As mayor of Salt Lake City, my most important job is protecting the health and well-being of our residents. In my capacity as co-chair of Sierra Club’s “Mayors for 100% Clean Energy,” and as chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ “Alliance for a Sustainable Future” task force, I am focused on advancing policies that fight climate change, slash dangerous pollution, and bolster Salt Lake City’s economy.
However, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration moving forward to finalize a dangerous and costly rollback of America’s clean car standards, our ability to make progress on our local air quality problems will be thrown in reverse. Even more outrageous is the recent announcement that the administration is attacking the authority of states, established under the Clean Air Act, to adopt stronger vehicle pollution limits than those set by the federal government.
Fourteen states and Washington, D.C. — representing over 118 million Americans — are already exercising this authority. And, just recently, two new states — Minnesota and New Mexico — announced their plans to join these clean car states, proving that states value this authority and are willing to defend it. The reality is that this rollback will not just harm the states already making commitments to cleaner cars; it would effectively strip all states, including Utah, of their ability to control pollution from cars and trucks.
Salt Lake City already struggles significantly with poor air quality and attacking standards that are already working to fight pollution is misguided and dangerous. And it is our most vulnerable populations that would be hit the hardest, including the over 19,000 children and over 73,000 adults in Salt Lake County who suffer from asthma.
Gutting the clean car standards would also harm Utah’s economy and force drivers to spend more at the gas pump. To date, Utah has saved $270 million thanks to the current federal standards, and each household in our state could be $3,050 richer by 2030 if these protections are left in place. Additionally, rolling back these standards could prevent the creation or cause the elimination of between 89,000 and 202,000 jobs nationwide.
By calling on our leaders to act, we can make a difference. Earlier this year, I joined local leaders in Salt Lake City to oppose the clean car standards rollback, and during the event, we called on Sen. Mitt Romney to speak out. Thankfully, he listened. His recent comments show he understands the dangers of rolling back clean car standards, calling it a “big mistake.” Similarly important was his acknowledgment that humans contribute to climate change. The national clean car standards and state authority to address vehicle pollution are some of the best policies we have on the books to fight the climate crisis.
By defending national clean car standards and state authority, Romney is putting the health of Utahns first. We need Romney, as well as Utah’s Rep. Ben McAdams, to continue being champions for Utah families by supporting current federal clean cars standards, state authority and other policies that protect our health, combat climate change, and boost Utah’s clean energy economy.
Our communities can’t afford for Washington to throw our economic and environmental progress in reverse. All leaders in Utah should exemplify Romney and McAdams and stand up in support of strong national clean car standards and longstanding state authority to combat tailpipe pollution because every state should have the right to protect their air and the health of their people.
Jackie Biskupski is mayor of Salt Lake City. She currently serves as the chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Alliance for a Sustainable Future and co-chair of Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy.