(WASHINGTON, DC)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is considering all options to oppose the final rule weakening vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel economy standards the Trump administration unveiled today. The rule threatens to accelerate the damaging effects of climate change in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and derail states’ progress in reducing nitrogen pollution by 2025, a key element of the Bay cleanup plan.
In place of the Obama administration’s requirement that GHG emissions and fuel economy standards tighten by five percent annually through 2026, the new rule requires standards to rise just 1.5 percent a year. This dramatic rollback will drive up emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as well as nitrogen pollution into the Bay and the local rivers, streams, and creeks that feed it.
The Bay region is already grappling with the economic and social costs of climate change effects such as sea level rise, warming waters, coastal erosion and flooding, and more frequent and intense storms. Sea level has increased significantly in Baltimore and Norfolk. In Maryland alone, rising waters could destroy more than 61,000 homes—valued at $19 million—by 2100. Allowing carbon dioxide emissions to rise will only exacerbate the hardships the watershed’s 18 million people face due to climate change.
Nitrogen is one of the main Bay pollutants the watershed’s six states and the District of Columbia must cut significantly by 2025 under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Roughly one-third of nitrogen pollution in the Bay comes from the air, much of it in the form of nitrogen oxides released from auto exhaust and power plants. The Blueprint includes a specific goal to curb emissions because EPA recognized the critical importance of limiting air pollution to restoring the Bay.
But to meet this goal by the 2025 deadline, EPA was relying on many of the same clean air laws and regulations the Trump administration is weakening or repealing—including the auto emissions limits it just watered down. By slowing the transition to a cleaner fleet and allowing more nitrogen pollution into the air, the administration is undermining the watershed cleanup effort it is supposed to be leading. The weaker rule also jeopardizes public health, especially for people living in disadvantaged communities.
CBF is part of a coalition challenging the administration’s repeal of California’s authority to set tougher GHG emissions standards and sales mandates for zero-emissions vehicles. Four of the six states in Bay watershed (Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia have adopted elements of California’s program in their efforts to fight climate change, reduce air pollution, and restore the Bay ecosystem.
Vice President for Environmental Restoration and Protection Lisa Feldt made the following statement:
“Cleaner cars are essential to a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. By allowing dirtier cars and pickup trucks on the road, the Trump administration is recklessly making the Bay region more vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change and undermining the decades-long effort to save the Bay and its waterways.
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has already challenged other Trump administration regulations that sacrifice the health of the Bay ecosystem to advance its regulatory rollback agenda. We are considering all options to keep this rule from harming the Bay watershed and the 18 million people who live and work in it.”
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