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Trump Sold California’s Health to Settle a Petty Score

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Donald J. Trump stopped by California Tuesday to reach into pockets and while he was in town with some of his wealthier fans here, he took the opportunity to announce his intention to roll over some state’s rights, which he followed up on the very next day.

Wednesday, Trump revoked California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act that allowed the state to set higher standards than what the federal government imposes. Although the state brokered agreements with several automakers to produce cars that would have adhered to the more stringent emissions limits, the president arbitrarily decided to end California’s ability to set its own rules.

And of course, he tweeted about it:

The move, being called a federal overreach by many, may be his way of trying to shore up some lost support among General Motors automobile factory workers as they hit the picket line for a third day, but it’s not as if Trump needed much arm twisting to poke at a region that hasn’t shown him the kind of loyalist love he demands from everyone in his self-absorbed orbit.

Despite the handful of supporters willing to host his re-election campaign fundraisers in places like Atherton and San Diego, California has largely refused to play nice with the president as he repeatedly launches attacks on its core values. His resentment runs as deep as the San Andreas Fault and he will, obviously, stop at nothing to appear dominant.

After years of improvement, Southern California is experiencing increased smog conditions and related health problems. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Anyone who visited or lived in Southern California in the ’80s and early ’90s can understand why the state would want to impose higher emissions standards than are typical throughout the country. Simply, you could chew the air back then — smog was served up as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Smog pollution most impacts people with existing respiratory problems like asthma and COPD but its presence can also induce new respiratory problems in otherwise healthy people, especially those who exercise or work outdoors.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or what’s left of them, when smog levels rise above 110 parts per billion, it takes all of one hour of exposure to increase asthma-related hospital visits by 33 percent. Southern California has already reached that extreme level, 50 percent over the EPA’s standard, on seven days just this summer. Ozone levels in the state managed to exceed the national health standard for 59 straight days between June and August.

Smog coats the Bay Area skyline. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle.

The Bay Area is not immune to polluted air conditions that regularly plague the southern half of our state. Just this year, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued more than a dozen Spare the Air alerts for smog conditions that occur on excessively hot days with light winds. Jack Broadbent, BAAQMD executive officer, is pushing back on the president’s dangerous decision. In a statement, Broadbent said:

“As President Trump visits California, he will see and enjoy the results of decades of hard work and progress in the ongoing effort to improve air quality in a state once blanketed in a suffocating brown haze. Rolling back emissions standards that California has successfully used as a tool to clear smoggy skies and improve the lives of millions of Californians makes no sense from a health or policy perspective – and, according to auto manufacturers, makes no sense from a business perspective either. The state’s adept maneuver to forge an agreement with willing automakers is a testament to that. The potential motivations for this incomprehensible and vindictive move are best left unsaid. And make no mistake, rolling back emissions standards will have real and devastating consequences for California and the Bay Area. That is why the Air District unequivocally supports the State of California’s fight to defend our clean car standards and protect the quality of life of all Californians.”

Broadbent’s language echoes that of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called the waiver revocation a “political vendetta,” and the Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has vowed to sue the administration.

Becerra said:

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver.”

“We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend; we’ll see you in court if you stand in our way.”

California’s push to control pollution is far less about liberal, progressive values and much more about basic health. According to the California Department of Public Health, asthma rates have “dramatically increased” over the past three decades and about 40,000 people are hospitalized for asthma-related illness each year. Even as the state has worked to reduce emissions, the increasingly hot temperatures and destructive wildfires work against us. We need every bit of help we can get to keep the air as clean as possible in the face of climate change, but the president’s feelings are hurt and apparently that matters more. His pettiness will have detrimental effects on our health.

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.