EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Could Weaken California's Efforts to Fight Climate Change
California air quality regulators have relied on "a waiver of the preemption which prohibits states from enacting emission standards for new motor vehicles," permitted by the 1970 Federal Clean Air Air due to the state's poor air quality. As a result, California requires stricter emission standards than most other states. However, the waiver is not given unconditionally — it is up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to to grant it.
In response to a question posed by California's new junior U.S. senator, Kamala Harris (D), about the continuation of the waiver, EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt stated, "I don’t know without going through the process to determine that," reports Evan Halper for the Los Angeles Times on Pruitt's confirmation hearing held Jan. 18. "One would not want to presume the outcome," added Pruitt.
If the Trump administration did succeed in eliminating California’s waiver authority, the loss would be a major setback for the state’s environmental policies.
As Pruitt sparred with committee Democrats, California’s chief regulator of air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, Mary Nichols, was testifying in Sacramento about the importance of the waiver to her agency, the California Air Resources Board.
This would not be the first time that the waiver became the subject of a partisan dispute. In 2007, the EPA under Republican President George W. Bush denied California's request for a waiver in order to set stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger vehicles. Two years later, the waiver was granted by the EPA under the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama.