Commentary

Cleaner vehicles are a must for a healthy Nevada

August 9, 2021 5:30 am

The RTC earlier this year published its Zero Emissions Bus Rollout Plan, which outlines the steps the RTC will take to facilitate a rollout to zero tailpipe pollution technology. (Photo by Ronda Churchill)

Here in Nevada, we are all too familiar with the disastrous consequences of air pollution. The American Lung Association’s 2021 “State of the Air” report found Las Vegas ranked in the top 25 most U.S. polluted cities for both ozone and short-term particle pollution. Transportation is the largest source of carbon pollution in the country, including right here in Nevada. 

Air pollution threatens the health of all our communities, leading to asthma attacks, missed school days, missed workdays, and even death. Fortunately, there is a solution to this costly, dangerous problem: boldly investing in our nation’s transition to clean vehicles. Congress has already taken the first step, but our leaders now need to craft a big, bold bill that truly addresses climate change and delivers on the promise of pollution-free transportation for all communities.

All Nevadans deserve to be able to breathe clean air. While my colleagues and I make strides to achieve this on both the North Las Vegas City Council and the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada Board of Directors, we must also acknowledge that air pollution is a national problem that requires bold solutions. The RTC earlier this year published its Zero Emissions Bus Rollout Plan, which outlines the steps the RTC will take to facilitate a rollout to zero tailpipe pollution technology. If funding is available, half of the RTC’s fleet will be pollution-free vehicles by 2030, and just five years later, the agency plans on reaching 100%.

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford knows that we need historic clean transportation, energy, and infrastructure investments to get us there. He is currently helping secure $12 million to convert street lights in North Las Vegas to LED, which allows the city to adopt more sustainable practices and will lower its power bill. But there’s much more to do, and only then can we hope to achieve a future where we are protecting public health, reducing the carbon pollution that drives the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and providing clean energy jobs here in Nevada and across the United States.

The massive untapped potential for jobs in Nevada alone is reason enough to make big investments in clean energy and clean vehicle technologies. Prior to the pandemic, clean energy jobs were growing 70% faster nationally than the economy as a whole, and currently, about 274,000 jobs are associated with clean vehicles. Nevada’s transit agencies have already begun adding electric buses, and with further investments in clean transportation, our state will benefit even more. Investing in the infrastructure that will underlie a clean vehicle revolution will allow Nevada to provide family-sustaining union jobs to a growing workforce of manufacturers, construction workers, engineers, and more. 

The transition to clean vehicles is also an environmental justice issue because low-wealth communities and communities of color are disproportionately likely to live by freeways and major shipping channels, leading to neighborhoods where exposure to air pollution is much higher. Focusing efforts on transitioning not only to electric cars, but to electric buses and trucks, is critical. Through the Justice40 Initiative, the Biden administration has already committed to aiming 40% of the benefits of climate investments to the historically marginalized communities who have borne the brunt of air pollution and environmental catastrophe.

Children too make up a vulnerable population because their small lungs and developing bodies are especially susceptible to air pollution. As an after-school mentor to students here in Las Vegas, I know we must make sure children can get to and from school in a way that doesn’t jeopardize their health.

To ensure our children and grandchildren have a better future, we need to decrease the carbon pollution from the transportation sector — our nation’s largest source of this pollution — that is driving the climate crisis. With a summer of record-breaking extreme heat waves and droughts impacting Las Vegas and much of the western United States, we need a plan to combat this climate pollution in order to leave our children with a habitable environment.

All of Nevada’s congressional delegation needs to support bold investments in clean energy and transportation infrastructure. It is imperative for our children’s future. A poll of Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District found that 61% of voters support investments in electric vehicles and more charging infrastructure, and 70% support addressing the climate crisis by making greater investments in clean energy. A healthy future for our communities and environment is possible, and Nevadans are clearly in favor of making the investments we need to make it a reality.

Now is not the time for half measures. It’s time for a clean energy future that guarantees breathable air for all.

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Isaac Barron
Isaac Barron

Isaac Barron is a native of North Las Vegas and holds the distinction of being the first Hispanic member of the North Las Vegas City Council. Barron also serves on the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

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