Press conference on cleaner cars held at Blair

Feb. 14, 2005, midnight | By Caitlin Garlow | 15 years, 11 months ago

Maryland representatives, public interest groups advocate for cleaner cars, cleaner air

A press conference on the clean cars initiative was held at Blair today, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m. The Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG) held the press conference, with the support of Maryland Delegate Bill Bronrott, Senator Sharon Grosfeld, Montgomery County Councilman George Leventhal and other public interest environmental groups to push Maryland to adopt the stricter California standards for vehicle emissions.

MaryPIRG chose to release this statement at Blair because of the significant effects that the new standards could have on the area's youth. Students at Blair are subjected to the emissions of nearly half a million cars that pass the school each day.

The press release, called "Cleaner Cars, Cleaner Air,” compared the predicted results of implementing the California standards, called Low-Emission Vehicle II (LEV II), on air-quality improvement in Maryland over the current federal standard (Tier 2). "We have some of the worst air quality in the nation,” said Brad Heavner, a MaryPIRG director and co-author of the "Cleaner Cars” report. "In five of the past six years, Maryland has been among the top 10 states with the worst air pollution.”

Heavner mentioned that although the state of Maryland has made strides in the direction of reducing pollution from motor vehicles, much more could be accomplished. "We have the technology to do far better,” said Heavner, citing the increasing popularity of hybrid cars.

Delegate Bill Bronrott, a Blair alumnus and a supporter of the bill, is promoting the bill as his "top priority for the year.” Bronrott said that adopting the LEV II standards for motor vehicle emissions would reduce smog (the combination of nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds) by 11 to 13 percent more than the federal standards would by 2025. According to MaryPIRG, this reduction would be the equivalent of taking 190,000 of today's cars off of the roads in 2025. The LEV II standards are also predicted to reduce harmful carcinogens, such as benzene and formaldehyde, by 12 to 15 percent more than the EPA Tier 2 standards.

Dr. Lorne Garrettson of the American Academy of Pediatrics spoke on behalf of the positive effects that the bill would have on public health. "There is no longer any question that the air we're breathing is injuring our children,” said Garrettson. "[It] can cause or trigger asthma attacks, limit the growth of the lungs of our children and cause cancer,” he added.

According to MaryPIRG, East coast ozone pollution contributes to the more than six million asthma attacks and 159,000 cases of respiratory ailments in the emergency rooms each year, especially among the elderly, young children and outdoor workers, who are the most vulnerable to the pollution.

Gary Skulnik, a representative of the Clean Energy Partnership, a non-profit group that organizes businesses to fight global warming, described how the LEV II standards be "good for the environment and good for business,” as local businesses would be able to purchase cleaner energy for cheaper.

Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Charlie Garlow and Pamela Erwin of the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club also gave their support for the bill on behalf of their organizations. SGA president Sebastian Johnson urged Blair students to write or call their senators or representatives to ask them to pass the bill.

Following California's lead, seven other states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont have adopted the LEV II standards, according to Bronrott, who hopes that the pressure from the other East coast states will make it easier for Maryland to adopt the same policies. LEV II, in addition to providing more substantial reductions in both tailpipe and evaporative emissions from cars, also provides stricter standards for light-duty diesel vehicles and requires a percentage of cars sold in Maryland to be "clean” hybrid or fuel-cell vehicles, according to MaryPIRG.

The cleaner cars bill, bill number 564 in the House, will be introduced on March 2 and, if passed, will be adopted beginning in 2008, when the 2009 car models go on sale.

For more information on the current environmental and public health threats in Maryland, click here. To find out who your representative is click here.

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Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »

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