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Victoria Steele: Sen. Sinema must stand up for Arizonans on clean car standards and electric vehicles

Victoria Steele: Sen. Sinema must stand up for Arizonans on clean car standards and electric vehicles

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The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has fought for Arizonans. Now, she has the opportunity to stand up for us again as the Trump administration works to undermine our state’s efforts to address some of the most critical issues affecting Arizona: clean air and climate change.

Right now, the Trump administration and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler are working to roll back America’s clean car standards, which is dangerous for Arizona. These standards help protect our communities from harmful tailpipe pollution, and are one of the best policies we have on the books to fight climate change and save Arizonans money at the pump.

Perhaps most cynically, the administration is also trying to attack the Clean Air Act and the authority of states to adopt stronger clean car standards than those set by the federal government to protect their citizens from tailpipe pollution — a right that 14 states and Washington, D.C., representing over 118 million Americans, already exercise.

This attack on the Clean Air Act would effectively strip all states of their authority to address vehicle pollution. As a member of the Arizona legislature, I am duty-bound to protect the health and well-being of Arizonans. However, this proposal would take away a key tool that states have to fight dangerous pollution impacting our communities. That is why I recently spoke out against the administration’s attack on the Clean Air Act and its efforts to roll back the clean-car standards.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Trump administration and its polluter allies are working to undermine electric vehicles by proposing to eliminate the EV tax credit at the urging of their corporate polluter buddies, who profit off of Americans’ dependence on oil. The reality is that these vehicles reduce pollution and lead to lower driving costs for consumers.

With EV sales growing 138% in Arizona from 2017 to 2018, we need Sinema to champion the growing demand for clean vehicles and stand up to these attacks by signing onto policies like the bipartisan Driving America Forward Act, which would bolster America’s EV tax credit, making the EVs that Arizonans want and need more affordable.

In fact, Arizonans are already seeing the benefits of clean vehicle technologies. Thanks to America’s clean car standards, Arizonans have saved $680 million to date, and by 2030, they could expect 9,700 new jobs and have an extra $2,800 in their pockets if they remain in place. EVs, too, stand to benefit Arizona consumers. On average, rural Arizona drivers saved $763 in 2018 by switching from gasoline to electricity. Charging an EV at home right here in Tucson is like paying $0.49 per gallon of gasoline.

With the transportation sector now being our nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, it is clear that Sinema needs to have a plan to reduce this pollution that contributes to climate change. Getting cleaner cars and EVs on Arizona’s roads is critical to taking action on climate change. This is a necessity for Tucson, which is the third-fastest warming city in America and saw its air pollution violate federal ozone standards for the first time ever last year.

In addition to Sinema, Arizona also needs Sen. Martha McSally to use her voice to speak up for us. So far, she has been silent on her plan to address the role of carbon pollution from the transportation sector. We need all of our federal elected officials to join this fight against tailpipe pollution and not have to ask, “Where’s Martha McSally?” Silence is not an option.

By opposing the proposed rollback of America’s clean standards and supporting the bipartisan Driving America Forward Act, Sinema and McSally can show what real leadership on climate change looks like.

Victoria Steele is a Democratic member of the Arizona Senate representing District 9.

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