Editor’s Note: Christine Todd Whitman, president of the Whitman Strategy Group, was the Environmental Protection Agency administrator from 2001 to 2003 and the governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
With the Trump administration taking steps to roll back America’s clean-cars standards, states are preparing for what is sure to be an epic legal battle over states’ authority to protect their citizens from dangerous pollution. In the latest escalation in their fight against the Trump administration, California regulators have approved new measures to defend the state’s vehicle emissions standards.
We should all be rooting for these regulators. Since the election of Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been guided by appointed officials who have fundamentally failed to uphold its mission: to protect public health and the environment. From undermining and ignoring established science, to rolling back lifesaving public health protections, it’s become abundantly clear that this administration has no intention of upholding the core mission of the EPA.
This summer, when former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his resignation, I was hopeful that the agency would have a chance to refocus. Unfortunately, it is now clear that his replacement – acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler – plans to follow through with Pruitt’s toxic agenda.
For example, Trump, Wheeler and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Deputy Administrator Heidi King recently announced their plans to reverse America’s clean-car standards.
With the transportation sector, now the country’s largest source of carbon pollution, the clean-car standards are the most effective policy we have on the books to fight climate change. Rolling back these standards will mean dirtier cars that pollute the air and jeopardize the health of millions of Americans, especially the over 26 million Americans who suffer from asthma.
This move by the Trump administration will not only pollute our air and put lives at risk, but will also force consumers to spend hundreds of billions of dollars more on gas. The current standards save consumers as much as $5,700 per car and $8,200 per truck over the lifetime of their vehicles, thanks to increased fuel efficiency.
And that’s particularly important when you consider that gas prices reached their highest point in nearly four years over this summer. American families cannot afford to spend any more of their money at the pump at a time when prices are rising.
What’s worse, even the EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Board is questioning the “adequacy” of scientific justifications used to roll back the clean car standards, particularly what this move could mean for climate change, air pollution, as well as impacts on Americans’ health and safety. This rollback also ignores thousands of pages of research showing that the current standards are achievable, protect public health and reduce air pollution. The EPA should make decisions based on science – not willfully ignoring the work of scientists.
As if this attack on our health and our wallets isn’t bad enough, the Trump administration’s proposal also rolls back states’ authority to protect their citizens from harmful air pollution. More specifically, this proposal attacks states’ rights to adopt stronger standards on tailpipe pollution. For decades, states have had the longstanding authority under the Clean Air Act to adopt stronger tailpipe pollution standards than those set by the federal government.
This cooperative approach has been in place for decades, and was supported by President Ronald Reagan.
All of this is why it is so important that Americans across the country have had the opportunity to make their voices heard at public hearings organized by EPA and NHTSA in Fresno, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Pittsburgh. It’s essential that the Trump administration understands how this rollback will impact the lives of our families, and these hearings gave families a chance to make their voices heard. At the end of the day, Americans deserve clean air, and that message needs to be made loud and clear.
While the public hearings may be over, the public can still submit comments into the federal register until October 23, and I’d encourage all to do so. My hope is that with this public input fresh in their minds, Trump and EPA officials will reverse their attempt to roll back these lifesaving standards.
After all, who really benefits from weakening our clean-car standards? The answer is certainly not our environment or American families.