On Thursday, the Trump administration revoked California’s authority to set its own rules on tailpipe emissions.
The reversal of California’s nearly-50-year-old waiver means the state won’t be able to push auto makers faster than the federal government can to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that come out of cars. The decision came just a day before students and activists took to the streets in cities across the world – including Fresno – as part of the Global Climate Strike.
Policy coordinator Ivanka Saunders with the non-profit advocacy group Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability is concerned not just for climate change, but also climate impacts on local health and safety. “If you’re not meeting these certain goals of reducing these emissions by 2025, 2050, there’s major catastrophic changes of our earth’s environment that are just going to get worse with the drought, the fires, all of that,” she says.
The move could also stymy efforts toward much-needed improvements to local air quality. Vehicle emissions account for around half of all particulate matter emitted in the San Joaquin Valley, one reason the Valley Air Pollution Control District has been advocating for years with the state and federal governments for tighter emissions standards.
“Any measure like this revocation of the waiver that compromises achieving those reductions from the various mobile sources that are so vital to bringing this valley into compliance with those clean air standards and achieving our goals really does put quite a bit of risk in terms of being able to meet those goals,” says air district director Samir Sheikh.
The federal government now faces a lawsuit challenging its decision from California and nearly two dozen other states.