California Lawmakers Announce Bills To Protect Environment
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Credit: Associated Press
Democratic lawmakers in California on Thursday announced their first attempt to protect the state's wide-ranging environmental regulations from potential interference by President Donald Trump's administration.
Concerned that California's aggressive attempts to combat climate change and fight Los Angeles smog, among others, may be under threat, a group of Senate Democrats introduced three measures seeking to shore up the state's own environmental laws.
One Democratic Senate bill would make federal pollution regulations part of state law in case Congress repeals them. Democrats are also looking to impede the sale of federal lands to private developers and to protect federal whistleblowers from losing licenses to work in California — a proposal aimed at protecting scientists and lawyers at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump and his Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, have sharply criticized environmental regulations. The president has promised to ease regulations and make cuts to the EPA.
In his previous role as Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt filed 14 lawsuits against the agency's regulations, including policies limiting carbon emissions and requiring cleanup of polluted water. He was sworn in at the EPA last week.
"We cannot afford to go back," said Democratic state Sen. Henry Stern, of Agoura Hills. "So what we're doing today is we're locking in at least some baseline so the people of California can trust that we're going to have their back to preserve the quality of California they've all come to expect."
California lawmakers have long prided themselves on their own climate change prevention laws, including legislation last year creating a target of 40 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.
Still, their efforts will be limited by federal law. California's tailpipe emission standards, for example, operate under waivers from the EPA, which could theoretically rescind them or refuse to renew them.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Pruitt wouldn't commit to preserving a waiver that lets California set stricter emissions standards than the federal government. The waiver is critical to the state's ambitious climate change policies.
Since the election, California lawmakers have vowed to defend the state's liberal policies. They have already introduced bills to strengthen state protections for immigrants as the White House taken steps to crack down on undocumented immigrants and attempted to block some immigrants and refugees from entering the country.
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