by Allison Johnston
Long before the United States Congress passed the Clean Air Act, California enacted the first air pollution legislation, in 1947. Their Air Resources Board, thought to be one of the most powerful regulatory agencies for air pollution in the world, has sprung more hybrid and electric cars into the commercial scene. Impelled by our nation’s most innovative building code, new buildings in California use approximately 75 percent less energy than buildings constructed pre-code. These architectural giants save enough energy to construct seven large, natural power plants.
California is currently the only state that has implemented a greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade program, which last year generated around $2.5 billion in revenue from permits alone. Directed by a flourishing technology industry in Silicon Valley, California has easily led the United States in engineering more energy sufficient automobiles and electric grids. All of these innovations led to create a more renewables-based economy.
Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank for renewable energy based in Colorado, stated, “California plays an incredibly important role as a pathfinder that plots out the course for the energy transition, climate change, and the environment”.
All of their contribution to the environment brings them into the ring with President Donald Trump, who has expressed through his statements and appointed staff that he is not concerned by the threat of climate change and use of fossil fuels. California has already conveyed their means to rebel.
Prior to Trump’s inauguration, Governor Jerry Brown decreed at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight.” At the time, he was referencing the Trump administration’s threats to defund any environmental research organization.
As the Trump administration threatens to decrease environmental funds, this showdown presents a risk for California’s own ability to sustain their strict environmental laws and regulations. It is hard to say who will be victorious, but unlikely that either will emerge unscathed. If the Trump administration uses budget cuts and deregulation to tighten their grip on California’s defiance, the state will not be able to continue the independent path they have been hiking in environmental territories.
Not all California environmentalists stand behind the so-called leader in their cause, Governor Brown, mainly due to his support for fracking and harmful water projects. Despite this, they receive him as a leading advocate for responsible climate change policies.
State legislature recently hired Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama’s Attorney General from 2009-2015, to represent them in the inevitable legal clashes to come with the Trump administration. California is ready to play the role of Texas during the Obama administration, when Texas sued the federal government approximately 50 times. The majority of these suits pertaining to climate change, and air and water quality. Xavier Becerra, California’s current Attorney General, stated against Trump, “If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us.”