Cars stuck in traffic at an intersection

Maryland’s Prince George’s County, which has several highways and a majority Black population, scored a grade of “F” for high ozone days in the latest American Lung Association report on air pollution.

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 By Diane Bernard 

June 4, 2021

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing this week to reconsider letting states decide their own vehicle-emissions standards, and Maryland’s attorney general supports the change.

The Trump administration ended the federal Clean Air Act waiver, which allowed California and other states to adopt stricter greenhouse-gas standards for cars and trucks than federal standards. President Joe Biden is pushing to strike down Trump’s rule to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.

Brian Frosh, Maryland Attorney General, pointed out Maryland is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise from climate change, and said it’s urgent that courts let other states adopt California’s stricter rules.

“The Chesapeake Bay literally runs down the middle of our state; we have more than 3,100 miles of coastline. We have more floods, with more damage, every year,” Frosh outlined. “We need leadership and innovation that California has brought to vehicle emissions for more than half a century.”

Maryland received a failing grade for days with high ozone levels in five counties and Baltimore City in 2020, according to the American Lung Association’s new “State of the Air” report. The public comment period on the EPA’s review of the Trump-era rule ends July 6, and the agency plans a final decision later in the month.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the nonprofit Hip Hop Caucus, noted vehicle emissions are a critical issue for communities of color, often located near highways and transportation hubs. He said the public can’t have a conversation about air pollution without considering who bears its biggest burden.

“Our cars, our trucks and buses cause unhealthy air pollution,” Yearwood observed. “But this risk isn’t shared equally, because communities of color are disproportionately exposed to the most dangerous air pollution.”

People of color are more than 60% more likely to live in a county with unhealthy air than white people, according to the State of the Air report. It also estimates about 135 million Americans, more than four in 10, live with polluted air.References:  Vehicle emissions hearing EPA 06/02/2021
Clean Air Act overview EPA 11/30/2020
State of the Air report American Lung Association 04/21/2021
National data American Lung Association 04/21/2021