San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo will spend his day today testifying to the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform instead of in his usual seat at the City Council dais.
Liccardo is one of six individuals speaking in front of the Subcommittee on Environment about President Donald Trump’s proposal to freeze auto-emission standards at 37 miles per gallon. The initiative rolls back rules set during the Barack Obama Administration that would have increased standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The Trump Administration argues that it would lower the price of vehicles and save lives from traffic deaths. But environmentalists say that it will only fuel pollution.
California has played a particularly key role in the debate, which pits the country’s commander-in-chief against Gov. Gavin Newsom. Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was revoking California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act, which allowed the state to exceed national standards and set its own emission rules.
“[This] action meets President Trump’s commitment to establish uniform fuel economy standards for vehicles across the United States, ensuring that no state has the authority to opt out of the nation’s rules, and no state has the right to impose its policies on the rest of the country,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a news release last month.
This is simply inaccurate.
Your standards will cost consumers $400 billion.
Result in 320 billion more gallons of oil burned and spewed into our air.
And hurt car companies’ ability to compete in a global market.
It’s bad for our air. Bad for our health. Bad for our economy. https://t.co/VHPxG59gMO
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 18, 2019
Tuesday morning, Liccardo will bring his green perspective as the mayor of the 10th largest city in the country to Capitol Hill. During his time in office, Liccardo has been a staunch supporter of a cleaner San Jose, leading initiatives to ban natural gas in new construction and increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations in the city.
“For a half-century, the California waiver has enabled Silicon Valley—and 130 million Americans in 14 states—to imagine a future different from the reality of deadly smog that choked Californians for decades,” he wrote in his testimony, which was released hours ahead of the hearing. “A Republican Governor, Ronald Reagan, signed legislation forming the Air Resources Board in 1967, to create emission standards that would survive federal preemption by virtue of the signature of a Republican President, Richard Nixon, on the 1970 Amendments to the Clean Air Act.”
“I evoke this history because, amid our too-familiar partisan divide on matters of the environment, we should remember that there’s much about which we all agree,” the mayor added in his written statement.
Liccardo’s testimony continues with him explaining what he calls the three B’s: Breaths, Breakthroughs and Benjamins.
Breaths represents California’s effort to create “pollution control[ling] technologies” like the catalytic converter. Liccardo notes that “despite a doubling of our population, and quadrupling of our vehicle use” the tools have reduced emissions between 75 and 99 percent, preventing nearly 29,000 premature deaths a year.
“Yet we still have much more work to do,” he cautions. “The San Francisco Bay Area still exceeds federal standards for ozone and fine particulate matter, which are responsible for approximately 2,500 premature deaths each year in my region, and recent wildfires and warming temperatures will only exacerbate the problem.”
The second B—Breakthroughs—represents the “growing adoption of technology, particularly in further development of zero-emission vehicles and the generation of renewable energy.” Liccardo points towards Silicon Valley’s role in clean innovation, citing Tesla cars and batteries, Proterra’s electric buses, SunPower's solar panels and Chargepoint’s electric charging infrastructure.
“How do I know California’s regulations support innovation?” Liccardo asks. “Four manufacturers—Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, and Honda—voted with their pens, signing deals with California for stricter emissions standards, while American Honda publicly stated that any rollback of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards ‘stalls long term strategic industry planning … and slows industry readiness for a widely acknowledged …transition to vehicle electrification.’”
The last B, Benjamin’s, deals with the money that Liccardo says drivers will save from purchasing hybrid and electric cars.
“By some estimates, consumers may pay an extra $2.3 billion by 2030 in my own Bay Area, while Consumer Reports places the estimate nationally at $460 billion—the equivalent of a tax of $3,300 per vehicle,” he says. “While some argue that greater fuel efficiency will cost car buyers of new automobiles at the dealership, a sober calculation reveals that the same technology will save drivers three times more at the pump."
Liccardo plans to close out his testimony by referencing everyone’s favorite green Muppet. “In the words of the esteemed philosopher, Kermit the Frog: ‘it’s not easy being green,’” he says. “The federal government shouldn’t make it harder.”