For years, Arizona was touted as a good place for asthmatics and others who suffer from respiratory illnesses to move. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. And if Gov. Jan Brewer and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) get their way and repeal the Clean Cars Program, we will be even farther away from the clean air and public health benefits that brought many people to our state.
The Clean Cars Program limits health-damaging pollution from automobiles by establishing fleet-wide limits on tailpipe emissions and by requiring the sale of advanced-technology vehicles such as hybrids that have even lower emissions. Cleaner cars not only reduce air pollution and decrease adverse public health effects such as asthma attacks, but they save consumers money at the pump, which is particularly important as gas prices continue to fluctuate. It is no wonder that Arizonans overwhelmingly supported bringing the Clean Cars Program to our state.
Recently, in the American Lung Association of Arizona’s State of the Air report, Gila, Maricopa, Pinal and Yuma counties all received an “F” for ozone pollution. Ozone is one of the most harmful by-products of automobile emissions and puts people at risk for premature death, coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, decreased lung function, respiratory infection, lung inflammation and worsened lung diseases.
Clearly, Arizona needs to do everything it reasonably can to reduce automobile emissions. Under ADEQ’s leadership, Arizona and 13 other states adopted the Clean Cars Program which helped lead to national policy. Now, Gov. Brewer and ADEQ argue that federal policy is only incrementally weaker than the policy Arizona adopted and we should follow the federal government on this one.
With areas of our state not meeting air quality standards and other areas likely to cross that threshold soon, we need every possible improvement to protect our air and our health. The Clean Cars Program in Arizona should be a no-brainer. A diverse set of stakeholders in Arizona including major utilities, businesses and public health organizations unanimously recommended this policy as a top option to reduce emissions.
Even with other measures and federal policy in place, Arizona should pursue the Clean Cars Program in Arizona. In fact, Arizona should be moving toward the next round of clean car standards that will provide even more significant air quality and public health protections.
Arizona has much to offer its citizens and tourists. If we want to put the clean air and public health benefits that brought many people to our state back on the list, Arizona needs to promote and implement, not repeal, the Clean Cars Program.
• Stacey Mortenson is executive director of the American Lung Association in Arizona. Diane E. Brown is executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, which conducts research and education on public interest issues.