Charlotte environmental activists and public officials on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to cancel its planned rollback of U.S. clean car standards. Those standards, adopted in 2012 under the Obama administration, have led automakers to improve fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
June Blotnick of Clean Air Carolina said relaxing the standards would be a "fundamental betrayal" of the EPA's mission to protect health and the environment.
"In North Carolina, cars and trucks are among the largest contributors to particle and ozone pollution. And transportation accounts for a staggering one-third of the pollution driving climate change in our state," she said.
Better fuel efficiency also has helped save North Carolinians $1.2 billion in fuel costs since the rules took effect, said Shannon Binns of Sustain Charlotte.
Also at the event were City Council member Dimple Ajmera and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell.
The EPA's proposed rules have drawn criticism from two dozen governors and even large automakers.
Last week, four large automakers reached a deal with the state of California to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Among other things, the changes would stop raising fuel efficiency ratings on cars and light trucks, which are supposed to average 37 miles per gallon beginning this fall. And the rules would eliminate California's ability to set its own auto emissions standards. That's important because at least 16 other states have adopted California's stricter standards, rather than the national rules.
Another speaker Tuesday was Ron Ross, president of the Northwood Estates Community Organization in northwest Charlotte. He noted that many African Americans had lost their homes when interstates 77 and 85 and N.C. 16 were built through their neighborhoods decades ago. He said those that remain are surrounded by highways and are most affected by vehicle pollution.
"We need to continue the clean car standards," Ross said. "My community and surrounding neighborhoods will be further negatively affected with health, economic and social concerns with the administration rollback of the clean car standards."