Jerry Brown says Pruitt ‘met his match’

Source: Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) lambasted the Trump administration during a visit to Washington, D.C., suggesting he would defy EPA if it tries to roll back California’s stringent greenhouse gas standards for cars.

Brown’s remarks, delivered at the National Press Club, represented an escalation in the growing war of words between California and EPA over the Golden State’s vehicle emission standards. EPA is considering scrapping a compromise struck between California and the Obama administration that required automakers to bolster fuel efficiency standards.

“The idea we’re going to roll back the auto standards is absurd,” Brown said during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with reporters that also touched on immigration, his political future and U.S.-Russian relations. “We’re not going to do that.”

Such a move would disadvantage American carmakers in a global race with China and other nations to develop electric cars, Brown said. He pointed to Chinese quotas for electric vehicles, saying that American automakers risk missing out on the world’s largest car market if they do not produce more low-emitting vehicles.

“China is the biggest auto market, and California is the biggest auto market in America. And between California and China, Mr. Pruitt has met his match,” the California governor said, referring to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

He returned to that theme repeatedly, saying later: “The sad part of this is China wants to dominate the electric car industry like they’ve dominated the solar electric industry. Pruitt and his allies and the president are collaborating in shifting the American auto industry to China. Because they [China] are not going to roll back. When that becomes obvious, I think America won’t roll back either.”

Trump, in a visit to Michigan last year, cast the proposal as an attempt to end burdensome regulations and make America the “car capital of the world again.” Pruitt has called the Obama-era standards “inappropriate” and said they were unattainable for automakers.

Brown, now 80 and in his fourth and final term as governor, was largely in a jovial mood yesterday, engaging reporters in lively banter on a variety of topics.

About a potential presidential run: “I’ve done a number of those,” and “I can’t think of anything less attractive than a Democratic presidential primary.”

On making olive oil in retirement: “I’m learning about the problems with frost and how much water they need.”

And the timing of a lawsuit challenging EPA’s vehicle emissions proposal: “Well, we’re looking at all our options right now. We have so many lawsuits now, a few more isn’t going to make any difference.”

But his comments took a dark turn when the subject came to climate change and the failure of policymakers to address it.

“People are asleep. When you pick up the paper or turn on cable news, you’d think it was another planet. It’s all about the nonsense of Washington,” Brown said. “Carbon emissions are growing, and we’ve got to radically turn that around or the migrations you’re seeing now are going to be child’s play. You’re going to see widespread disruption, more conflicts, more terrorism, more insecurity, because of climate disruption.”

He continued: “This is a horror, and it’s why I spend so much time working on climate change, even though it is not a big, hot political issue. Not in California. Certainly not in Washington. And unfortunately not in a number of other countries. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a big problem. It’s a huge problem.”

California has unique authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate vehicle emissions. The Golden State has sought to use that power to set standards that exceed the national pollution benchmarks for cars and trucks. It struck a deal with the Obama administration to harmonize the EPA and state rules to boost real-world fuel efficiency to 36 mpg by 2025.

Trump has made repeal of the standards a hallmark of his administration’s regulatory rollback. In announcing it was revisiting the standards, EPA questioned their practicality and raised concerns that they threaten motorist safety and make vehicles too expensive for low-income consumers.

The move was welcomed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group, which had long opposed the rules on the grounds consumers prefer trucks and SUVs (Climatewire, April 3).

An EPA spokesman did not respond to a request seeking comment on Brown’s remarks.

The California governor, for his part, expressed confidence that his state would prevail in any legal contest, saying, “I believe we have the legal horsepower to block the immediate legal moves by the Trump administration.”

He predicted that “the attempts to do this will be bogged down in litigation long after we have a new president,” but noted that EPA first had to finalize its proposal before a court challenge could begin.

Brown nevertheless signaled he was open to a compromise. “These things aren’t holy rite. They’re talking about flexibility. We’re certainly open to that. Our administrator of our air rules suggested so. The devil’s in the details.”

He added: “We should not weaken.”