Now that the pro-pollution Scott Pruitt is running the Environmental Protection Agency, polluters expect big things from him. One of the big things they'd like is for the federal government to roll back auto emissions standards to allow America's cars to be more polluting. They'll probably be getting that, because Republicanism.
But that's still only a half-measure. True friends of air pollution also want Pruitt to step in and block the state of California from instituting their own anti-pollution efforts, because what's the point of turning conservative states into toxic hellholes if the state with the toughest emission rules in the country is still thwarting Scott Pruitt's will?
The New York Times reports "Automakers are also hopeful that the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, will begin legal action to revoke California’s ability to enforce its tailpipe standards." Asked in his Senate confirmation hearing if he would leave the waiver process alone, Pruitt said, "I don’t know without going through the process to determine that. One would not want to presume the outcome."
Good news for environmental cheerleaders: Stripping California of its special status would require a change to the Clean Air Act—the kind of legislating a Democratic filibuster could derail.
At issue: California has been fighting auto-based smog and pollution for half a century now, and the state's then-notorious smog problems resulted in a special carve-out in the Clean Air Act allowing California to set stricter pollution rules than the federal ones. California has used that exemption to clean up the state in ways that any lifelong California resident can immediately identify.
No longer does Los Angeles smell like a burning tire fire during summer days; no longer do new residents go for months before realizing that there is indeed a mountain range visible from their own window. The health benefits to residents have been immeasurable.
But this pisses the auto manufacturers off because they have to make their cars slightly more efficient and slightly less polluting and they don't feel like it, because what they'd rather do is not put that effort in and if people like my family (true story) once again have to flee their American cities and relocate due to (true story) a pediatrician's warning that their child is at significant risk of dying from their current lung illness if they (true fucking story) stay, well then that's somebody else's problem. We're just here to sell cars.
The odds that Republicans can push through a change to the Clean Air Act stripping California of their ability to more tightly regulate pollution is, at present, low. What Pruitt might be able to do, however, is what the Bush administration began to attempt in its closing years: use the EPA itself to block California rules by claiming they're unnecessary or not in keeping with the Clean Air Act itself. It's dicey, but Pruitt could try. Given Pruitt's history, in fact, it's probable that he would task the EPA with battling California in court using legal arguments copied directly from the auto companies seeking to scuttle California's laws.
In which case we should just send every American with asthma over to live in Scott Pruitt's new house, since he's apparently got things so good. Hope you have a million or so spare bedrooms, you malevolent anti-science corporate-toadying little shit.