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September 18, 2019

Southern California elected officials slam Trump for trying to block states from setting clean air standards

Southern California leaders are slamming President Donald Trump’s decision to block California from setting its own auto emissions standards. And many Democrats are pledging to fight back.

Trump announced in a series of tweets Wednesday morning that he planned to revoke a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act that since 1968 has let California set its own rules for vehicle emissions in the state. The president said his policy will make cars cheaper and safer, while also tweeting that there will be “very little difference” between the standards California has in place and new federal standards.

Opponents, many of whom have been elected after promising to fight global warming and improve the environment, suggested Trump is putting politics for his base above public health and common-sense economics.

“The Trump Administration is prohibiting California from protecting children with asthma and senior citizens,” Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Laguna Beach, tweeted in reaction to the news.

“This would be laughable, as it comes from the so-called party of ‘states’ rights,’ if it wasn’t going to kill our most vulnerable.”

Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, said there’s actually a substantial difference between fuel efficiency standards in California’s plan, which calls for all cars to get 51 miles per gallon by 2026, and Trump’s plan, which freezes standards at 37 miles per gallon.

Hill also refuted Trump’s claim that a lower emissions standard would lead to more jobs.

“Clean cars create just as many jobs as dirty ones,” she tweeted.

Hill argued that Trump’s push to limit California’s ability to set its own environmental policies is not about safety or economics, but about a desire to “control everyone who disagrees with him.”

Rep. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, also questioned Trump’s motivation, asking: “Mr. President, what’s the point?”

Correa noted that “even the auto industry opposes this action,” after four major car companies this summer signed a surprise deal with California to abide by the state’s stricter standards — a move that reportedly infuriated Trump.

“As far as I can see, President Trump wants to fix something that isn’t broken to score short-term political points,” said Lisa Schweitzer, an urban planning professor at USC.

Trump was in California when he tweeted the news, which included a warning for automakers to “seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business.”

Republican leaders from California were silent about the issue Wednesday on social media.

California was forced to spearhead efforts to improve air quality when the federal government failed to act, Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, said. Thirteen other states have since followed California’s lead. Since the Clean Air Act was passed, California has made headway on air pollution in many parts of the state, though the trend has shifted in recent years.

Correa and Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, both said they remember growing up in Southern California when Smog Alerts regularly forced them to play indoors.

“We’ve had decades of bipartisan action to improve air quality, and we’re not going back so that President Trump can line the pockets of Big Oil,” Levin said in a statement.

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of Redlands said he hopes automakers will voluntarily meet California’s stricter emissions rules.

But  Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, echoed pledges from Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

“We will see the administration in court,” Lowenthal said. “And we will win.”