Sign up for the free newsletter that 50,000+ Arizonans read to stay connected.

"*" indicates required fields

Arizona officials are speaking out against the Trump administration’s decision to roll back environmental regulations and cut fuel emission standards for vehicles.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule, mileage standards would be frozen at roughly 37 miles per gallon from 2020 to 2026. The previous Obama-era standards required cars to average nearly 51mpg by model year 2025.

Arizona already struggles with poor air quality and a recent ranking from the American Fitness Index found that the state is home to five of the 10 worst cities for air quality in the country.

Phoenix has particularly poor air quality and ranked as the 7th most ozone-polluted metropolitan area in the United States this year, according to the American Lung Association, which tracks air quality across the country. The ALA also gave Maricopa County an “F” rating for its ozone pollution. 

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a member of the group Climate Mayors, told Public News Service that she and other Arizona mayors want cleaner air and don’t want the federal government to tell them what to do. “We want to see cities lead the way on reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Gallego said

Leaders in Pima County, which earned a “D” rating, have also opposed the new EPA rule. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild criticized the rollback of emissions standards during a news conference earlier this summer. “There are many reasons to oppose this rollback,” Rothschild said. “Environmental, health, economic.”

Rothschild said local governments are doing what they can to reduce car emissions but they need federal support. “You do all that work and you pick up inches, and something like this comes along and it sets you back a mile.” 

Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias opposes the rollback of emissions standards as well, citing the fact that Pima County is home to 17,000 children and 79,000 adults who suffer from asthma.

During the same news conference, Elias said if the standards are reduced, those people will suffer. “They will have a shorter life, they will have more problems living comfortably with the changes proposed by the EPA.”

Not only is the EPA rolling back regulations, it’s also revoking a waiver that allowed California and other states and the District of Columbia to implement their own, tougher pollution controls on cars and trucks.

The Trump administration claims gutting emissions standards will lower the price of new cars and boost sales, but many major automakers, including Ford and Honda, have said they will continue working to meet the higher standards.

Paul Billings, national senior vice president for public policy with the American Lung Association, criticized the decision, telling Public News Service that vehicle emissions have been linked to higher rates of lung cancer, asthma and premature death. “This is really an outrageous attack on the Clean Air Act,” Billings said. 

The new rule is set to go into effect before the end of the year, but is being challenged in court by California and 22 other states.