The Route Zero Relay on Monday continued its nationwide journey, marking its stop in Pittsburgh, where GASP was honored to stand alongside Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, state Senator Lindsey M. Williams, and others for a press conference urging robust public support for zero-emissions vehicles and the substantial investments in clean transportation.
Pennsylvania - and the rest of the country - are on a path to a zero-emission future, spurred by historic investments in charging infrastructure, battery manufacturing, and tax incentives encouraging consumers to make the transition to electric and hybrid vehicles. Remaining on the route to zero emissions requires strong federal clean car standards - a major focus of the Route Zero Campaign.
Mayor Ed Gainey highlighted the combined potential of local and federal climate action to transform American transportation.
"A strong federal partnership is essential for our progress towards a zero-emission future in our city and on a state level," he said. "The Route Zero Relay emphasizes the importance of clean transportation and air quality for communities like our own. By working together, local, state, and federal governments can accelerate our transition to electric and hybrid vehicles, improving public health and fostering a sustainable future for generations to come."
But let’s stop here for just a little bit of background: The Route Zero Relay is traveling across the country, spotlighting stories from Americans about how they would benefit from reduced tailpipe pollution and cleaner air, where they see opportunities for zero-emission vehicles, and how cities like Pittsburgh are proactively working toward clean transportation initiatives.
Critical to the journey on Route Zero? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed strong federal clean car standards.
"Pennsylvania needs to adopt policies around electric vehicle ownership that balance our environmental and economic needs while ensuring that working families aren't priced out of the EV market," said Williams said. "This includes setting fees and making strategic use of the federal infrastructure money available to help school districts electrify their school bus fleets. We're all on the journey to zero emissions—we need to make sure that road is accessible and open for everyone."
The transportation sector is the leading source of carbon pollution in Pennsylvania and in the country, leading to Pennsylvania residents breathing some of the most polluted air in the U.S., while at the same time fueling the climate crisis.
"Route Zero is a powerful demonstration of our collective commitment to a zero-emission future," said Campbell. "Air pollution from vehicles is a pressing issue for our communities. Its harmful impact can be seen in air quality and in the health of Pennsylvanians, especially those living in underserved communities that have borne the greatest burden for too long. Today, we urge bold action from the EPA for significant clean car safeguards to improve public health."
"Pittsburgh is among the worst-ranked areas in the country for air quality, and particle pollution is a known trigger for asthma attacks and increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, and other chronic lung diseases," said Dr. Stephanie Maximous, a pulmonary and critical care physician. "We have to increase the sense of urgency. Stronger clean car standards provide the opportunity to put us on the right path to zero emissions."
Speakers encouraged the Biden Administration and the EPA to sustain their commitment by finalizing the strongest-possible federal clean car standards that would apply to automobiles and light-duty trucks for model years 2027 through 2032.
The public comment period for clean car standards is now open, and the Route Zero Relay is encouraging people across the country to submit comments on the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov/ using the Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2022-0829-0451. The Route Zero relay will "deliver" these comments to Washington, DC at the end of this comment period.
Editor’s Note: You can watch the full press conference here. Or you can read Patrick’s full remarks here:
Smoke billowing into our area last week from the Canadian wildfires and the unhealthy air quality it spurred was a stark reminder for many about just how quickly Climate Change can get personal. Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth were advised to stay indoors, to run air filters in their homes, and to mask up if they needed to go out.
In the Pittsburgh area, though, the air quality impacts of those plumes were like pouring salt on a wound. Because here in Pittsburgh, we wake up to some of the worst air quality in the country all too often.
While legacy polluters are a culprit, we know dirty diesel and other gas-powered vehicle emissions also contribute to the smog on bad air days. We also know Ignoring carbon pollution from vehicles only exacerbates the injustices facing communities that have disproportionately borne the greatest impact from tailpipe pollution.
That’s one reason GASP has worked so hard over the years to advocate for anti-idling laws and usher in Clean Construction policies - and why strongly support our journey to zero emissions: By investing in cleaner cars, we can reduce harmful pollution and help protect our most vulnerable neighbors.
When it comes to environmental policies, this one is truly a win-win. These stronger standards will help protect public health, advance environmental justice, fight climate change, and save consumers cash at the pump.
We urge local residents to join GASP in speaking out and telling the EPA it must act quickly to enact the strongest-possible clean car standards because the health and welfare of so many depend on it.