What to Know About California’s Fight With Trump Over Emissions

ImageEmissions testing in El Monte, Calif.
CreditPatrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

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From the moment the Trump administration began saying it planned to revoke California’s authority to set vehicle emissions standards that were tougher than the federal rules, the result felt inevitable.

“See you in court,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted on Wednesday, after he and other state leaders held a news conference slamming the president’s latest moves.

Of course, that’s less a conclusion than it is the start of yet another chapter in the continuing battle between the president and the Golden State.

Still, the fight over California’s pollution rules could have serious consequences for the state’s ambitious climate goals, as well as national implications.

Here’s what you need to know:

What has already happened?

As early as summer of last year, the Trump administration released a proposal that would freeze fuel-efficiency and emissions standards for cars that had been put in place by President Barack Obama. Revoking California’s special authority to set its own pollution rules were part of the plan.

Trump administration officials said the move would save lives by lowering barriers to getting drivers into newer, safer cars. (That conclusion clashed with an Obama administration analysis.)

[Read more about environmental rules being rolled back under President Trump.]

At the time, the plan was met by criticism not just from environmental groups and states like California, but also the auto industry, whose representatives have long said that the uncertainty over regulation would discourage investment and innovation.

Then, a couple of months ago, in July, four of the world’s largest automakers signed a deal with California siding with the state over the federal government, prompting surprise and outrage from the president.

This month, the Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation into the deal between the automakers and California.

This week, as President Trump traveled in California — he was in San Diego on Thursday — he tweeted a defense of the moves to abolish the state’s right to set more restrictive standards.

What are the stakes?

Tailpipe emissions — which cause smog and respiratory problems — are the nation’s biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, and California is the United States’ largest auto market.

The state has made a little progress toward its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions overall, according to this CalMatters explainer. But it needs to move a lot faster to reach its goal of cutting greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Rolling back stricter standards could threaten any momentum, experts say.

Furthermore, 13 other states follow the rules set by California.

What’s next?

Well, there’s the legal battle. And White House officials have been eager to move quickly, because they want the opportunity to defend the effort before the Supreme Court. If a Democratic president is elected, their administration would be unlikely to defend the revocation.

CalMatters reported that the state may also use clean vehicle rebates as a tool to incentivize companies to join California’s pact with automakers.

[Read more about the president’s plan to kill California’s auto-emissions authority.]


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CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times
  • President Trump went to Otay Mesa and signed his name on a portion of border barrier that’s under construction. It was his only public appearance during his two days in California. [The New York Times]

  • And late on Wednesday, the president said his administration would issue a notice of environmental violation against San Francisco because he said homelessness was causing environmental damage. Mayor London Breed called the comments “ridiculous.”[The New York Times]

  • Most Latinos don’t support President Trump. But some who do wear their support proudly. They say they agree with the president’s rhetoric on immigration, tax policy — and much of everything else. [The New York Times]

  • When Ed Buck, a Democratic donor and fixture in West Hollywood, was charged with operating a drug house and being a “dangerous sexual predator” this week, it was a relief for the families and supporters of two gay black men who died of overdoses at Mr. Buck’s apartment previously — and in whose deaths Mr. Buck was not charged. [The New York Times]

  • Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, announced on Wednesday that she will step down next summer. Ms. Napolitano, the former Homeland Security secretary, oversaw expansions of the 10-campus system and championed immigrant students, but her office faced criticism for its financial management. [The Associated Press]

    Also: Here’s an interview with Ms. Napolitano about changes to the U.C.’s admissions process after the Varsity Blues indictment. [The New York Times]

  • A video shows a mountain lion known as P-61 being chased out of the area east of the 405 freeway in the Sepulveda Pass by another mountain lion. As he crossed the freeway, he was struck and killed. [The Orange County Register]

  • Protesters called for San Diego to stop using “smart streetlight” technology until officials can better address privacy and surveillance concerns. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]

  • As the state pushes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, drivers are switching to electric vehicles in record numbers. But access to charging outlets is harder to come by in a region where many people can’t afford garages. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

CreditIan C. Bates for The New York Times
  • Marc Randolph was the guy sitting in a car with Reed Hastings batting around ideas for the next big thing in 1997. They came up with a service sending rental DVDs through the mail and decided to call it NetFlix. [The New York Times]

  • The granddaughter of Cecilia Chiang — who opened The Mandarin in San Francisco and helped introduce Americans to high-end Chinese cuisine — shares lessons from her grandmother’s life and storied culinary career. [Vice]


CreditJim McAuley for The New York Times

When you think of the beauty of California’s wine regions, you probably imagine something a little more earthly than Pandora, the world where the movie “Avatar” takes place.

In Paso Robles, hilltop wineries boast views of rolling green vineyards and oaks shade gold grasslands.

But as this piece by Patricia Leigh Brown for The Times says, tourists and wine lovers have also been stopping at “Field of Light at Sensorio,” an art installation that’s drawing comparisons to that fictional (as far as we know) alien landscape. Starting at dusk, thousands of solar-powered glass orbs installed over 15 acres glow and change colors. You can buy tickets to walk the grounds or have a V.I.P. dinner on a terrace with views of the display, which will be on view through Jan. 5.

The installation is only Sensorio’s first phase — the owner of the property plans to develop a 386-acre resort with themed interactive exhibits.


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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