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Utah mayors oppose EPA move to backpedal on vehicle emissions standards

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EPA rollback of emissions standards. (File photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — A decision by the Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt to nullify standards that compels cars and light trucks to be more fuel efficient and cleaner is seen by some as a setback to progress made along the Wasatch Front in recent years.

The move made by Pruitt has been seen by some as a step in the wrong direction, according to a Salt Lake Tribune report that was signed by Utah mayors, and could wreak havoc on "years of bipartisan progress towards cleaner air."

Mayors who endorsed the story include Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County Council Members Arlyn Bradshaw, Jim Bradley and Jenny Wilson. It was also endorsed by Millcreek City Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, Cottonwood Heights Mayor Mike Peterson, Bluffdale Mayor Derk Timothy, Holladay mayor Rob Dahle and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, small particulate pollution from vehicles is the most significant source of air pollution during winter inversions.

Quality plans for the improvement of state air depend, at least in part, on better (CAFE) standards that improve vehicle efficiency and acquire more miles per gallon throughout the fleet, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

"Since the oil embargo of the 1970s, these standards have always been strengthened," the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

A historic agreement between state regulators, the federal government and the auto industry instituted a national program in 2009. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, this marked the first meaningful fuel efficiency improvements to take place in over 30 years.

"The joint EPA/National Highway Transportation Safety Administration rule applied to model years 2012 to 2016, requiring a fleet-wide average of 35.5 mpg by 2016," the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

The administration proposed a CAFE standard for medium- and heavy-duty trucks in 2010.

"This will be win, win, win," said the transportation secretary at the time. "It will reduce reliance on oil, strengthen energy security and mitigate climate change."

The second phase of fuel economy and standards for global warming pollution pertaining to light duty vehicles covers model years 2017-2025, which raises the average to 54 miles per gallon by 2025.

This rule garnered widespread support from automobile and national manufacturers, organized labor and advocates for the environment.

All of this is what Pruitt is trying to roll back, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, these standards have reduced oil consumption, helped spur investments in new automotive technology, save consumers money and protect the public health.

A study conducted in 2012 found that the second round of standards by themselves would generate an estimated 570,000 jobs throughout the United States economy by 2030.

"The two standard increases combined will reduce pollution by as much as 570 million metric tons in 2030," the Salt Lake Tribune reports. "This is the equivalent to shutting down 140 typical coal-fired power plants for an entire year."

During the fuel efficiency standards debate, automakers have become constructive partners. They push for standards that grow over the years, if the government sees that they need to be flexible in order to handle the realities of the market. An example of this might be low gasoline prices that favor the consumers' choices of larger vehicles).

The White House has repeatedly been asked to head efforts alongside the EPA, NHTSA and automakers to "determine appropriate adjustments, not rollbacks," the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a significant number of health studies support that the Wasatch Front's air pollution is not merely a nuisance — it is dangerous.

A study published by Harvard University in January suggests air pollution might be killing elderly Utahns. Short-term exposure to small amounts of a particulate pollution resulted in a noticeable increase of deaths among Americans 65 years and older, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Serious harm to pregnant women and their unborn babies has been linked to air pollution.

"Health researchers have consistently called for stronger, not weaker air quality standards," the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

"At a time when we've made great bipartisan progress, with all levels of local, state and federal government working cooperatively toward out clean air goals, we urge Pruitt to reconsider his position," the Salt Lake Tribune reports. "Utahns' health, our economy and our environment are at stake."