California resolution opposes any federal action that weakens state's Clean Air waiver authority

Reports say Trump administration will lower air quality rules and revoke California's waiver authority

March 10, 2017

Sacramento – With several media outlets reporting that President Trump’s administration might revoke California’s long-standing ability to enforce tougher motor vehicle emission standards, State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) has introduced a resolution to put the California Senate on record opposing “any efforts by the current administration and Congress of the United States to deny, roll back, or otherwise undermine the waiver authority.” 

SR 27 was introduced late yesterday. 

“Any move to revoke our ability to enforce higher standards would be an unprecedented act and eliminate over 50 years of bipartisan cooperation on Clean Air policies that reduce pollution,” said Wieckowski, chair of the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee.  “We have received more than 145 waivers from Republican and Democratic administrations.  Revoking the state’s ability to enact these standards would lead to more pollution and increased health problems, not just for Californians but also for all the other states that follow our standards.”

California’s standards to reduce smog and air pollution from the transportation sector predate the federal Clean Air Act.  Congress recognized the state’s work and in Section 209 of the Clean Air Act grants California unique authority to set its own vehicular pollution control standards if approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The waivers have contributed to making cars in California substantially cleaner than they were when the state first implemented standards in the 1960s and have helped to avoid thousands of premature deaths and other illnesses. 

“All of California’s elected officials should fiercely oppose any rollback in the Clean Air Act authority that has allowed our state to make great strides in reducing pollution and driving innovation in cleaner cars and trucks,” said Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air.  “The health of Californians depends on resisting any weakening in our waiver authority, so we applaud Senator Wieckowski for introducing SR 27 and we urge its speedy passage.”

Despite the fact that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 13.1 percent of adults and 12.5 percent of children have been diagnosed with asthma, and lower-income and minority groups are disproportionately affected by asthma due to their increased exposure, the Trump administration is moving to lower the bar on tailpipe emission restrictions.  

Under Section 209, the EPA is required by law to grant a waiver unless the proposed standards are not more protective of public health than federal standards; the state does not need stricter standards given a set of compelling and extraordinary circumstances; and the proposed standards are inconsistent with other provisions of the federal Clean Air Act.

More than a dozen states have chosen to follow California’s stricter standards to improve air quality.   

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th Senate District, which includes parts of Alameda and Santa Clara counties.