Los Angeles Times -- Can California go its own way on federal environmental protections? These lawmakers want to try

February 23, 2017

California lawmakers want to build a regulatory wall around the state, opening a new front in their brewing war with President Trump as they try to prevent any rollbacks in federal rules from weakening environmental protections here.

The new legislation, announced Thursday by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and his colleagues, is an attempt to ensure federal rules on air quality, water protection, endangered species and worker safety would stay on the books in California even if they’re loosened in Washington. Federal standards in place before Trump took office would become enforceable by state officials in California. 

“California can't afford to go back to the days of unregulated pollution," De León said at a news conference outside the Capitol. "We're not going to let this administration or any other undermine our progress.”

Another measure would try to prevent Washington from selling federal land in California to private developers without first offering it to state officials. A third proposal would protect federal workers, such as engineers and lawyers, from losing state certifications and licenses if they blow the whistle on problems at their agencies.

The sweeping package of legislation could be a prelude to drawn-out legal battles between California and Washington, and they arrive as Trump prepares to loosen federal environmental regulations.

“California will undoubtedly test the limits of what it’s possible for a state to do,” said Cara Horowitz, co-director of UCLA's Environmental Law Clinic. The state, she said, “has made very clear that it sees itself as the environmental resistance in the United States.”

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