By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

For years, California has been a leader of environmental policy — writing it’s own stricter rules for pesticide controls, air pollution and waste disposal as it sees fit, regardless of whether the nation is following along.

In the 1990s, the state pushed the leading edge of a technology that many of us wish had been pursued more aggressively when it hosted a test of modern electric cars, a fairly successful experiment that was regrettably  shoved into neutral by U.S. automakers.

Lately, California state legislators have attacked air pollution by attempting to set greenhouse gas emissions limits, aiming to push automakers to meet higher mileage standards. Several other states followed with their own laws, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has blocked action, saying that states cannot regulate GHGs.

The day is coming though that California’s leadership may enjoy fewer roadblocks. The new Congress, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who clearly wants a green agenda front and center,  will have Henry A. Waxman , at the helm of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Elected in 1974, Waxman’s institutional memory includes the 70s energy crisis and being from the LA area, he’s got intimate knowledge of clean air issues.)

In the Senate, longtime advocate for the environment, children and the elderly, Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), will chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. A former U.S. Representative elected to the senate in 1992, Boxer has gone to bat against EPA chief Stephen Johnson, arguing that the EPA has no right to exempt carbon emissions from the Clean Air Act.

And there’s more: Steven Chu, the Bay Area scientist, and Nancy Sutley, the deputy mayor of Los Angeles, have been nominated to be energy secretary and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, respectively, in the Obama Administration.

The list goes on. For additional details on the Golden state’s band of green-leaning leaders, see the Washington Post story Californians Shape Up as Force on Environmental Policy.

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