Clean Cars, California, And Pruitt's Breathtaking Hypocrisy

The Trump cabinet is wildly imbalanced towards the interests of polluting industries.
03/04/2017 11:22 am ET Updated Mar 06, 2017

Right after he was confirmed, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would achieve cleaner air through “cooperation between the States and EPA.” It was always a highly questionable claim, since Pruitt’s record of 14 lawsuits against clean air and water rules and lax record in Oklahoma suggested he really just wanted to allow companies to pollute without legal consequence.

But reports by the Washington Post and New York Times indicate that Pruitt is showing his true intentions with alarming speed. Leaked information shows that the Trump administration intends to reverse the highly successful clean cars program, which cuts billions of tons of pollution and saves consumers money at the gas pump by gradually raising fleet-wide fuel efficiency standards to about 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The US Government estimates a total of $1.7 trillion in fuel cost savings for American families.

At the request of the auto industry, the EPA clean car program was developed in partnership with and alignment with California and other states to provide investment certainty for the auto industry.

What’s even more brazen, Pruitt intends to weaken EPA’s standards while also attacking California’s long-standing authorization to set its own more protective standards for clean air. His entire environmental philosophy was based on the idea that states knew best and the federal government should get out of the way. But it’s clear from his attack on states’ rights that is not the case. Pruitt clearly does not believe in the right of California to protect the health of its citizens from tailpipe pollution.

Pruitt intends to weaken EPA’s standards while also attacking California’s long-standing authorization to set its own more protective standards for clean air.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking ― and so is the policy. It will mean more asthma attacks for kids, more smog, more wasted oil, and more climate pollution. Instead of moving us forward toward cleaner air and world-leading efficiency, the Trump administration is betting against American ingenuity.

The existing policy is based on an agreement from 2009 in which the car companies (then wanting a federal financial bailout), California, and EPA agreed to the clean cars plan. And the idea that California could set stricter standards is established in the Clean Air Act itself, which recognized that the state has especially tough air quality challenges and that cars inflict a heavy burden on the health of Californians. (If you want to be reminded of why we need an EPA, look at pictures of Los Angeles smog before the Clean Air Act.)

It was a Republican Senator that worked with a unanimous Senate to safeguard California’s right under the Clean Air Act to protect the health of its citizens from tailpipe pollution. California’s leadership, forged in law, has been widely respected over decades by Republican and Democratic EPA administrators.

The Trump cabinet is wildly imbalanced towards the interests of polluting industries. Pruitt himself built his political career in Oklahoma based on an alliance with those industries ― taking millions of their money for his campaigns and causes, sending their requests to Washington on his letterhead, suing EPA alongside them, and relaxing environmental enforcement. So perhaps it isn’t a surprise that he’s giving them everything they want now that he’s in power in Washington. But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous for our kids’ health and their future.

On Twitter @RealKeithGaby

Photo credit: James via Creative Commons

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