President Trump likes to cast himself as a champion of states’ rights. But he stops short when it comes to California and other liberal states.
The latest example comes from Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency, which is on the cusp of revoking California’s authority to regulate heat-trapping emissions from automobiles inside the state.
The decision to spurn California was long expected, and is one in a series of salvos between Trump and one of the nation’s bluest states. The president has also targeted the homeless populations in Los Angeles and San Francisco, claiming during a trip to California yesterday they're doing damage to the cities' "prestige" real estate and the federal government is aiming to do something about it.
But it fits into a pattern of Trump’s team brushing aside environmental concerns from a number of states — even Republican-controlled ones — where leaders stand in the way of the interests of the oil and natural gas industry, a key Trump ally.
“This isn’t just about California,” Gay MacGregor, a former senior policy adviser at the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality who has been critical of the Trump administration, said in an e-mailed statement. “Apparently, the GOP is no longer the champion of states’ rights or clean air.”
The EPA declined to comment on the forthcoming announcemen regarding emissions to The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis. But on Tuesday, the agency's top official defended the Trump administration’s approach to states’ rights.
“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” EPA chief Andrew Wheeler said in a speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association.
As Eilperin and Dennis report, the EPA on Wednesday intends to withdraw California's authority to implement more stringent fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks than what the federal government requires.
For decades, the EPA has repeatedly approved California’s waivers to set its own auto standards under the Clean Air Act. The authors of the landmark environmental law gave the state a way to tackle pollution more aggressively since its car-choked highways gave Los Angeles and other California cities some of the worst smog in the country.
California is not the only state targeted by the EPA’s actions recently.
Last month, the agency took a step toward limiting states' power to stymie energy projects that cross over state lines. The move seems meant to counter New York, whose governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, has tried to block a number of proposed natural gas pipelines using the state’s review authority under the Clean Water Act.
The EPA’s proposed rule would limit New York and other states to looking only at issues of water quality when approving pipelines — not any broader concern, such as climate change.
Likewise, one of Wheeler’s former Cabinet counterparts, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, clashed with local leaders along the coasts when the administration in 2018 tried to expand offshore drilling across the Atlantic and Pacific.
Nearly every governor along both coasts — both Democrat and Republican — opposed drilling off their shores for fear of hurting their tourism and fishing industries. But only one of Trump’s political allies, then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), was told his state would be dropped from the drilling plans.
In the months since unveiling the department’s proposal to expand offshore leases, Zinke has left the administration and his successor, David Bernhardt, has paused the plans.
In the case of California’s auto emissions standards, Wheeler is concerned about the overwhelming influence regulations in the most populous state have on the rest of the country. Indeed, 13 other states and the District of Columbia have committed to following California’s rules if they differ from those of the federal government.
Trump’s team is seeking to roll back tailpipe pollution rules set by the Obama administration to curb climate change, which were set in consultation with California, and set weaker Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or “CAFE,” standards nationwide.
“To borrow from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry,” EPA chief Wheeler said, “CAFE does not stand for California Assumes Federal Empowerment.”
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— How the border wall could crush archaeological sites: A 123-page internal National Park Service report found the bulldozers and excavators working to construct Trump’s border fence could harm or destroy 22 sites part of Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Nick Miroff report. The risks were identified as U.S. Customs and Border Protection expedites installation of the border fence to meet Trump’s campaign pledge of finishing 500 miles of it by the 2020 election. The president’s demands for regular updates have ramped up the pressure on construction, Eilperin and Miroff write.
The fight to stop the wall: Environmental groups are trying to leverage the courts of law and public opinion to suspend construction, warning about the impact to wildlife and imperiled species. “But to date, there has been little mention of the potential damage to archaeological sites, where stone tools, ceramic shards and other pre-Colombian artifacts are extremely well-preserved in the arid environment."
— The latest aftermath from the attack in Saudi Arabia: Oil prices dropped 6 percent Tuesday after reports that Saudi Arabia would bounce back from the weekend drone attack more quickly than anticipated. During a news conference, Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the kingdom had already recovered half the oil production lost because of the attack, adding it was set to restore its normal production by the end of the month, The Post’s Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath report.
The takeaway: “The oil market has gone from pricing in the worst-case scenario, in terms of lost Saudi oil supplies, to one of the best-case scenarios, considering the scope and scale of the attack," said analyst John Kilduff of Again Capital.
Pence says U.S. officials weighing response: Vice President Pence said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was headed to Saudi Arabia. Pence added U.S. leaders are reviewing evidence that points to Iran as behind the strike. “We’re evaluating all the evidence. We’re consulting with our allies. And the president will determine the best course of action in the days ahead,” Pence said in remarks before the Heritage Foundation in Washington, according to Reuters.
— Greta meets with Obama: The 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg met with the former president at his office in Washington this week, days ahead of her scheduled rally before the United Nations climate action summit. “All of these young people [in the United States] seem so eager, very enthusiastic,” Thunberg told Obama in a video of their brief meeting. The Post’s Sarah Kaplan writes. “Which is a very good thing … I mean, no one is too small to have an impact.” “You and me, we’re a team,” Obama told the teenager before they fist-bumped in the clip.
