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Report: More Electric Vehicles Could Prevent Deaths in N.J.

New Jersey could avoid 3,290 deaths and generate $36 billion in public health benefits by transitioning to electric vehicles by 2050, according to a report by the American Lung Association.

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(TNS) — New Jersey could avoid 3,290 deaths and generate $36 billion in public health benefits by transitioning to electric vehicles by 2050, according to a report by the American Lung Association.

The report, “Driving to Clean Air: Health Benefits of Zero-Emission Cars and Electricity,” was released Wednesday and is based on data and modeling from two previous Lung Association reports about electric trucks and the 2023 “State of the Air.”

Nationally, the report predicts there would be 89,300 fewer deaths nationwide, and $978 billion in health benefits from 2020 to 2050, 2.2 million fewer asthma attacks and 10.7 million fewer lost workdays due to pollution-related illnesses.

In New Jersey, the transition would also result in 76,100 avoided asthma attacks and avoiding 382,000 lost workdays due to illnesses caused by air pollution.

But the federal and state government need to step in by implementing stronger emissions standards and adopting state and federal policies to accelerate the deployment of zero-emission vehicles, according to the report. Governments also need to create or use new funding programs to speed the transition from fossil fuel powered vehicles and energy generation to zero-emission technologies instead.

Specific actions the Lung Association advocated for include government programs and policies such as tax incentives to purchase zero emissions vehicles, including the federal Inflation Reduction Act that provides up to $4,000 in federal tax credits for purchase of a used electric vehicle.

Action, such as passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help fund charging infrastructure, also were cited by the Lung Association as an example of what’s needed. The report called for investment that “must go above and beyond new resources” made Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act legislation of 2022.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy accelerated the timetable of his initial climate change goals by signing an executive order in November 2021, pushing the goal to have a 50% reduction in state-generated greenhouse gases from 2050 to by 2030, the end of this decade.

Murphy advanced that goal further in February, aiming for 100% clean energy by 2035 instead of 2050. That includes a timeline to be established later this year to require all vehicles sold in the state to be electric starting in 2035. Part of that effort will be funded $70 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to fund zero emission medium and heavy duty vehicles like school buses, forklifts and garbage trucks throughout the state.

He also signed an environmental justice law in 2020 to protect vulnerable communities from pollution.

But the governor and state also have been criticized by environmentalists for six fossil fuel projects the state has approved the last four years they contend have increased emissions in the state 19% and another seven proposed natural gas power plants they contend could increase air pollution by 38%.

Some of those environmentalists demonstrated in Newark on Monday, calling on Murphy to stop two natural gas-fired power plants proposed for the region at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s wastewater treatment plant in Newark’s Ironbound section and a NJ Transit “TransitGrid” power generating plant project in Kearny. That plant could be designed using primarily renewable power with a gas powered backup generator or all gas

New Jersey is one of 10 states that mandates stronger emission standards for internal combustion engines and has requirements for automakers to produce larger percentages of zero-emission vehicles through 2025 under the “Advanced Clean Cars I” standard.

Eight other states, including neighboring New York, have more stringent Advanced Clean Car II standards. They require 100% of new passenger vehicles sold by 2035 are zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

While the report didn’t directly address the necessary utility infrastructure upgrades that would be required to provide the needed electric vehicle charging stations and improvements to the electrical power grid to accommodate the demand, those issues were considered, said Will Barrett, the report’s author.

“Our analysis accounts for the growth in grid capacity needs but did not specifically look at the number of fueling outlets or a cost analysis,” Barnett said. “Rather, we look at the potential health implications of meeting this challenge of shifting to zero-emissions in the transportation and electricity sectors.”

He cited major infrastructure investments being made under the federal Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure legislation that are “helping to accelerate the transition and bring health benefits online sooner.”

The association’s “State of the Air” 2023 report said over 35% of all Americans, or approximately 120 million people, live in areas affected by unhealthy levels of ozone and particle pollution. People of color make up the majority of those living in communities with unhealthy air, according to the Lung Association.

“State of the Air” said that a person of color is 64% more likely than a white person to live in a community affected by unhealthy air and 3.7 times more likely to live with the most polluted air in the United States.

© 2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.