A nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California’s policies and politics

Trump v. California

In this corner: Environment

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Environment

Clean Energy
Climate Change
Oil and Gas
All talk, no action—yet
It's on!
On the ropes
California wins!
Trump wins!

California has adopted an undeniably pugilistic stance toward the Trump Administration, fighting against every edict that appears to undermine the state’s own policies and views.

Boxers. Photo by Flickr.

But not every blow lands.

That was the case last week, when a bill explicitly designed to protect California’s environment against rollbacks of federal laws, failed to come up for a vote in the last days of the lawmaking year.

The California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act was intended to make federal laws that protect air, water and endangered species enforceable here even if those standards were weakened by the Trump administration.

The measure, co-authored by Democratic Sens. Kevin de León of Los Angeles and Henry Stern of Canoga Park, also sought to maintain current regulations for public health and worker safety.

The bill did not make it to the Assembly floor. It is expected to be revisited after the Legislature reconvenes in January.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sued the Trump administration, joining four other states in trying to force the U.S. Department of Transportation to encourage fuel-efficient cars.

His target is a regulation that was set to take effect in July and would have increased penalties on automakers whose vehicle fleets do not meet minimum fuel-efficiency standards.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indefinitely delayed implementing the rule, reverting to the lower penalty rate instead.

“President Trump claims to support law and order, yet his administration routinely ignores laws when it doesn’t like them,” Becerra said in a statement. “We’re still a nation of laws. No one, not even the President, is above the law.”

The suit was filed Friday.

California is suing the Trump Administration to over fuel-efficiency standards. Image by Flickr

California has tangled with the administration over many environmental policies.

In March, the federal government announced it was shelving Obama-era fuel-economy standards, rules California was counting on to assist the state’s transition to electric and hybrid automobiles.

“If Washington continues down this road,” Gov. Brown wrote to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, “California will take the necessary actions to preserve current standards and protect the health of our people and the stability of our climate.”

The state has previously :

–Sued the federal Energy Department for stalling on energy-efficiency standards.

–Threatened legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to enforce a law aimed at reducing methane gas emissions.

–Joined 14 other states in a suit against the EPA for delaying implementation of regulations that reduce ozone pollution.

–Filed suit, along with New Mexico, against the Department of Interior for delaying imposition of a rule that cut loopholes allowing some energy companies to avoid paying certain royalties.

A bill that would have made it more difficult and expensive to drill off the California coast died in the Legislature, leaving alive President Trump’s threat to open federal waters for oil and gas prospecting.

The bill, by Democratic Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, would have prohibited the State Lands Commission from approving any new infrastructure that supports offshore oil and gas development, effectively ramping up the cost to construct additional pipelines and infrastructure.

An oil platform off the California coast. Image by Wikipedia

The bill stalled in the Assembly last week. It was a response to an executive order instructing U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review locations in the Pacific for lease sales—areas that were placed off limits at least through 2022 by President Obama.

The state has a limited arsenal to fight energy leasing in federal waters, which begin three miles offshore. The last time federal oil leases were offered off the California coast was in 1984. State officials have long sought to permanently ban offshore drilling here.

In Jackson’s district, the memory of the massive 1969 oil spill that despoiled beaches and killed wildlife is still vivid. The area was hit again in 2015, when a pipeline failure sent more than 140,000 of crude oil onto the beach at Refugio State Park.

“This not a distant or abstract issue,” Jackson said when she introduced her legislation. “This is deeply personal.”

California yesterday joined 14 other states in challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s delay in implementing regulations that reduce ozone pollution.

Photo via angusreid.org

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra took on the agency for delaying the roll-out of Obama-era rules that reduced allowable concentrations of ozone, a primary component of smog.

The case, before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, focuses on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s order to extend the deadlines to comply with the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Pruitt announced in June he was extending the deadlines by at least a year while the agency reconsiders the requirements. Many business groups oppose the rules.

Becerra cited the EPA’s own analysis that found the reductions would save more than 100 lives, eliminate 380 asthma emergency department visits, and prevent 120,000 lost school days each year.

“Too many children in our state have developed asthma and other preventable respiratory conditions that result from air pollution,” Becerra said.  “I grew up in Sacramento knowing that I could drink clean water and breathe clean air. But in those days in Los Angeles, how many people my age can say the same thing? How many days began with smog alerts? How many kids grew up with asthma that could have been prevented? “




In what is becoming a standard call-and-response rejoinder, a California water agency is considering rules to protect state wetlands after the Trump administration said it would do away with Obama-era regulations.

California may change regulations to make it more difficult to develop around wetlands. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The state Water Resources Control Board could adopt polices that provide protection for wetlands and waters formerly considered under the Waters of the United States regulations, which have been criticized as hampering farming and commercial development. Trump announced the rollback of the rules last month.

At issue are protections for rivers, streams and sometimes seasonal bodies of water that are covered under the federal Clean Water Act. Supreme Court decisions limited the definition to ‘navigable waters’ directly connected to rivers.

That narrow definition, environmentalists said, left out wetlands and other small bodies of water that only appeared at certain times of the year but provided critical habitat. In 2015 the Obama administration expanded the rule to protect those wetlands, once again curtailing some agriculture operations and other development.

Business interests and property-rights advocates argued that if the state adopted the more restrictive rules, it would damage the California economy by forbidding development in a broad swath of the state. That point was underscored when a Central Valley farmer was fined nearly $3 million for plowing under vernal pools without the proper permit.

The water board could rule on the matter in December.

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