We Need the Strongest Clean Car Standards to Meet this Moment - Michigan Interfaith Power & Light

We Need the Strongest Possible Clean Car Standards to Meet this Moment

Today, I spoke at an EPA hearing about the draft Clean Car standards proposed earlier this month. This is my testimony:

My name is Leah Wiste, and I’m the Executive Director of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light. We work with over 300 member congregations throughout the state, which comprise thousands of people of faith and conscience committed to bold climate action and protecting our communities.  Thank you for allowing me to offer testimony today.

When President Biden announced the draft tailpipe emissions standards earlier this month, Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee offered a strange kind of praise, saying “This is sort of a Goldilocks goal… Not too much, not too little. It’s just right.” But it’s clear that the time has passed for moderate, “not too much, not too little” policy.


When I first began working at Michigan IPL 8 years ago, we pointed to climate impacts that were happening in other parts in the world and to scientists’ predictions of warming temperatures and increasingly erratic weather.  We no longer talk about climate impacts in the future tense. 

This summer, the climate crisis brought another thousand-year flood to Detroit (our second since 2014).   In June, an overnight rainfall of 7 inches (twice the amount of rain Detroit historically receives in the whole month) shut down I-94 for days and flooded thousands of basements. $96million in relief has been approved by FEMA as of July 15. Beyond the immediate loss and damages, those whose homes were impacted are likely to experience health consequences from lingering mold and sewage, which are especially dangerous for those already made vulnerable by asthma, COVID, and other diseases.     

Since transportation emissions are the largest source of US climate pollution, clean car standards must be commensurate with the climate emergency we are experiencing right now. The current proposal falls dangerously short.

The proposed standards are full of loopholes and rely on voluntary commitments from the automakers—the same automakers who got an $80 billion government bailout in 2009, agreed to stronger emissions reductions under President Obama, and then reneged on their commitment when the political winds changed. Too much is at stake for us to rely on the voluntary commitments of this demonstrably untrustworthy industry now.  

We at Michigan Interfaith Power & Light envision a world where communities thrive, have abundant health, and live in right relationship with each other and the earth that sustains us.  We’re asking for a 2030 standard for cars and light-duty trucks that reduces greenhouse gas emissions to 60% below today’s average and to make all new trucks and buses zero-emissions by 2040. We are calling for all cars and light duty trucks to be zero emissions by 2035, which will require at least 60% to be zero emissions by 2030. 

The draft clean cars proposal can be a moral opportunity. We have, in front of us, a chance to respond to the cry of our communities and the cry of the earth, an opportunity to follow the science, and to move rapidly to make the emissions reductions we know are necessary. It is possible and it can be done in a way benefits us in Michigan, our country and the world.

Thank you.