More on her D.C. tour: Ahead of an appearance at a House hearing Wednesday, Thunberg submitted a U.N. report on climate change instead of prepared testimony. “I have not come to offer prepared remarks at this hearing,” the 16-year-old wrote in a statement. “I am instead attaching my testimony. It is the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C [SR1.5] which was released on October 8, 2018.” Instead of listening to her testify, Thunberg said she wants lawmakers to “listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”
— 2020 watch: Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has released a plan he says will improve disaster preparedness in the United States. “The plan, which relies heavily on Buttigieg's experience as a mayor in South Bend, Indiana, dealing with massive flooding, sets three goals under a hypothetical Buttigieg presidency: improving coordination between communities and the federal government, incentivizing communities to build resilient infrastructure and improving the federal government's immediate response to disaster relief,” CNN reports. The eight-page plan also includes creating a disaster commission in his first 100 days and establishing a National Catastrophic Extreme Weather insurance program.
— UC system to divest fossil fuel holdings: University of California system officials announced in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that the schools plan to divest from fossil fuels. The decision follows a July vote by faculty across the system to demand that it divest and pressure from a vocal student and teacher movement, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Why the school is divesting: In the op-ed, Jagdeep Singh Bachher, UC’s chief investment officer and treasurer and Richard Sherman, chairman of the UC Board of Regents’ Investments Committee, suggested the decision was made because it’s a “financial risk” to keep fossil fuel assets. “That’s why we will have made our $13.4-billion endowment ‘fossil free’ as of the end of this month, and why our $70-billion pension will soon be that way as well.” They added: “This risk-averse reasoning might not jibe with what you will read in a newspaper headline or scroll through in a news feed on your phone. Some might see our action as born of political pressure, or as green movement idealism or perhaps political correctness run amok.”
— No more PFAS in Home Depot carpets and rugs: Home Depot announced it would stop selling carpets and rugs containing the toxic per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, from its stores in the United States and Canada, halting any purchase of the products for its stores by the end of 2019. Mike Schade of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families praised the company for the move that he said will “help to end the nonstick nightmare that is contaminating people’s homes and communities across the country.” Ecology Center Research Director Jeff Gearhart said Home Depot’s latest decision “highlights the fact that PFAS chemicals don’t just show up in drinking water. … Taking PFAS chemicals out of carpet eliminates one important source of PFAS in the indoor environment.”
— One of the top carbon emitters in U.S. pledges cuts: Duke Energy announced it would aim to slash its carbon emissions by at least half from 2005 levels by 2030, as part of an overall strategy to double its use of solar, wind and other renewable energy by 2025. “A growing list of utilities and other power producers is pursuing the goal of cutting back on fossil fuels, in line with the pledges made in the Paris Climate Accord,” Bloomberg News reports. “Taking into account the latest announcement, utilities now providing about a third of U.S. electricity have promised to phase out carbon, said Armond Cohen, executive director of Clean Air Task Force.”
— Here’s who wasn’t at Trump’s Hurricane Dorian briefings: Some of Trump’s briefings in the runup to Hurricane Dorian did not include a single meteorologist, a gap that could have helped lead to the president’s erroneous claim the storm was going to significantly impact Alabama, The Post’s Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow report. There is a highly qualified meteorologist on Trump’s White House staff, Kelvin Droegemeier, but he did not attend the storm briefings.
“Instead, Trump was sometimes briefed on the storm via a process run out of the National Security Council, with Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown, who serves as the White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, providing Trump the latest storm information while the president was at Camp David on the weekend of Aug. 30 and 31, and on subsequent occasions,” Freedman and Samenow report.
— Air pollution showing up in placenta during pregnancy: Black carbon pollution can travel from pregnant women’s lungs to the placenta, according to a new study from scientists in Belgium. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that black carbon particles were detected on every placenta examined, regardless of the amount of exposure the mother had to the soot pollution, Inside Climate News reports. The study included 20 women in Belgium with 10 from places with high soot exposure and 10 who were exposed to low levels. "In Belgium, we have quite low concentrations in the air. And on top of that, we're recruiting mothers in a neighborhood where there's an especially low concentration," said lead author Hannelore Bové. “If we can find it at low levels, it should be even worse when you're exposed at higher concentrations.”
- The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis holds a hearing on “Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis.”
- The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change holds a hearing on pathways to net-zero industrial emissions.
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on the administration's policies and priorities under the Clean Water Act.
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on economic competitiveness through water resources infrastructure.
The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman moderates a conversation that includes Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) at the World Resources Institute on Thursday.
— “I’ll just have to go clean up”: Just as Illinois state Rep. Jaime Andrade Jr. was being interviewed by a local CBS News reporter about a bird poop problem at a busy Chicago Transit Authority stop, a pigeon pooped on him, as The Post’s Brittany Shammas writes.
OH CRAP!— LAUREN VICTORY (@LaurenVictory) September 16, 2019
Not to be crass but #IL lawmaker talking to me about feces, feathers & filth fell victim to culprit during our #MorningInsiders interview. Ew! @cbschicago caught it all on camera. At 6AM, hear more about Rep's years-long quest to fix bird issue at @cta #irvingpark stop pic.twitter.com/lCdedLA7IE