Climate Change Leadership From California Officials

Climate Change Leadership From California Officials

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

A NY Times article reports on leadership that set climate change goals.

“LOS ANGELES — California will extend its landmark climate change legislation to 2030, a move that climate specialists say solidifies the state’s role as a leader in the effort to curb heat-trapping emissions.

Lawmakers have passed, and Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to sign, bills requiring the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels.”


This story is relevant because it addresses one of the forms of vehicle violence: air pollution emissions.  The story shows that people can get worthy goals set despite corporate opposition.

Long Fight For Clean Air

A story I recall took place California while I was working on the Clean Air Act. In 1969 students from MIT challenged students from CalTech to a Clean Air Car Race during the summer of 1970.  Engineering students from about 40 schools joined in.  My job in the summer of 1970 was to monitor the emission measurements in Boston, then at the Government lab in Ann Arbor MI, and finally at CalTech.   The goal was to see if students could build a car that could meet stringent standards being considered by Sen. Muskie.   At the time President Nixon was afraid that he might have to run against Sen. Muskie in 1972.  So the President tried to preempt Muskie by proposing stringent standards to be met by 1980.  Muskie and the Congress proposed moving up the 1980 standards to 1975 in the Clean Air Act.

The final afternoon of measurements was a high air pollution day in LA.  Someone came over to me and told me were experiencing record smog levels.  I was dubious and asked how he could say that.  He said that in the adjacent parking lot the County had a trailer measuring air pollution levels.  At a break, I decided to go over and see it.  So I jogged across the lot up three steps and could feel a burning in my lungs.  I went into the trailer and there were a few people watching the measurement charts going up and up.  I remarked: Wow that really is a high level.  Just then a man in a three piece suit next to me scowled at me:  “Smog doesn’t bother me one bit!”  I felt the hair on my neck stand up and returned to my tasks.

In the 1970 race a team from Wayne State University put together a Ford Capri with two catalysts.  The vehicle demonstrated the feasibility of meeting the 1975 standards Sen Muskie was proposing in 1970 and we did not have to wait until 1980 as Nixon was proposing. My job was to present the results to a National Academy of Sciences panel of Judges the following morning meeting them at a picnic table.  I knew by face who the Chairman was but not the other judges.  Five of six judges were there.  I showed the results to the Chairman and the other Judges who were present.  All were impressed. Then the Chairman started calling out to someone:  Harry!  Harry!  Over here.  Harry came over and sat down and the Chair told him the results.  Harry tried to get up but the Chairman said Harry, what do you think?  Harry tried to get up again.   And the Chairman put his arm around him and said again “Harry Isn’t this amazing?  What do you think?  Harry did not want to answer and desperately wanted to leave. Who was Harry?  Harry was the man that scowled at me the previous day. He was Harry Barr, VP of Engineering of GM.  See image attached.

Fortunately, I had previously met Sen. Muskie’s aide.  So I called him later and told him what had happened.  The test results were put into the Congressional Record.  The Muskie standards were enacted.


But the auto industry ultimately won by going to Nixon and getting the test methods changed.  I blew the whistle, was fired from EPA a year later, and sued the National Academy of Sciences for access to documents showing that the test procedures were being rigged.  Subsequently, years later, after the Nixon Tapes were released, the information I had been seeking from the NAS became public. The Nixon tapes revealed conversations in the White House with Henry Ford II in 1971 that the emission tests were being rigged (I was right).  The EPA, the Courts, and the NAS were wrong.    The American people were forced to breathe air with higher pollution levels for decades. See

The fight for Clean Air continues as does the harm to people breathing polluted air and suffering from climate change effects.

Lou Lombardo

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