Legislators try to micromanage clean cars program to undermine it

By TINA BEATTIE, REP’s coordinator in Arizona

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: published in the Daily Star in Tucson on May 5, 2008.


The Clean Cars program will pay off for Arizonans. As gas prices surge toward $3.50 per gallon, the greater fuel efficiency of clean cars will help us balance our household budgets in these lean times.

Although the majority of Arizonans supports the Clean Cars program, some legislators have decided that they know better than everyone else. They have come up with a too-clever strategy to torpedo the program, and thus inflict higher fuel costs and dirtier air on all of us.

These misguided legislators have introduced House Bill 2017, a radical measure that allows legislators to micromanage the highly technical process by which the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) sets Clean Cars emissions standards.

Don’t be fooled. HB 2017’s sponsors don’t want to supervise the Clean Cars program. They want to kill it. But an outright repeal would show them up as poodles of Detroit automakers and other special interests.

So they came up with what is, for them, the next best thing — a bill that for all intents and purposes would kill the program by letting politicians meddle with the work of ADEQ’s air-quality professionals.

If they succeed, we will all lose.

Clean Cars will provide Arizonans with cars that go further on a gallon of pricey gas and emit fewer pollutants that mar the state’s air and endanger public health.

Automakers have convinced a few of our representatives that Detroit’s interests are more important than Arizona’s. Some say the Clean Cars program would cost consumers too much, an estimated $1,000 on the up-front cost of an automobile.

But the long-term fuel savings will not only make up that cost but serve consumers’ budgets going forward. The Clean Cars program is about ensuring that Arizonans have access to the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market.

And even if the price of gasoline were not an issue, air pollution is an ongoing public health and economic problem for our state.

While it is true that several industries in the state have concerns regarding the implementation of stricter emissions controls, the long-term economic viability of our state depends on keeping our air clean.

No industry produces more residual economic benefit than tourism in this state. All businesses benefit from Arizona’s prominence as a great place to visit. Arizona’s popularity as a retirement destination will be put at risk if we don’t keep the air clean. Continued degradation of our air will dampen economic growth.

Regardless of what people perceive about global warming, air pollution in Arizona is real and visible. And high gas prices aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.

The Clean Cars program proposed by the governor, vetted by ADEQ, and reviewed by citizens at public hearings will help us breathe easier and take the pressure off our wallets. We should not give those benefits away.

If we want to protect our health and economy, we need to allow the qualified professionals in our state agencies to do their jobs. HB 2017 takes this freedom away to please out-of-state interests.

The House should reject this ill-conceived bill.