Former Gov. Jerry Brown will testify before Congress on Tuesday about the damage the Trump administration’s plans to roll back auto emission standards could do to California, setting up another confrontation between the state’s political leadership and the president.
The hearing, called “Trump’s Wrong Turn on Clean Cars,” will address the possible effects of the decision to weaken car pollution and fuel efficiency standards put in place under the Obama administration, as well as plans to revoke California’s nearly half-century-old authority to impose stricter emission standards. Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach), who organized the hearing, said it was necessary to “shine a brighter light” on the issue, given the president’s escalating fight against California’s environmental policies.
“All of us across the country should be fighting for cleaner air, yet we have a corrupt administration and an Environmental Protection Agency that’s going in the opposite direction, contrary to what the vast majority of Americans want,” Rouda said.
Since leaving elected office last year, Brown has launched into advocacy for action on climate change and nuclear disarmament and repeatedly attacked the Trump administration for failing to address both issues.
In his written testimony, provided to the committee in advance, Brown warned that if the EPA carries out its planned rollback of auto emission standards, air pollution will increase in cities across the country. This would be particularly harmful to residents of Southern California, which has some of the worst air quality in the United States and has seen a resurgence of dirty air in the last few years.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: rolling back California’s clean car rules, as the President is proposing, is just plain dumb, if not commercially suicidal,” Brown wrote in his testimony. “It also would jeopardize the health of millions of Americans.”
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are also expected to testify Tuesday.
The hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subcommittee on the environment will offer Democrats a second chance to criticize the administration’s environmental record.
Experts testified before Congress in June that freezing auto-emission standards at 2020 levels, instead of raising them annually, would hurt car companies, consumers and the environment. Four auto manufacturers — Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW — subsequently reached an agreement with California air regulators to gradually increase fuel efficiency standards, rejecting Trump administration efforts to relax tailpipe pollution regulations.
Since then, the administration has steadily increased its attacks against California’s ability to crack down on air and water pollution.
In September, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced they would revoke California’s special authority to set tougher car emissions standards than those required by the federal government, prompting the state to file a lawsuit in response. Then, in the span of about a week, Trump’s EPA sent letters threatening to cut federal highway funding for California over alleged Clean Air Act violations and accusing the state of failing to protect its water.
The Department of Justice announced last week that it was suing California for entering into a cap-and-trade agreement with the Canadian province of Quebec to lower fossil fuel emissions. California’s cap-and-trade program has been in operation since 2013 and is considered essential if the state is to meet its targets for reducing carbon pollution.
The agency has also launched an antitrust investigation into whether four automakers violated federal competition law by reaching a voluntary emissions agreement with California.