State Senate Democrats are pushing a new package that would shield California’s current environmental law from potential federal rollbacks by cementing pre-Trump clean air and water standards into state law. The regulatory package also aims to make it harder for Washington to sell federal land in California to developers, and provide whistleblower protections to California engineers and scientists who also work for federal agencies.
Led by state Senate President Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, the lawmakers want to continue California’s stringent environmental and climate change policies, regardless if it means defying President Trump and Congress.
“We’re not going to let this administration or any other undermine our progress,” De Leon said during a press conference. “Washington may choose to double down on dirty energy, but California will not follow.”
The sweeping package is the latest maneuver by state Democrats in their feud with Trump, which dates back to the November election.
Lawmakers have introduced and advanced legislation that would bar state and local law enforcement agencies from complying with federal immigration officers as well as resolutions demanding Trump to release his tax returns. The nation’s most populous state has even called on former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help ward against shifts in environmental and immigration policy, at its taxpayers’ expense.
Gov. Jerry Brown also convinced former Rep. Xavier Becerra to ditch Congress after 12 terms to fill California’s vacant attorney general post. The son of Mexican immigrants, Becerra said he will defend California’s “innovative” and “groundbreaking laws.”
California’s majority party plans on using its supermajority in both statehouses to quickly react to policy changes ordered by Trump and new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.
Senate Bill 49 would task state environmental and public health agencies with enforcing current standards and prevent California from “backsliding” on presumed changes to clean air, water and endangered species standards.
Another measure, the Public Lands Protection Act, would give the state Lands Commission right of refusal on transfers of public land to developers. The federal government controls 45 million acres in California, more than 45 percent of its total acreage.
“As the federal government gears up for its unprecedented assault on the environment nationwide, it’s essential that our state is prepared to protect our people and the irreplaceable places that make California so great,” Ann Notthoff, director of California advocacy for the National Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
State Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, hopes his bill will discourage transactions between the federal government and oil and mining companies.
“We owe to our children, we owe it to future generations, to protect our public lands,” Allen said.
The lawmakers warned that while Trump has promised to shutter environmental protections in order to spur business and job growth, his actions could expose California to future environmental disasters.
They cited the recent Aliso Canyon methane gas leak in Los Angeles County, a crude oil leak at Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara and the disaster at the Exide battery plant as proof that California needs even stronger environmental protections.