Support For Proposed EPA Standard To Limit Air Pollution Caused By Motor Vehicles


On March 29th, 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released proposed regulations titled “Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards" (also known as “Tier 3”), which is a comprehensive approach to address the impact of motor vehicles and the gasoline they use on air quality and subsequently on the health of Americans. Starting in 2017, Tier 3 would set new vehicle emissions standards and lower the sulfur content of gasoline. Specifically, the proposed vehicle standards would reduce tailpipe and evaporative emissions from passenger cars, light-duty trucks, medium-duty passenger vehicles, and some heavy-duty vehicles. The proposal would also lower the allowable amount of sulfur in gasoline.  The Tier 3 program continues the successful transition that began with EPA’s Tier 2 program, finalized in 2000, in which EPA was able to reduce both gasoline sulfur and vehicle emissions. The Tier 2 program was a success and resulted in gasoline sulfur reductions of up to 90 percent and enabled the use of new emission control technologies in cars and trucks. If adopted as written, it is estimated that by the year 2030 the proposed EPA standards will avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths and more than 23,000 children per year will live without respiratory ailments.  The total health-related benefits are estimated to be as high as $23 billion annually. 

Over 158 million Americans currently live with unhealthy levels of air pollution which have directly been linked to high rates of hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and premature mortality. Motor vehicles are a particularly important source of exposure to air pollution, especially in urban areas. Over 35 million Americans live within 300 feet of a major road, and African American children are three times more likely to live in high-traffic areas than their Caucasian peers; 71% of African Americans currently live, work and attend schools  in counties in violation of air pollution standards. This higher exposure to smog and other air pollutants is a major contributing factor to many of the health disparities which exist in our nation today.  African Americans are twice as likely to die from asthma and more likely to die from lung disease in spite of lower smoking rates. Furthermore, African American children have 330% more emergency room visits and a 220% higher asthma-related hospitalization rate than White Americans. We also have disproportionately high rates of heart attacks, allergies, premature births, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), all of which can be associated with breathing bad air.

If implemented as written, by 2030 the EPA’s proposed “Tier 3” standards would annually prevent as many as 2,400 premature deaths; reduce hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits by approximately 3,200 people; decrease asthma exacerbations by 22,000 patients; decrease upper and lower respiratory symptoms in as many as 23,000 children; and we would be able to reclaim 1.8 million lost school days, work days and minor-restricted activities.  Since a disproportionate number of those who suffer from the ill effects of motor vehicle pollution are racial and ethnic minorities, it stands to reason that the benefits of the new proposed regulation would also be felt disproportionately by NAACP members and communities.

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