California senate Democratic leaders announced proposed legislation aimed at strengthening environmental regulations that they say President Donald Trump could weaken.
The three bills would make current federal clean air, clean water, endangered species and workers’ safety standards enforceable under state law, even if the federal government rolls back those standards.
“Californians can’t afford to go back to the days of unregulated pollution," says Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. "So we’re not going to let this administration or any other undermine our progress."
The measures could also make it more difficult for federal lands to be sold to private developers for mining or other resource extraction. Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has proposed a bill that would protect scientific information from federal censorship or destruction.
“It is almost inconceivable that we are at this point where we need to protect science from the politics of ideology, regardless of what side," says Jackson.
The bill would also ensure federal employees don't lose state licensure for revealing violations of law, unethical actions, or dangers to public health or safety.
While many California environmental laws are already more stringent than federal regulations, some aren't.
“The state really relies on the federal Endangered Species Act. We have our own state analog, but it’s not as comprehensive as the federal one," says Ethan Elkind with the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment.
Elkind says California relies on federal government agencies for enforcing some environmental regulations and they could see their budgets trimmed or their mission curtailed.
Senate leaders say if passed, the measures may require hiring more agency staff or lawyers. Democratic leaders have already hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to represent them in any legal fight against the Republican White House.
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