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Why Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom thinks revoking emissions standards could be ‘catastrophic’

President Trump has announced that states will no longer be able to set their own fuel mileage and emissions standards, as they previously were empowered to do. California, for example, had an agreement with several automakers for voluntary adherence to tougher standards. Its Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why the policy change could be "catastrophic.”

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump broke again today with President Obama and former presidents going back several decades. He announced that California and other states will no longer be allowed to set their own fuel mileage and emissions standards. The states were given latitude to do so back in the '70s after the clean air bill was passed.

    But President Trump has been trying to revoke much tougher mileage standards approved during the Obama years. California and several of the automaker companies had worked out an agreement to stick to tougher standards voluntarily.

    I spoke to California's Governor Gavin Newsom, who is a Democrat, earlier this afternoon.

    Governor Newsom, thank you very much for joining us.

    First of all, what is your reaction to the Trump administration's announcement?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Two reactions.

    One, it's predictable — this has been rumored now for almost three years — and obviously disappointed, because the consequences, if he prevails, would be catastrophic, not only for the health of our planet. The health of the American economy will be impacted if he's successful.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president says, however, that there's going to be very little difference in emissions between the U.S. standard, the new U.S. standard, and the California standard. What about that?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Yes, every independent analysis of this says that's just nonsense. And I would encourage the president to actually do a little research on his own proposals.

    They're trying to hold the miles per gallon standards roughly at about 37 miles vs. roughly 50 miles if the Obama era rules go into effect. You don't need to be a scientist to assess the impact of tailpipe emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, between that delta.

    But nor do you need to be an economist to determine the billions and dollars wasted — would be wasted — in oil consumption that would be unnecessarily consumed if indeed he's successful with this rollback.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, another argument the president is making, he tweeted today that he's doing this in order to produce less expensive cars for the consumer and cars that are substantially safer.

    What about that?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Well, that's just nonsense.

    And it's the height of irony, isn't it? We're in the middle of an oil crisis in the Middle East, an oil-dependent nation that we remain, and our fealty to the Saudi Arabia regime, and here we are trying to exercise some autonomy and some independence by reducing oil consumption and allowing consumers to keep more in their pocket.

    The question, I think, is an interesting one, but I think this is a more important, impactful point. You had four major automobile manufacturers that rejected that argument, that voluntarily, on the basis of their own determination of what's in the best interest of their company and presumably their bottom line, they wanted to move forward with California standards.

    They voluntarily agreed that, no matter what the Trump administration prevails — if they indeed prevail — that they would to continue to support the Obama era rules with a few tweaks that California was willing to advance.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    One other thing on this, Governor.

    The president also tweeted today that he is — in doing this, in keeping the federal standard, he said it's going to lead to more production, it's going to lead to more cars being built, many more jobs created, presumably because of the costs and the safety that he mentioned.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Again, just nonsense.

    You had companies on their own, Ford leading the effort, with Honda and V.W., BMW, that just says that's nonsense, because they voluntarily agreed to California standards.

    Here's why. Because they recognize where the rest of the world is going, where China's going, where India is going, where Japan is going. And they're moving away from the internal combustion engine. They're moving where the customer is going.

    All of the other automobile manufacturers — ask GM and Toyota where they're going. They're already making commitments and plans to get to more zero emission vehicles, regardless of what the Trump administration is doing.

    But what they did is extraordinary. They can't lay claim to supporting free enterprise, when now they have advanced an antitrust inquiry against these companies, they have threatened the CEOs of these companies and those that did not join California from threatening — from engaging California.

    And you can't make this up. It's 2019, and you have got the president of the United States attacking the private sector and telling them what's in their best interests, as opposed to them determining what's their best interests, which also happens to be in the best interest of Mother Nature and low carbon green growth.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Governor, a different subject I want to ask you about.

    The California legislature passed legislation last week to help people who work as independent contractors, Uber and Lyft drivers, for example, to help them be entitled to a minimum wage, to overtime pay and other benefits.

    But, right away, a number of large employers, including Uber, small employers, religious leaders, winemakers, and other small business owners, say this is going to hurt them significantly, it's going to hurt their profitability. They say it's going to hurt their ability to stay in business.

    Are you prepared to negotiate some changes in this law to accommodate their concerns?

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom:

    Well, one hour ago, I signed that legislation. And I signed it as someone who started 23 small businesses that has created over 700 jobs in the wine industry, ironically, among others.

    So I know a thing or two about free enterprise and the impact of this law. It's a codification of a Supreme Court decision, Dynamex. It made a number of exemptions.

    And to the — to your question, we're always willing to engage and negotiate. And I made that clear at the bill signing with a letter attached to that bill that said, I want to continue to negotiate with these gig companies.

    But one thing we have to recognize, we're going from a three-class society to a two-class society. And the commensurate benefits that so many of us take for granted, as you suggest, workers comp, unemployment insurance, health care, they're being lost.

    And, as a consequence, people are more fearful and frightful about their fate and future. And so this is a major landmark law that could have a profound impact in helping rebalance things.

    At the same time, we do have to recognize the tech genie is out of the bottle, and we have new platforms that also provide flexibility for the work force. That also has to be considered. And we will continue to engage in those negotiations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor Gavin Newsom of California, thank you so much.

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