Breean Beggs, Spokane City Council President, 509.625.6255
Monday, May 11, 2020 at 4:35 p.m.
Did you know that about half of Spokane’s local emissions are due to the cars we drive every day? The relationship between air quality and respiratory ailments has long been established, as well as the disproportionate negative impacts from pollution for low-income and people of color.
But a new study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has revealed a disturbing link between people with COVID-19 who live in U.S. regions with high levels of air pollution and higher death rates. The study found that even a small elevation in fine particulate air pollution can have significant impacts on health outcomes.
This poses a considerable challenge for Spokane. But the good news is there are things we can do to protect the most vulnerable while creating a more resilient economy.
Spokane, along with several regional partners, is applying for a 2.5 million dollar matching grant offered through the Washington State Department of Commerce to support green transportation infrastructure. While the grant is highly competitive, if awarded the money will be put towards implementing “The Regional Transportation Electrification Plan”.
The Spokane City Council has signed a letter of support for the plan that could help our region transition toward use of lower impact electric vehicles. The plan’s detailed strategic activities have major long-term economic, environmental, and health benefits. Advantages include net benefits to utility customers, a more resilient local economy, and reduced air pollution.
The electrification plan notes something called a “beneficial utility revenue” which means the more electricity customers are using throughout the system, the less expensive it is per unit of energy for everyone. Shifting to electricity away from fossil fuels will allow us to keep our dollars local and will lower the cost of electricity for everyone since more people are buying in to support the same infrastructure and maintenance.
Currently, our electric system is underutilized and can take more load usage as long as that usage is managed through charging during the off-peak hours. As more car manufacturers commit to building electric vehicles (EV), it’s anticipated that the purchase price of an EV will go down. When you add to this to the fact that it costs an equivalent of one dollar per gallon of gas to operate an EV and there’s much less maintenance, you can begin to see the savings add up.
Avista has committed matching funds should the grant be awarded. Other partners include the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, Spokane Transit Authority, Spokane Public Library, Spokane County, Urbanova, Fred Meyer, and the cities of Spokane Valley, Airway Heights, Cheney, and Liberty Lake.