utahns know, the Salt Lake City region suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the country due in no small part to carbon pollution. Instead of rolling back safeguards that help reduce this pollution, we should be strengthening them.

Most insidious is that this rollback doesn’t allow Utah to manage its own affairs or protect its own citizens. The Trump administration’s planned rollback attacks the authority of states, established under the Clean Air Act, to adopt stronger tailpipe pollution standards than those set by the federal government – an example of cooperative federalism that was supported by President Ronald Reagan. Although 14 states and Washington, D.C. – representing over 118 million Americans – already exercise this authority, this rollback would effectively strip all states of their ability to control transportation pollution within their own borders, now and in the future. As members of Utah’s Legislature, we’ll always fight for Utah’s right to decide what’s best for its own citizens.

Rep. Stephen G. Handy, R-Layton
Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper