VIRGINIA BEACH — In the face of ever increasing climate change, what’s the logic in rolling back rules that require automakers to build cars that not only get better gas mileage but also emit less harmful exhaust into the air?
That’s a rational question, but not one that area environmentalists can answer.
“Elected leaders, health officials and advocates and parents around the country have all questioned why the Trump Administration would seek to roll back the effective, money-saving clean car standards,” said Terra Pascarosa, founder of TerraScapes Environmental Consulting. “The clean car standards are the most effective policy we have on the books to fight climate change, and they’ve spurred innovation and investment in the automotive industry, creating new manufacturing and engineering jobs across the country.”
The transportation sector in the United States is the leading producer of greenhouse gasses, ahead of both electricity production and industry, experts say.
Environmentalists, concerned residents and representatives of both the Virginia Beach and Norfolk city councils came together Tuesday at Solar Services to oppose the Trump administration’s planned roll-backs.
Virginia Beach City Councilman Ben Davenport said flooding and heatwaves are directly related to carbon emissions from automobiles.
“Clean car initiatives create jobs and lead to innovation, and to a cleaner environment. The current rules are working,” he said, pointing out cars that get better gas mileage also saves Virginians money at the gas pump.
In the Hampton Roads region alone, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports there is a combined total of just over one million registered cars, light trucks, and motorcycles, each one of them releasing carbon dioxide.
Dr. Richard Hatch, a family practice physician who currently works in geriatrics, said as a physician, he considers first and foremost the Hippocratic Oath.
“Do no harm is the No. 1 rule,” he said. “In this, I see harm. Pollution hurts us all.”
Hatch said emissions from automobiles can impact asthma sufferers, increase lung disease cases, and that evidence shows emissions can lead to certain kinds of cancers.
But, he said, “It’s really about what’s going to happen to our children and our grandchildren. We need to be good ancestors, now.”
Anton Richardson Jr., a high school student who suffers from asthma and is unable to play football, read a statement from the NAACP.
Pollution from cars, he said, “has a disproportionate impact on communities of color.”
Richardson’s mother, BeKura Shabazz, recalled growing up in Newport News, close to the highway and the thousands of passing cars. Now CEO of First Alliance Consulting, she asks the question, “What are we doing here?”
“Some people may feel that they’re not directly impacted, but they are,” she said.
For now, Virginia appears set to join 16 other states with rules that are stricter on car makers than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules are. However, it looks as if the Trump Administration will initiate a legal battle with California, the pioneer of stricter emission and mileage rules, to force them to follow the national rules.
Why does the administration care if states have their own rules, as long as those rules meet or exceed those set by the EPA?
“That I don’t know,” Davenport said. “There are conflicting opinions on the topic.”