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EPA Announces Emissions Standards Rollbacks. That Could Hurt Mountain West Cities

Matt Guilhem
Boise State Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency just announced its plan to roll back vehicle emissions standards. That could be cause for concern in Mountain West communities with poor air quality.

A President Obama rule required all new cars have lower carbon emissions starting in 2022. The EPA wants to reverse that plan.

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt says those standards are too high. He says his agency will come up with new standards that allow manufacturers to make affordable cars while still expanding environmental safety benefits.

Boise councilwoman Elaine Clegg isn’t convinced. She says many residents in her city struggle during winter inversions that are exacerbated by car exhaust.

"So when we have these kind of air quality issues, they’re literally stranded in their homes unable to go do anything because it would hurt their health."

Clegg is also concerned that lower standards could be a detractor for new industry.

"Getting a permit to build new industrial use requires that you have to show that the airshed has enough room in it, for whatever pollutants you will be adding to it," says Clegg. "And the less room there is because of growing tailpipe emissions, the less likely it is that you'll be permitted for a new industrial use."

Municipalities and individuals will have a chance to comment on proposed standards once they're released by the EPA. 

Several other Mountain West communitiesrank among the top 20 most air-polluted cities, including Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Missoula, Montana.

Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Amanda Peacher works for the Mountain West News Bureau out of Boise State Public Radio. She's an Idaho native who returned home after a decade of living and reporting in Oregon. She's an award-winning reporter with a background in community engagement and investigative journalism.

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