Lawmakers, activists call for strong ‘clean car’ standards, zero-emission vehicle investment

By: - June 9, 2023 1:38 pm

The Detroit leg of “Route Zero Relay” held at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church on the city’s southwest side. | Courtesy photo

State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and state Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit) joined advocates in Detroit on Friday to call for investments in zero-emission vehicles and the strongest possible federal “clean car” standards.

The Detroit event was one of a series of press conferences organized by Route Zero Relay, an initiative centered around promoting a reduction in pollution from automobiles and more environmentally-friendly transportation and public policy across the country. Joining Chang and McKinney at Friday’s press conference were Elizabeth Hauptman of Moms Clean Air Force, a national nonprofit environmental group, and the Rev. Calvin Glass, pastor of Lord of Lords Ministries in Detroit, among others.

Route Zero Relay recently launched a nine-city tour starting in Los Angeles, Calif.; prior to Detroit, the relay was in Joliet, Ill. The next scheduled stop is in Cleveland, Ohio, and the relay will conclude in Washington, D.C.

“Strong federal partnership is crucial for our progress towards a zero-emission future in our state and at the local level,” Chang said at the news conference held at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church on the city’s southwest side. “By working together, local, state, and federal governments can expedite our transition to clean vehicles, enhancing public health and fostering a sustainable future.”

Speakers urged the Biden Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue their push to address tailpipe pollution from vehicles. The EPA in April proposed new car pollution regulations that would require electric vehicles to account for as much as two-thirds of new cars sold in the country by 2032. The public comment period concerning the EPA’s proposal is open through July 5.

“Detroit and the rest of Michigan remain committed to delivering the fruits of this transition equitably, especially to our communities of color and low-income families that have lived with harmful air pollution for far too long,” McKinney said. “We aim to walk with these communities every step of the way and deliver on President Biden’s promise of environmental justice for all.”

Hauptman lifted the importance of public health. 

“Here in Detroit, rates of asthma for adults and children are substantially higher compared to the rest of our state,” Hauptman said. “But adopting robust federal clean car standards can curb harmful tailpipe pollution. This would improve our public health and the environment. This win-win is precisely why we must stay on the path to fully electrifying our transportation system so we can reach zero emissions.”

Glass described himself as an electric vehicle (EV) “enthusiast.” 

“I own an EV. I enjoy driving an EV,” Glass said. “I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to have oil changes. I don’t have a stop at the gas station.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.