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Road to zero emissions: local officials call for robust vehicle standards

State Rep. Kyle Mullins, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, Rep. Kyle Donahue and Rashida Lovely (left to right) spoke outside city hall on Tuesday. The group called for the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize vehicle emission standards through the year 2032.
Tom Riese
/
WVIA News
State Rep. Kyle Mullins, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, Rep. Kyle Donahue and Rashida Lovely (left to right) spoke outside city hall on Tuesday. The group called for the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize vehicle emission standards through the year 2032.

Local officials gathered at Scranton City Hall on Tuesday to urge the federal government to pass robust clean car standards before the year’s end.

“Cleaner vehicles means a safer future,” said state Rep. Kyle Mullins, representing District 112 in Lackawanna County.

Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti spoke alongside local business owner and climate advocate Rashida Lovely and state Rep. Kyle Donahue, who represents District 113 in Lackawanna County.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft of tailpipe emission guidelines for future light-duty and medium-duty vehicles. The EPA has regulations in place for cars built from 2023 until 2026, but advocates hope to see more incentives for the production of low- to zero-emission electric and hybrid vehicles through the year 2032.

The group highlighted job creation with a transition to electric vehicle infrastructure, such as installing charging stations. Rep. Donahue said a five year federal grant for PennDOT worth $171.5 million will add 54 EV charging stations in 35 counties across the commonwealth. He said IBEW union jobs will benefit from the projects.

Mayor Cognetti agreed. “None of this EV infrastructure is possible without people to maintain it,” she said.

Scranton business owner Rashida Lovely sits on the state’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board. She said backing safer vehicle emission standards is a matter of health equity. A 2019 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found communities of color in the U.S. Northeast bear the brunt of car and truck emissions, breathing 66% more air pollution compared to white residents.

“You see increases in upper respiratory diseases such as asthma and you can see it's pretty much replicated across most urban areas,” she said, adding that more electric cars on the roads could help reduce those negative health outcomes.

Mayor Cognetti called attention to Scranton’s 10-car electric vehicle fleet used by the code enforcement office. Unveiled in March, the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EVs were funded by grants from the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

And 10 EV charging stations will be coming to Scranton thanks to a federal infrastructure grant, Cognetti said. Partnerships with grocery stores will bring them to parking lots around town.

“We put in a joint application with Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, Pittston and Williamsport,” she said. “We wanted to capture a regional footprint.”

Earlier this year, the Route Zero electric vehicle campaign called on officials from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. to speak out in support of stricter car emission guidelines. The initiative encourages people to consider zero-emission vehicles as their primary form of transportation.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's All Things Considered. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.

You can email Tom at tomriese@wvia.org