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ENVIRONMENT Auto-emissions rollback criticized

August 2, 2018

Connecticut activists are vowing to fight the Trump administration’s plan to roll back auto emissions standards, a move they say will endanger the health of Connecticut residents and cost motorists money.

The proposed change announced Thursday also eliminates the ability of states such as Connecticut and California to set their own gas mileage standards in an effort to reduce climate-harming Greenhouse gas pollution.

“This president seems intent on leaving an environmental legacy that is aimed at doing irreparable harm our planet, rather than protecting it,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The proposed rule unveiled by the federal Environmental Protection Agency essentially scuttles auto emissions standards established by former President Barrack Obama’s administration.

Under the Trump plan, new cars and light trucks built between 2020 and 2026 would have to offer an average of 37 miles per gallon as opposed to the 54.5 miles per gallon standard set by the Obama administration.

Paul Farrell, assistant director for air quality at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said Connecticut and other states will sue to block the Trump proposal. California and New York are among the states preparing to sue.

“This will be challenged,” Farrell said. “People want the fuel efficiency they are getting from new cars. It matters to a great deal of consumers.”

Environmentalists and other activists said stricter fuel efficiency standards save money and foster better health.

“Connecticut residents breathe easier, face lower health care costs and save money on gas thanks to our tailpipe pollution standards and electric vehicle sales mandates,” said Claire Coleman, a climate and energy attorney for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.

“Make America sick”

The proposed roll back of fuel efficiency standards is widely viewed as a nod to the gas and oil industry, which has never supported efforts to decrease use of its products.

“This is the direct result of intense fossil fuel industry lobbying, and the absence of public input,” said Louis Burch, program manager for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“Policies like these line the pockets of big oil and gas companies, while stifling innovation in the automotive industry,” Burch said.

The Trump administration has also proposed scuttling Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which placed strict emissions limits on coal burning electric plants, and is working to purge Obama’s clean water rules.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said the current auto emissions standards are critical to the health, safety and well-being of state residents.

“My office will continue to work with our partners in other states to aggressively fight this administration’s assault on clean air,” said Jepsen, who has joined other legal challenges of Trump rules.

Connecticut is one of 13 states that adopted stricter gas mileage standards first established by California. The Trump rule seeks to block the right of states to set higher gas mileage standards for new vehicles sold within their borders.

’Driving in reverse’

Robert Klee, the DEEP commissioner, said the Trump proposal will bring auto pollution protection to a standstill.

“This action makes no sense on any level and Connecticut DEEP will continue to take appropriate action with our partners to protect the air we breathe,” Klee said.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the U.S. should be speeding up progress to reduce auto emissions, not slowing it down.

“The Trump administration is driving our auto future in reverse,” Suh said. “The clean car standards are already saving our families billions at the pump, supporting nearly 300,000 American jobs and cleaning up dangerous tailpipe pollution.”

A recent white paper by Energy Innovation predicted that freezing auto emission standards would cost the U.S. economy $450 billion through 2050, and the increased pollution would cause the death of over 13,000 Americans.

bcummings@ctpost.com

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