By Joe Bonfiglio, president, EDF Action, and Quentin Foster, Director, California Climate, EDF Action
For the past year, much of our attention has, rightly, gone to the significant environmental rollbacks led by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and President Trump in Washington. Yet, there are cases of real political leadership—often at the state and local level—that deserve a spotlight. A case in point, is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
As Californians find themselves under constant threat from an irresponsible federal Administration seeking to undermine environmental and public health protections, Attorney General Becerra has taken action. This includes filing a lawsuit challenging EPA’s proposal to delay the ozone smog air quality standards.
“Too many children in our state have developed asthma and other preventable respiratory conditions that result from air pollution. How many days began with smog alerts? How many kids grew up with asthma that could have been prevented? That’s why I’m taking action against the Trump administration,” said Attorney General Becerra when filing this petition.
Following the leadership of AG Becerra and 15 other states, the EPA subsequently reversed course and has since moved forward to implement the standards in certain areas. The AG has brought another lawsuit to ensure the ozone protections are fully implemented in all areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution.
Attorney General Becerra has set an example for how to fight and win against such short-sighted policies. Since accepting the appointment from Governor Brown to replace Senator Kamala Harris, Becerra wasted no time rolling up his sleeves and getting to work protecting public health and environmental safeguards.
Under Attorney General Becerra’s leadership, California has been fearless in asserting itself in the legal battles to mitigate the erosion of common sense regulations critical to disrupting the effects of global climate change. Becerra led the effort to stop the rollback of the federal Greenhouse Gas Performance Measure. Set to take effect this past July, the Measure requires states to track on-road greenhouse gas emissions and set performance targets.. This rollback would have undermined California’s clean car standards, lowering the incentives for auto makers to manufacture fuel efficient vehicles so incredibly important to the Golden State’s climate goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
When defending this rule, Becerra said: “Climate change is real. If President Trump is not prepared to admit it or to do his job of protecting our families by enforcing our environmental rules, then I'm prepared as Attorney General to call his bluff.”
Attorney General Becerra has also recently stood up for California’s precious coastline in strongly pushing back against the Trump Administration’s efforts to authorize offshore drilling along the California coast. In fact of the 10 legal victories the AG has already secured, six of them were cases involving the environment, an impressive winning record for any Attorney General. (More background on these cases can be found here.)
Also noteworthy is his leadership in fighting against the suspension of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2016 Methane Waste Reduction Rule -- a common-sense measure that reduces the amount of methane – the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas – that can be leaked, burned off and intentionally released from public lands. AG Becerra was key in getting an initial unilateral stay from the Trump administration overturned, has led a legal challenge against a subsequent attempt to freeze and gut the rule including, a court order just yesterday reinstating the rule.
This is undoubtedly a tough time for environmental advocates, all the more reason we need strong leaders like Attorney General Xavier Becerra to continue to fight for public health and the environment.
This is the first in a series from EDF Action profiling elected officials who demonstrate environmental leadership in the Trump Era.