Monday, June 27, 2022






        While president, Donald Trump tried to punish Californians whenever he could for voting against him by the huge margins that meant he never won the legitimacy of a popular vote victory.


There were delays in federal grant money to cities and the state, there were slow responses to wildfires on federal lands, there was his hamstringing the Census to assure California would lose at least one seat in Congress.


But he imposed no more direct and pernicious punishment on individual Californians than his single-handed revocation of this state’s right – granted under the federal Clean Air Act of 1970 – to set tailpipe smog emission standards for cars and trucks sold here.


        From the start, opponents claimed this law would make cars more expensive, cut sales and cost jobs. That did not happen, as a look at any urban California freeway will make obvious.


        Even when population plateaued or declined slightly, traffic increased.


        But air pollution did not. The state has seen ever fewer smog alerts and warnings for children and seniors to stay inside on hot summer days since Republican President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act. Rates of emphysema and lung cancer have been down for decades in Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, the state’s three smoggiest regions.


        Trump sought to reverse that via an executive order. And if he’d been reelected, it would have happened, with the effects due to be felt starting about a year or two from now.


        But Trump did not win in 2020, despite his plaintive and lying claims to the contrary. Instead, Joe Biden became president and reinstated California’s tailpipe authority.


        Now come the attorneys general of 17 states, seeking to get California’s authority revoked again, this time by a federal appeals court. The list includes Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, all led by Republicans who supported Trump. Only one appealing state did not go for Trump two years ago.


        Their claim is essentially the same as what critics of the Clean Air Act argued more than 50 years ago: Giving California authority other states do not will make cars more expensive everywhere and cost jobs.


        Of course, there are plenty of states that disagree. The 13-state Northeast Consortium, composed of the New England and Atlantic Seaboard states north of Virginia, opted years ago to adopt California standards automatically four years after they take effect here.


        The California rules essentially forced auto makers to build hybrid and electric cars, design catalytic converters and increase gasoline mileage greatly.


        All that probably validates one claim of the states seeking to end California’s authority for good. As voiced by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, it goes like this: Giving California the authority to set its own standards essentially forces the rest of the country to live by this state’s standards. That’s pretty much assured, because when you add up the car sales in California and the states that use its rules, you account for well over half the vehicle sales in America – and carmakers don’t want to make two types of vehicles, so the California rules set the pattern.


        “That leaves California with a slice of sovereign authority that Congress withdraws from every other state,” gripes Morrisey.


        Is he perhaps a tad envious?


        In any case, Democratic California Attorney General Rob Bonta had no trouble after the anti-California case was filed in rounding up 20 states and three big cities to oppose the suit by all those GOP-dominated states.


        Said Bonta, “The existing (policy) has been a massive success, driving down air pollution and growing the electric vehicle market…we’ve defended our clean car standards from these roadblocks before, and we can’t let this latest challenge take us the wrong way on clean cars.”


        Even if that means cars cost more today than a few years ago, it also means they last longer and kill fewer residents of areas once plagued by smog-related illnesses. And it means that in trying to impose a Trump-inspired punishment on California, the Republican attorneys general could be causing plenty of deaths not only here but also in their own states.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit 

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