If Trump Is Reelected, California’s Pollution Waiver Is History

It's nowhere near as bad as it used to be, but yes, LA is still a pretty smoggy place.Ringo Chiu/ZUMA

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Donald Trump, as part of his war against little ol’ California, says he is revoking the state’s waiver to set its own pollution rules under the Clean Air Act. Can he get away with it?

My very tentative guess is yes. This is hardly the first time it’s happened, after all. George Bush refused to approve California’s most recent waiver request in 2007, and only the election of Barack Obama saved it. The same thing might happen this time if Trump loses next year and President Harris instructs the EPA to stand down.

But what if Trump wins? The key phrase in the statutory text is that California must demonstrate that it needs a waiver “to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions,” and back in the day that was pretty easy. LA smog was legendary, after all, and California’s auto standards were aimed specifically at smog-causing pollutants.

Today things are different. California smog is still the worst in the nation, but not wildly so. What’s more, California’s latest auto mileage regulations are aimed more at CO2 than at smog, and it’s hard to make the case that California is uniquely vulnerable to global warming.

That’s not to say that the case can’t be made. But the relevant question isn’t whether the case can be made. The relevant question is whether the Supreme Court’s five Republican justices are likely to accept the arguments of America’s most Democratic state. Call me cynical, but I doubt it. If Trump is reelected, my guess is that California’s waiver is history.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate