Will California’s environmental regulations continue under a Trump presidency?

Written by

Donald Trump has named Myron Ebell to head up the transition at the EPA. Ebell is a climate change denier who currently leads environmental and energy policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an advocacy group that gets funding from the fossil fuel industry.

Trump has said he thinks global warming is a hoax and he’s talked about slashing regulations: including doing away with the Clean Power Plan, which calls for cutting the energy industry’s carbon emissions, and scrapping a recent rule to limit ground-level ozone.

Earth Justice staff attorney Adrian Martinez says California has already taken a lot of action toward protecting the state’s environment. KCRW talked to Martinez about the future of California’s environmental regulations.

Adrian Martinez: If we believe in a clean environment we believe in addressing climate change and in fact our state has taken a lot of actions to address these issues so any effort to roll back protections for people are going to be harsh for example ozone the standard is supposed to be set at a level requisite to protect public health and I think as Californians we like standards that protect our health.

KCRW: Now these particular regulations we’re just talking about are they already in effect or is this a matter of regulations that are about to be implemented but haven’t been yet

AM: Well, it’s a mix. You know various regulations are at various stages. Some are in the courts where industry in some states have sued over them, some are about to be promulgated, some have already been promulgated. There’s just a broad range of where we are on these issues. Luckily, in California we’ve been working on clean energy for a long time so I don’t get the sense that that will impact our efforts to purse clean energy.

KCRW: We do have a lot of statewide regulations in place here. We’ve got Cap and Trade which forces power plants and factories to basically pay to pollute, encouraging them to try to reduce their emissions. The State is trying to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2030. Do you see the Trump administration trying to change those kinds of rules or at least moving to change regulations in California that affect business?

AM: Well, I think there’s a state’s rights issue. California has a long history of regulating or pursuing policies to clean the environment. During the George W. Bush administration, California adopted landmark climate change legislation that locked into place some clean air act protections on the federal level when Bush was too seeking to roll them back, so I don’t see President-elect Trump trying to roll back what California does.

KCRW: One of the cornerstones of California’s climate policy is that the state has the toughest regulations in the country on car and truck tail pipe emission. Would President-elect Trump have a tough time trying to roll those back because California’s whole air regulatory system predates federal roles. Does that give the state standing when it comes to air regulation?

AM: Yeah, it gives California a really prominent position in those discussions. The Clean Air Act gives California a special provisions to adopt its own standards on cars and other vehicles and California has used that authority. There has been some inclination that there will be efforts to roll back these standards on cars and duty vehicles and California will likely push back against that.

KCRW: And is there the sense that if California stands by these regulations then the Federal regs, at least as far as tail pipe emissions, might stand just because automotive manufacturers don’t want to make two completely separate lines of cars and trucks.

AM: It’s really unclear. I mean, we’re about a week in and a lot of the dust is settling around this issue. The automakers have been pushing already on this issue and that’s a historical thing. They’ve constantly pushed back against more fuel efficiency standards so now will be the time for states like California to step to the plate and push back against those efforts to weaken the standards.

KCRW: Do you see any potential areas of cooperation between environmentalists or perhaps California and the Trump white house?

AM: It’s a little unclear, I mean in the Republican platform there was some brief discussion of energy storage which is a way you can reduce the amount of fossil fuels.

KCRW: We’re basically talking about battery storage for electricity that’s generated perhaps through solar, wind, what have you.

AM: Yeah, and so it is unclear where exactly that came from so there may be some policies to expand that. I think, renewable energy such as solar and wind is incredibly popular in the middle of the country so I think there will be tax credits remaining for those technologies, so it is really unclear right now.