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Fresher air: Climate activists push for tougher clean car standards
Trump rollbacks would impact urban neighbors
Published Sunday, August 4, 2019 12:00 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Northwood Estates Community Organization President Ron Ross, speaking at a press conference Tuesday in Charlotte, said his community along the Beatties Ford Road corridor would be disproportionately impacted by a rollback of federal pollution standards for vehicles.

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Ron Ross’ neighborhood doesn’t need dirtier air.

Ross, president of the Northwood Estates Community Organization in west Charlotte, said the Beatties Ford Road corridor – wedged between two interstates and a busy state highway – would be disproportionately impacted by loosened federal car pollution standards. Lower-income, high-traffic, mostly-black communities near the urban core like Northwood Estates have some of North Carolina's worst air quality.

“The community that I live in was segregated due to Jim Crow laws, redlining, and systemic racism,” Ross said Tuesday at a press conference of activists opposed to weakening clean car standards by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “These communities were decimated in the 1960s by homes by so-called urban renewal.  These communities were replaced with highways like Interstate I-85, I-77, and NC Highway 16 being routed through the west side – my community.  This further denigrated African American neighborhoods and increased exposure to pollutants to those that remained - and this trend continues today with the I-77 toll road expansion – and increased vehicle traffic through our neighborhoods.”

Clean car advocates contend the federal rules implemented by the Obama administration in 2012 increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution. The standards, which are supported by labor groups, automakers, public health groups and environmentalists, have been credited with providing health and economic benefits as well as sparking innovation and new jobs.

“North Carolinians want and need strong clean car standards. Not only would this rollback reverse years of progress on reducing pollution, the administration’s proposal would also strip states of their authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce vehicle pollution in their own states. We cannot afford to go backwards,” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell said.

Scuttling Obama-era clean air rules would leave communities like Northwood Estates – which is bordered by interstates 77, 85 and Highway 16 into Charlotte’s core – further at risk to health issues caused by vehicle exhaust. In North Carolina, more than 264,000 children and 736,000 adults suffer from asthma, according to the American Lung Association. African Americans have some of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the state at 19.4 per 10,000 people, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Whites, on the other hand, are hospitalized at a rate of 6.7 per 10,000. Mecklenburg, North Carolina’s most populous county with more than 1 million people, also has the state’s dirtiest air, scoring the lone “F” grade according the lung association’s rankings, and Charlotte slid to 41st among America's most-polluted cities for ozone.

“Vulnerable communities like Northwood Estates that face high levels of pollution will be disproportionately harmed by the Trump administration’s rollback of the clean car standards,” Ross said. “This increased pollution can lead to a variety of health problems, including aggravating asthma and other respiratory illnesses. We are calling on the administration to maintain these standards and protect our residents’ right to breathe clean air.”

There’s an economic benefit to cleaner air, said Charlotte City Council Member Dimple Ajmera. A smaller carbon footprint profits consumers and business through cost savings are jobs produced in the transition to ecology-friendly industries.

“America’s clean car standards are saving consumers money at the pump, and they have spurred innovation, creating new manufacturing and engineering jobs in North Carolina and across the country,” she said. “There are over 12,000 jobs associated with clean vehicle technologies at 46 facilities right here in North Carolina, and we can expect an estimated 22,500 new jobs and $3,300 in savings by 2030 if the current clean car standards remain in place.”

Said June Blotnick, executive director at Clean Air Carolina “Rolling back the clean car standards will allow automakers to produce dirtier cars that pollute our air, fuel climate change, and endanger our health. We can’t afford to gamble with the health of our families and communities by gutting these standards that help protect the air we all breathe.”


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