California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) is positioning himself and his state as a national leader on climate issues amid speculation he could run for the White House in 2024.
Newsom, even as the Biden administration is increasingly blocked by the Supreme Court and Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), hopes to show how the Golden State can lead the way in the fight against climate change as Washington is in a quagmire.
Newsom’s state budget package, unveiled in January, included $22.5 billion to tackle climate change. In May, he revised the proposal to add another $9.5 billion.
Newsom also led the state’s toughest exhaust emissions standards in a legal standoff with the Trump administration, which has tried to repeal a federal waiver allowing the rules. The waiver was reinstated this year by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan.
California at the forefront of green issues is nothing new, but Newsom has a unique chance to carve out a role at a time when Democrats are increasingly looking for choices beyond President Biden.
“Under previous Governor Jerry Brown, California was a beacon of climate leadership at a time when we lacked it nationally under the previous administration,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, to The Hill in one email. “Here, Newsom is working with the administration to advance the cause of climate action, and California’s tailpipe emissions standards are a good example of that. California is setting an example that other states will hopefully follow.
A number of states have voluntarily adopted California’s stricter emissions standards, most recently Virginia under former Governor Ralph Northam (D).
Newsom was also one of the most public Democratic critics of the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA, in which the High Court ruled that the Obama-era clean energy plan was not legally permitted as a method of regulating emissions from power plants.
California has “historically been the most aggressive responder” among states on climate issues, Severin Borenstein, faculty director of the Haas Institute of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, told Reuters. The Hill in an interview.
Under Newsom, “we’re doing it again with everything from decarbonizing the grid to electric vehicles to decarbonizing buildings,” Borenstein said, along with local initiatives like banning natural gas hookups.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, Newsom has increasingly cast his state as a bulwark against federal inaction.
“While the court has once again turned back time, California refuses to go back – we are just getting started,” Newsom said after the ruling. “California will remain the driving force behind this movement with record investments and aggressive policies to reduce pollution, protect people from extreme weather, and leave our children and grandchildren a better world than the one we live in. have found.”
California, a state where gas prices soared to $6 and $7 a gallon in some areas earlier this summer, plans to phase out oil production in the state by 2045. The state, which would have the world’s fifth-largest economy if it were a country, has also formed a number of international climate partnerships under Newsom, including collaborations with Canada, New Zealand, Japan and China.
At the federal level, the odds for action on climate change took a serious hit last week when Manchin announced he would not support climate provisions in a reconciliation package.
Newsom hasn’t been explicit in suggesting a 2024 race for the White House, but if Biden doesn’t run, he will immediately be considered as a possible nominee along with Vice President Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the governor of Illinois JB Pritzker (D) .
In addition to his public actions on climate change, Newsom threw red meat at the Democratic base with a TV ad blasting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R).
Newsom called the suggestion that the ad, aired in Florida, was a prelude to a presidential bid “nonsense” last week during a visit to the White House, saying he was inspired by the DeSantis threatens to penalize Special Olympics for vaccination warrants.
Newsom has repeatedly held up his state, which holds a Democratic legislative supermajority, as a model for concrete action.
“A lot of jurisdictions talk about a good game. They issued catchy statements of “We’re going to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels in 20-fill-in-the-blank ‘in lieu of hard work,'” Newsom said in a January interview with CNBC.
Whether he runs or not, the California governor is likely to remain a national figure in environmental regulation struggles — earlier this year a coalition of Republican attorneys general, many of whom were plaintiffs in the Virginia case — Occidentale sued the EPA for the emissions. waiver, arguing that it violated the legal doctrine of equal protection.
Borenstein called the ongoing lawsuit a “genuine concern,” adding “this Supreme Court seems to think it can kind of dance on both sides of the federal-state divide depending on the public policy it wants to approve, rather than with a real Constitution basis.” During its most recent term, the court issued opinions both limiting the state’s power to restrict gun ownership and striking down Roe v. Wade, which prohibited states from prohibiting abortion.
At the end of the day, Borenstein said, “While it’s great that I think California continues to move forward, and we’ll never replace federal action, that’s where we have to. still fighting climate change.”