Fresh Energy Statement: Tailpipe Emissions Rollbacks are Another Threat to Public Health and Freedom

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The Trump administration, along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler and the Department of Transportation, have announced that it is moving forward with an unprecedented rollback of Federal Clean Air Act protections, including the ability of states to adopt vehicle emissions standards that protect public health.  

While these tailpipe emissions rollbacks do not prevent Minnesota from enacting Clean Cars standards, they starkly illustrate the need for the type of state-level action and committed health, safety, and climate leadership shown by Governor Tim Walz and his administration.  

Governor Walz recognized the scientific imperative to act on vehicle emissions standards when he announced the Clean Cars Minnesota proposal in 2019. Reducing the economic and public health burden of transportation pollution is in the interest of all Minnesotans. Fresh Energy is committed to seeing Clean Cars Minnesota through to completion.  

“Today’s announcement that the Trump Administration is rolling back the progress made on reducing air pollution is indefensible, especially when we know that Minnesotans overwhelmingly support the state doing more to reduce climate pollution. These standards are a major contributor to the health and economic wellbeing of all Minnesotans, something we’ll need even more once we get to the other side of our current public health crisis,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy. “Beyond that, strong federal tailpipe emissions standards an incredibly effective means to fighting climate change. They’re a solution to not just one problem, but many.”  

“If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will. Governor Walz has already shown strong leadership in pushing for innovative solutions to the climate crisis and made addressing this global issue a top priority for his administration. That is why Minnesota is proposing implementing Clean Cars standards — providing more low-emission and electric vehicle options in Minnesota. Initial estimates indicate that this would reduce annual climate pollution by 2 million tons by 2030.”  

This rollback is part of the Trump administration’s attack on the Clean Air Act and would take away Minnesota’s rights to protect the health of its own residents from health-harming pollution. Studies show that living with air pollution has been linked to higher rates of lung disease like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, especially among communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities which are affected by air pollution at a higher rate than the state average. 

Beyond the serious health implications of rolling back these standards, there are significant financial impacts. Minnesota alone will experience $5.6 billion in net consumer losses and about 70 percent of the costs of the rollbacks will fall on drivers of vans, pickups, and SUVs due to increased fuel and net costs per average new vehicle—money that could be going back into our communities to act as an economic stimulus at all levels, instead of just going into a gas pump. Additionally, the Trump administration’s own analysis found that this rollback would cost approximately 60,000 jobs, adding to the detrimental economic impacts of the rollback. 

The timing of this announcement amid an unprecedented public health crisis is irresponsible and reckless. We know that Americans suffering from chronic respiratory conditions, such as those caused or exacerbated by air pollution from motor vehicles, are among those at highest risk for the most severe impacts of COVID-19. Now more than ever, it is necessary that our leaders act upon science rather than political convenience.  

Fresh Energy unequivocally opposes this action and we call upon Congress to use all available tools to resist this attack on American consumers, our environment, and the future health of all Americans.