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Colorado's Tailpipe Pollution Limits at Odds with Proposed New Federal Standard

For four decades, individual states have had the authority under the Clean Air Act to adopt stronger tailpipe pollution standards than those set by the federal government. (U.S. Energy Department)
For four decades, individual states have had the authority under the Clean Air Act to adopt stronger tailpipe pollution standards than those set by the federal government. (U.S. Energy Department)
June 13, 2019

WESTMINISTER, Colo. – Colorado's new standards to limit pollution from vehicle tailpipes could be headed to court if the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to roll back federal standards created under the Obama administration.

Dr. Sheela Mahnke, a pediatrician and Westminster City Council member, says lowering emissions standards would put the state's most vulnerable populations, including seniors, low-income communities, people of color and children, at risk of developing asthma, respiratory disease and heart attacks.

"Children are also disproportionately affected by air pollution because they have smaller airways that can more easily get clogged up,” she points out. “They also take in more air per body weight, and they also in general spend more time outdoors."

Mahnke notes that 78% of Coloradans supported the state's move last November to reduce tailpipe pollution, and oppose weakening standards. Standards developed under the Obama administration were in part an attempt to address greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2017, the transportation sector contributed more than 28% of all climate pollution.

The Trump administration argues that current emission reduction goals are unattainable, and say the new standards will produce safer, cleaner and more affordable vehicles.

Mahnke maintains emission goals are reachable, especially as municipal fleets are replaced by electric vehicles and utility companies build out infrastructure to refuel cars and trucks with clean energy.

She adds that going electric doesn't have to mean sacrificing safety.

"As we move forward with electric vehicles, they do not have to be small, they do not have to be less safe than gas powered vehicles,” she stresses. “The technology is there."

States, including Colorado, with standards higher than the Trump administration's proposal would likely file suit to block the rollback, led by California, which has had congressional approval to set its own standards since 1997 under the Clean Air Act.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO