In summary

Battle lines drawn between California, Trump over clean air. University of California divests from fossil fuels. Baby Trump balloon greets POTUS.

Good morning, California.

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Battle lines drawn on clean air

Cars stuck in traffic in San Francisco, California
Downtown San Francisco traffic jam

President Trump is expected today to revoke California’s 50-year-old authority to set tougher auto emissions standards to combat smog, setting up what will be a precedent-setting court fight. California will fight back.

The L.A. Times: The move, which has been in the works for much of the past three years, would overturn the foundation for California’s role as an environmental leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. 

Why it matters: California has seven of the 10 cities in the nation with the dirtiest air. It’s especially bad in the Bakersfield-Fresno area.

Gov. Gavin Newsom called the expected action a “political vendetta” that “could have devastating consequences for our kids’ health and the air we breathe, if California were to roll over.”

  • “But we will not — we will fight this latest attempt and defend our clean car standards.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra is preparing to sue to block the feds’ attempt. 

Some history:

  • California received the waiver in 1967. 
  • At Gov. Ronald Reagan’s urging, U.S. Sen. George Murphy, a California Republican, blocked Detroit automakers’ effort to prevent the state from receiving the waiver.
  • President George W. Bush moved to revoke California’s waiver.
  • Barack Obama’s election ended that effort. 

The issue has never been fully litigated. The case will be heard in the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia.

To read CalMatters reporter Rachel Becker’s explainer on California’s waiver, please click here.

Rebates for some, perhaps

Niello BMW in Sacramento

With California enmeshed in a bare-knuckled battle over clean air with the Trump administration, carmakers could soon have to sign onto the state’s pact to cut air pollution if they want to offer customers the state’s EV rebate. 

CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports that California is considering a plan that would reward automakers that have signed onto a pact with the state to cut pollution by reserving rebates for customers of zero-emission cars made by those companies. 

On the flip side, people buying cars made by companies that aren’t aligned with California’s clean air standards would not receive rebates.

The plan has not been formally announced. But there are signs it’s emerging as California’s next salvo in a feud with the Trump administration over greenhouse gas and fuel-efficiency standards. 

The Legislature has adjourned for the year. But Assemblyman Phil Ting, San Francisco Democrat, has drafted legislation that would direct clean vehicle rebates only to cars made by companies that have entered an agreement with the state to abide by emissions standards that exceed the Trump administration standards. 

  • What’s Gov. Gavin Newsom’s view? “Give me a few days. And you’ll get a very specific answer to that question.”

For Rosenhall’s full story, please click here.

UC’s bold divestment move

Berkeley, California, USA - October 15, 2016: University of California entrance sign on the corner of Oxford Street and Center Street at Berkeley, California. Over 150 years old, and with many Nobel Prizes winners (they even have reserved parking spots for them), the campus serves almost 40,000 students within an open green space.
University of California, Berkeley

The University of California is divesting its $83 billion in endowment and pension funds from the fossil fuel industry, in a move that will reverberate throughout higher education and add to pressure on public employee pension funds to divest.

CalMatters’ Felicia Mello: The decision caps a multi-year campaign by students and faculty who argued the university had a responsibility to address climate change, but UC officials said they made it for financial reasons.

  • UC’s chief investment officer, Jagdeep Singh Bachher, and Richard Sherman, chair of the UC Regents’ investment committee, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed: “We believe hanging onto fossil fuel assets is a financial risk.”

Reflecting the view of environmentalists, author Bill McKibben, founder of the environmental group, tweeted: “Holy heck. The University of California system has just divested from fossil fuels. That’s $80 billion, from what is the biggest and arguably best public system in the world. Thanks to all who have campaigned so long and hard–this is a breathtaking win!”

Expect pressure to build on the $380 billion California Public Employees’ Pension System to sell off fossil fuel holdings. CalPERS has resisted demands for divestment, arguing that such efforts end up costing the fund money.

The Sacramento Bee: “CalPERS has missed about $8 billion in potential earnings because of its divestment choices dating back to the 1980s, according to a February report by Wilshire Associates.”

Not exactly a ticker tape parade

Baby Trump balloon aloft in Portola Valley

Air Force One touched down at Moffett Field in Mountain View on Tuesday, and President Trump was whisked away to a supposedly unknown location for a fundraiser.

Protestors figured out it was at the Portola Valley estate of Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. The group Vigil for Democracy lofted a “Giant Baby Trump” balloon.

The cat-and-mouse will continue as POTUS heads to fundraisers in Beverly Hills and San Diego today, in service of his reelection campaign.

Moving on

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte

Four-term Republican Congressman Paul Cook, who had to fend off a challenge from the right in 2018, announced Tuesday he is stepping down to run for a San Bernardino County supervisor’s seat, and endorsed Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, his likely replacement.

Cook, a Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and two Purple Hearts, was a viewed as a moderate during his three terms in the Assembly. In Congress, Cook turned to the right, and aligned himself with President Trump. Trump carried Cook’s district by 15 percentage points in 2016.

Cook is one of 16 House Republicans who is leaving Congress. He’s the second member of the California congressional delegation to announce retirement. The other is Democrat Susan Davis of San Diego. Don’t be surprised if others follow.

Why leave Congress: Republicans are in the minority in the House. He’ll be one of five supervisors in San Bernardino County. The pay including benefits is $200,933, compared with congressional pay of $174,000. He is 76, and won’t have to fly across the country regularly.

Obernolte, 49, of Big Bear Lake, is one of the wealthier members of the Legislature and has shown an ability to raise significant sums of money. He’s one of the more influential Republicans in Sacramento, regularly maneuvering bills through the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Democrat Chris Bubser is running for the seat, though it’s considered to be a safe Republican district.

GOP shuns one of its own

Bill Brough takes a selfie with two children while sitting at his desk in the Assembly chamber.
Bill Brough, December 2016

Orange County Assemblyman Bill Brough, representing one of the few solid Republican seats left in California, easily could have remained in office until 2026, when term limits would have forced him out.

But the three-term Republican’s career was teetering Tuesday, amid investigations into sexual harassment and use of campaign money for personal expenses.

The Orange County Republican Party asked him to step aside when his term expires in 2020, and the powerful Lincoln Club of Orange County rescinded its endorsement, The Orange County Register reported.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett accused Brough of sexually harassing her when they served on the Dana Point City Council. Three other women since have come forward.

Separately, the Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating Brough’s use of campaign funding, including $15,000, to fly his family to Ireland, $2,000 for basketball playoff tickets, and $400 for items at Boot Barn western clothing shop, The Register reported.

  • Brough denies wrongdoing.

Republicans have little power in Sacramento. But Brough’s time in the Assembly has been especially unremarkable. 

Brough’s votes consistently are among the most conservative in the Assembly, based on CalMatters reporter Ben Christopher’s analysis.

Only two of his bills passed this year. One would require coroners to more fully document drug or alcohol content in people who die in vehicular accidents.

Money matters: Brough raised $13,563 in the days after the allegations surfaced in late June but nothing since the beginning of July, campaign finance reports show. A recent fundraiser for him was canceled.

Commentary at CalMatters

Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: The Metropolitan Water District opposed Senate Bill 1 because it would have unleashed state-federal litigation, and would have likely brought 13 years of effort to a halt. This was not about the sitting president or any action his administration may or may not take. It was about keeping intact a historic window of opportunity to make generational changes in California water.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: To protect delicate water negotiations, Gov. Newsom breaks with Democrats, labor groups and environmentalists on anti-Trump legislation.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.