Less than three weeks out of her job as the nation’s top environmental regulator, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy flew to California to discuss environmental action with Democratic lawmakers.
McCarthy says since President Donald Trump and new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have rejected mainstream climate science, she expects federal work to curb emissions will slow.
"I don’t know why climate change got to be a religion instead of a simple, fact-based science exercise, but I do know that the actions that California is taking and others will make the difference between whether we stand still, or fall back, or move forward," McCarthy says.
But California derives much of its ability to make its own emissions and air quality rules from waivers granted by the EPA. Pruitt has not committed to continuing those waivers and has generally called for a scaling back of environmental regulations as onerous to business and job creation. McCarthy says efforts to end the state's waivers would face significant legal hurdles.
"Frankly the Clean Air Act is very clear about California’s right to do a waiver and the requirements for that," says McCarthy. "They have met those requirements, and the waivers have been granted. The courts have spoken to this many, many times."
Democratic leaders in California have indicated they would challenge federal attempts to halt the state's waivers.
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