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California hits climate goals, but traffic pollution rises

According to the Los Angeles Times, California has achieved its goal of lowering harmful emissions from electricity generation with four years to spare. However, a report from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) shows that traffic pollution across the state continues to rise.

To make matters worse, a plan by the Trump administration aims to weaken fuel economy standards that were put in place by President Obama, and the new legislation could revoke California’s ability to set its own vehicle emission standards.

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell said: “This would be the first time the federal government has really taken on California’s authority to do this, which is, as much as anything, a states’ rights issue.”

The CARB emissions report shows that the state was able to reach its 2020 goal in 2016 due to an increase in the use of renewable energy. California had achieved 46-percent renewable electricity by 2016, when solar electricity grew by 33 percent and natural gas decreased by over 15 percent.

Dave Edwards is the chief of CARB’s greenhouse gas and toxics emissions inventory branch. “We’ve seen a substantial increase in solar and wind power, particularly rooftop solar installations,” Edwards told the Los Angeles Times.

Emissions from electricity generation dropped by 18 percent in California from 2015 to 2016. On the other hand, increased traffic in a recovering economy continues to boost traffic pollution levels.

Alex Jackson is a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He told the L.A. Times: “The deep reductions from electric power generation are compensating for lackluster performance in other sectors of the economy, including an uptick in the transportation sector where we know we have our work cut out for us.”

Pennsylvania, one of more than 12 states that abide by California’s stricter vehicle emissions standards, is anticipating the potential rollback by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is prepared to respond with legal action. Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro has already filed a lawsuit over an order by former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt regarding rebuilt truck engines.

“On his last day in office, former Administrator Pruitt took his worst action and seriously harmed our environment,” said Shapiro. “Gliders – new trucks with older, rebuilt engines – need to meet the same strict emissions rules as trucks with newer engines. If the EPA won’t protect Pennsylvanians from the dangers of this type of air pollution, I will.”

California has now set a new goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 40 percent by the year 2030.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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