This summer Connecticut has experienced unhealthy air from wildfire smoke, torrential rains and devastating flooding. It’s clear that we are living through a climate crisis and if we want a healthier future for our communities we need to act now.
Fortunately, Connecticut has an opportunity to clean up our most polluting sector and help us all breathe healthier air by updating our state’s clean air regulations to include the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) and Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) rules.
In Connecticut, the transportation sector accounts for 38 percent of the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to contributing to our climate crisis, tailpipe pollution is responsible for 67 percent of smog-forming pollution. This pollution causes an increased risk of asthma, lung disease and cancer in communities across the state.
We know this pollution is not equitable and communities of color and low-income communities living near major roadways are disproportionately impacted. Our dependency on fossil fuel vehicles is contributing to increased and more severe incidents of respiratory ailments across our most vulnerable communities. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our policy decisions can shift the status quo.
The ACT and ACC II are life-saving programs that aim to cut deadly transportation pollution and improve our air and climate by setting increasing electric vehicle sales targets. The American Lung Association estimates that if Connecticut were to move to clean transportation and energy generation the state could see tremendous benefits from 2020-2050 including: $13.7 billion in health benefits, 1,250 premature deaths avoided and 27,400 asthma attacks avoided.
And yet, fossil fuel interests have mobilized to stop adoption of these programs in our state and in other states. The devastating truth is that this polluting industry will fight as hard as it can to cling to every last drop of oil and put their profits over our health and our climate. At a recent hearing on both the ACT and ACC II held by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), opponents to the rules repeated fossil fuel talking points that lean heavily on myths and fear mongering. Some commenters at the hearing even admitted to being climate deniers and conspiracy theorists.
It’s clear that electric cars and trucks are good for Connecticut. They help clean up the air we breathe and are cheaper to fuel and maintain than fossil fuel equivalents. Already, Connecticut’s neighbors, including New York and Massachusetts, have adopted both the ACT and ACC II. So have Vermont, Oregon, Washington and California.
Pollution-free transportation is the future and Connecticut is ready to join states across the east coast and the country that have already adopted the ACT and ACC II. The polluters and their mouthpieces working to block these programs are unsurprisingly trying to preserve their profits, but Connecticut must put health and safety ahead of profits.
Gov. Ned Lamont, DEEP and the General Assembly must put the health of our community and climate first and move swiftly to adopt both the ACT and ACC II. There’s no time for delay.
Samantha Dynowski is the State Director of Sierra Club Connecticut.