Arnold Schwarzenegger: Trump can’t erase a decade of clean air progress with a Sharpie

Source: By Arnold Schwarzenegger, Washington Post • Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Commuters navigate morning traffic as they drive toward downtown Los Angeles in July. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Commuters navigate morning traffic as they drive toward downtown Los Angeles in July. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
California has been a leader in the fight to clean our air since one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan, was our governor.The Trump administration, for some reason, is hellbent on reversing decades of history and progress. Whether it is political pettiness, shortsightedness or just plain jealousy, I couldn’t tell you.

I can tell you that it’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it’s an affront to long-standing conservative principles.

To understand why I’m so angry about the administration’s move to revoke California’s waiver to regulate automobile emissions, you must understand the history. In 1967, Reagan established the California Air Resources Board to fight crippling pollution. He appointed as its first director not a political hack or lobbyist, but a scientist, Arie Jan Haagen-Smit, who was a pioneering researcher of the causes and impacts of smog. The 1970 Clean Air Act, signed by another California Republican, President Richard M. Nixon, gave California the authority to regulate air pollution — and ever since, we have had what is called a waiver from the federal government to set car pollution limits.

Historically, it worked well. We set our standards, and the federal government didn’t just respect our authority, it generally made our rules the standard for the entire nation. During my time as governor, we had some hiccups with George W. Bush administration officials. They told us greenhouse gases were not a pollutant, and we won in the Supreme Court (duh). Then they didn’t approve our clean air waiver, but that ended when President Barack Obama took office and made a compromise version of our state standard the national standard.

The Trump administration’s threat to revoke our waiver to clean our air is more extreme. And coming from a Republican White House, it’s downright hypocritical.

How many times have you heard conservatives beat the drum of states’ rights? But suddenly, when a state wants to pollute less and protect its citizens from deadly pollution, conservatives throw states’ rights straight out the window. Nixon and Reagan understood the importance of California’s right to clean air, but some so-called Republicans today seem to only believe in states’ rights when it’s convenient, when the state voted for their party, or when the state is doing something really dumb.

How many times have you heard Republicans talk about being pro-business? But now, when automakers plead with the administration that they don’t want the Stone Age standards the White House is fighting for, some Republicans aren’t acting very pro-business. This administration is even taking the extraordinary step of investigating four companies — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — that made an agreement with California to reduce their emissions. That agreement is another compromise, because California isn’t anti-business. And I guarantee you that more big carmakers will be joining those forward-thinking companies.

How many times have you heard Republicans talk about security and public safety? When Americans are attacked or bridges collapse, we demand action. We know pollution sickens and kills hundreds of thousands; the administration’s own EPA says lowering the automobile standard will literally kill more people. But suddenly public safety doesn’t matter much anymore.

So why is revoking California’s waiver even being discussed?

I’m sure the EPA and the White House will continue to say this dumb policy decision is all about stopping regulations that “cripple the economy.”

They should come out to California. Last year, the U.S. economy grew by 2.9 percent . California’s economy, with our supposedly crippling regulations, grew by 3.5 percent . We’ve outpaced the nation’s economic growth even as we’ve protected our people.

Our success is built on our consistency. Ever since Reagan, each governor has continued the legacy of moving toward a clean energy future. We don’t play the games Washington does, with each administration changing the trajectory of the United States and forcing businesses to guess about where we are headed.

That’s a big reason nearly half of the venture capital in the United States comes to California. Businesses aren’t just thinking about their talking points for their next campaign. They’re planning for five years, 10 years, 20 years. Businesses must have long-term vision to succeed.

Knee-jerk reactionary policies such as the move to revoke our clean air waiver create uncertainty. These companies have been planning and working toward cleaner cars for a decade. They didn’t ask for the Trump administration’s backward thinking, and they know it won’t help them. This “solution” in search of a problem reminds me of the nine words that most terrified Reagan: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Business leaders — and Californians — know that you can’t just erase decades of history and progress by drawing a line through it with a Sharpie. It’s time the administration learns that lesson.

California will fight this decision. And I promise you, we will win.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is a former governor of California.