Guest Commentary: Let’s make a future with clean air, starting with cars


Liz Shields of Newark is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware’s Joseph R. Biden Jr. School of Public Policy & Administration and serves on the Executive Committee of the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club.

As a lifelong resident of Delaware, I feel grateful to have grown up with access to nature and feel a strong connection to the land, the streams and unnamed places around the state. I care deeply about preserving Delaware’s environment and protecting the health of my neighbors. In college, it became clear to me that I wanted to spend my life and career advocating for the health of our communities and the protection of our natural environment. It is important for me, as a young person in the climate movement, to fight for a cleaner future for my generation and generations to come.

Nothing is more fundamental to our health than the air we breathe and the water we drink. Unfortunately, for too many Delawareans, particularly those living near major roadways, clean air is not assured.

Transportation is the most polluting sector in the state, accounting for 31% of our greenhouse gas emissions that directly harm our climate. This clearly impacts our air quality. New Castle County, Delaware’s most populous county, received a D on the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report card for smog-forming pollution. Worse yet, we know that exposure to air pollution is not equitable. Nationally, people of color are 3.7 times more likely to live in counties with poor air quality than White people are. Tailpipe pollution is creating harmful air quality; it is clear that the state must act to prevent polluting our communities further.

Already, many of Delaware’s neighbors have taken lifesaving action to clean up tailpipe pollution by adopting the Advanced Clean Cars II rule. Now, Delaware is poised to adopt the program, as well, marking a huge step forward in cleaning our air and advancing choices for consumers who want to purchase an electric vehicle in Delaware. To me and thousands of other residents in the state, this adoption just makes sense. Most Delawareans drive personal vehicles frequently; we should be driving vehicles that don’t pollute our neighborhoods and communities.

We take a lot of pride in being the first state in the nation. But right now, we are not leading the way. With neighboring states like Maryland and New Jersey announcing the adoption of Advanced Clean Cars II, Delawareans are being left behind. I have spent years studying and working to influence policy; it’s clear to me that we have an exciting opportunity to be climate leaders and protect Delaware communities right now. If we don’t adopt the program in full this year, we will miss out on years of clean air and consumer choice benefits.

Adopting ACCII will allow me and my generation to have a shot at a cleaner, healthier future. It is time for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to stand up for breathable air and adopt the regulations. We deserve a healthy future, and we need bold leadership and strong policies to get us there.

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