‘It does not matter what Trump says’: South LA residents react to the president’s decision to roll back emissions standards
South Los Angeles residents expressed their disagreement Wednesday with the Trump administration’s decision to revoke California’s right to establish its own auto emission standards. California currently has among the strictest regulations in the United States.
President Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that his administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions to produce “far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER.”
California’s emission standards are more strict than federal regulations on chemicals that compose the smog released by gas-powered vehicles. While the federal government requires car owners to check their cars for certain emissions, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, California’s regulations are more firm. Each year, California residents must pass a smog test that evaluates whether a vehicle complies with the state’s regulations.
Some South LA residents expressed disagreement with the president’s decision. They said they believe California must have the right to decide what regulations should be put in place in the state.
“I don’t want the federal government coming in and telling our government in California that they can’t make a law that most Californians agree with,” said William Maldonado, a South LA resident who suffers from asthma. “It is very important for California to have stronger standards on [auto] emissions.”
Habalah Arrant, who has lived in South LA for more than 20 years, agrees with Maldonado. She said she suspects that if Trump forces California and other states to follow federal environmental regulations, people will see the kind of health problems that were chronic in the 1960s when emission regulations were first implemented, such as asthma and cardiovascular diseases.
“Chronic illness decreased as the air got better,” Arrant said. “There was a time in California where you almost couldn’t see your hand in front of your face due to air pollution. We don’t want to go back to that. It does not matter what Trump says.”
California’s pollution regulations have proven to be effective when it comes to reducing air pollution and preventing smog-related illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, according to Kiros Berhane, a professor of preventive medicine and Erica Garcia, a postdoctoral scholar at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
A USC Children’s Health study on air quality and asthma published last May stated that children’s lungs had become “stronger” in the last 20 years and reported decreased rates of bronchitic symptoms “as pollution declined throughout the region.”
Although the study’s results appear encouraging, researchers warned that there must be continued efforts to reduce pollution in Los Angeles. While Trump’s environmental decision will affect the entire state, cities with larger populations will be among the most affected.
“In the U.S., one in every 12 children suffer from asthma, compared to one in every 10 children in Los Angeles,” said Arnold Platzker, a professor of clinical pediatrics at Keck. “The risk is much bigger here. Several studies have attributed this to the consequences of air pollution in the region.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has also expressed his disagreement with the president’s decision and has ensured that California will take legal actions against the federal government to maintain the state’s environmental policies.
“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” Newsom said in a statement Tuesday. “We will fight this latest attempt and defend our clean car standards.”
Some residents are hopeful that California will take legal action against the Trump administration’s decision to revoke its environmental autonomy. In the past, California has been able to establish its own regulations because of the state’s history of pollution, but in order to do so, an EPA waiver is required.
“States like California that see the benefits of stricter [environmental] laws are not going to lower their standards just because President Trump says so,” Arrant said.