The Trump administration announced Monday a plan to roll back environmental standards, but Madison leaders are pushing back on the efforts, which would eliminate greenhouse gas reduction and fuel efficiency standards for American-made cars.
In 2012, the U.S. government implemented these regulations for cars made in the years 2017 to 2025, according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s website. However, after the proposed rollback, an organization of Madison mothers fighting for the health of carseat-ridden passengers and the greater community.
"Why would we want to go back to a time when we are letting car emissions pollute and make people sick?" said state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, to Wisconsin Public Radio. "It's really kind of mind-boggling."
After rumblings that the policy change was coming, leaders gathered in December to encourage the Trump administration to protect the community’s public health. Mayor Paul Soglin, who has historically advocated for environmental protection, and the local Sierra Club chapter director Bill Davis, were joined by a representative from Moms Clean Air Force, a national organization who spoke about protecting children’s health, which includes supporting clean car standards.
While the Trump administration argues the standards are too stringent and costly for auto manufacturers, the City of Madison Fleet Superintendent Mahanth Joishy disagreed.
"A lot of these environmentally friendly cars cost us less to maintain — and less down time as well in the shop," Joishy told WPR.
According to Davis, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Madison. Joishy said in order to meet clean car standards automakers are encouraged to build specific engines on vehicles that lower pollutant emissions. He said impacts of the dangerous emissions include high asthma rates in the Madison area, as well as other health issues caused to the lungs and brain.
“By combining a cleaner burn, and less of a burn to begin with, the air quality improves markedly,” Joishy said. “Studies show that climate change will be mitigated by such measures being taken by cities and nations around the world. And contrary to the current U.S. administration's position, other nations are indeed acting.”
Some automakers have complained it would be costly to meet these standards and may result in the loss of jobs, which resulted in an Environmental Protection Agency review of the standards.
Kelly Nichols, the Midwest field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, refuted automakers’ claims and said abiding by the standards could add jobs. Standards also benefit individuals and families economically; Nichols said rolling back the standards will make drivers “pay more at the pump” because cars won’t run as efficiently and will require more gas.
“These standards have been in place for a long time, they’re working, they’re effective, they are reducing pollution, especially in vulnerable places around cities where there is a lot of exhaust,” Nichols said. “It's something that people need to take a look at because it's something that we can impact and it could fly under the radar easily. If people are active about it, it is something we could make sure stays in place.”
Madison has moved to keeping local air clean regardless of the smog of vehicle exhaust that fills a city of its size by passing laws limiting the amount of time vehicles can idle. According to Joishy, the city is working on other initiatives, such as replacing older city vehicles with electric cars and crafting a new, cleaner biodiesel blend.
Davis said the national Sierra Club organization has monitored the standards and said it appears they will stay in place. The other leaders, including Joishy and Nichols, believe continuing their lobbying efforts will further ensure the standards remain.
“All of this stuff comes from negotiation with industries and environmental interest,” Nichols said. “As moms and as people who understand you have to take certain steps, it’s important to protect what we have. What’s important is that there are regulations and we should keep them in place.”