States are stepping up on the environment because of (or in spite of) Trump . . .

In December 2016, after Trump’s election and Scott Pruitt was nominated to be the next EPA Administrator, I made a prediction, “If Pruitt remains focused on strengthening the concept of cooperative federalism and surrounds himself with like-minded policy-makers committed to pragmatic environmentalism, we will witness even more environmental progress than we got under the Obama EPA.”  I’m elated to see that my prediction is starting to take shape.  In an E&E article today,

After winning one of the country’s largest conservation ballot measures in California last week, advocates believe they have found a campaign issue with bipartisan political appeal in the Trump era.

With nearly 57 percent of the vote, California voters approved a record $4.1 billion bond package that will provide funding to a host of environmental priorities, including climate change resilience and stream restoration.

But the measure’s focus — and its biggest pot of money — is aimed at improving to access to parks, especially in underserved communities. According to the measure’s sponsor, the Trust for Public Land, 1 in 3 Americans don’t have a park within a 10-minute walk from home.

The nonprofit says the measure’s success is part of California’s resistance to the Trump administration’s budget cuts and the rollback of environmental regulations.

“This is absolutely a part of what California is doing to combat what’s happening federally,” said Mary Creasman, the group’s director of government affairs in California. “This is going to be the beginning of a trend.”

For far too long, States have remained in the shadows of the EPA responding to federal dictates on how to manage their environment.  Many have grown accustomed to federal handouts and asking for permission.  Yet others have bristled at  unfunded mandates, engaging in costly litigation and spending more time fighting against, than fighting for.

States are now stepping up and responding as they should to a federal government that is in retreat, pulling back from DC-centric mandates.

The States are indeed the incubators of innovation and where the hard work of environmental protection begins and ends – not Washington, DC.  This isn’t to say that federal environmental laws and a strong EPA aren’t important, they are.  A strong and confident EPA must be willing to take calculated risks and allow States greater freedom to focus on environmental priorities that matter most to their citizenry.  And for those States who lag behind, it is EPA’s job, as well as our citizenry and environmental groups, to monitor and challenge them appropriately.

This is all good stuff, and I hope it will continue.

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