California scores its first big environmental victory of the Trump era

There was one revealing bit of testimony on Capitol Hill recently – from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt told a House subcommittee that the EPA is not reviewing California’s lone-in-the-country authority to set air-quality standards tougher than those found elsewhere in the nation.

For months, California politicians, led by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown (D), have aggressively positioned the state as a bulwark against the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda – for example, striking their own climate pacts with Canada and Mexico.

Since January, one cause for concern among Democrats and environmentalists is a longstanding waiver, written into the 1970 Clean Air Act, that allowed California to impose its own emissions rules for automobiles.

When that federal air pollution law was drafted, smog so choked Los Angeles that California asked Congress and its one-time senator, then President Richard Nixon, to carve out room for the state to set even more stringent air-pollution rules for automobiles than was dictated by federal policy.

But the law simply allows such an exemption to be granted by the federal government – it doesn’t guarantee it. During his confirmation hearing in January, Pruitt suggested that that waiver may come under review. Now he has backed off.

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