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Column: Oppose rollback of clean air standards

Column: Oppose rollback of clean air standards

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After so much precious time wasted, our nation’s failure to address carbon pollution has come home to Iowa.

In 2019, historic flooding devastated Davenport and other cities along the Mississippi River, leading to more than $2 billion in damages. Climate change, which is made worse by carbon pollution, is only increasing the frequency and intensity of these floods, and our state cannot afford another once-in-a-lifetime extreme weather event like this.

Now, thousands of Iowans are struggling to navigate COVID-19, a respiratory-linked pandemic that is made worse by air pollution. And even without a pandemic, higher levels of air pollution have been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In Davenport, air quality issues are something we have long struggled with, and Scott County recently received a "C" for ozone air quality in the American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report. For the over 10,000 adults and 2,000 children living in our community with asthma, we need policies that ensure every Iowan can breathe clean air.

Recently, I stood alongside fellow Iowans to oppose U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s rollback of federal clean car standards, which was finalized in the middle of this public health crisis. These standards are one of the best tools the U.S. has at its disposal to fight air pollution. With the transportation sector being our nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, these standards are necessary to clean up our air, and they have the added benefit of creating good jobs and saving Iowans money at the gas pump.

Nationally, 288,000 jobs are associated with clean vehicle technologies, and by 2030, our state could expect 7,400 new jobs if these standards remain in place. Consumers also stand to benefit from not rolling back clean car standards. The current standards have already saved Iowans $370 million, and households can expect to save $2,450 by 2030 if these standards are protected. It is clear that Iowa needs clean car standards to spur economic development in our state and help families save.

As a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, I take my job seriously to fight for Iowa’s health and economy, and that is why I support these standards. Unfortunately, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst has been silent as Wheeler rolls back a policy that has benefited our state. Iowans need her to take a stand and oppose the clean car standards rollback, as well as the Trump administration's attack on the ability of states to adopt their own vehicle pollution limits to protect the health of their citizens.

To date, she has failed to speak up for the authority of states – established under the Clean Air Act – to adopt stronger tailpipe pollution standards than those set by the federal government. Rolling back clean car standards and state authority would effectively strip all states of their ability to address harmful tailpipe pollution from cars and trucks. That is why states are coming together to protect this valuable authority, and this includes neighboring Minnesota, which announced its intent to become a clean cars state last fall, and Illinois, which has joined the legal fight to protect state authority.

The bottom line is that we need Sen. Ernst to put Iowans first. Opposing the rollback of the U.S.’s clean car standards is a step in the right direction, and Iowa cannot afford this dangerous trend toward more record-breaking flooding and dirtier air.

State Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Davenport represents District 89 in the Iowa House of Representatives.

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