California Adds Legal Muscle to Defend Core Values and Rights

The Golden State is gearing up to protect its work for a healthy environment and fundamental rights for Californians from federal attacks.

Los Angeles Rep. Xavier Becerra
“I have no doubt that we'll be the ones standing at the end of the day.” - Los Angeles Rep. Xavier Becerra on potential fights to come with national Republicans on California's climate change policies.(MPAC National/CC BY-NC 2.0)

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California’s Kamala Harris won decisively to replace Barbara Boxer in the United States Senate, and now Governor Jerry Brown has picked Congressman Xavier Becerra to take up Harris’ mantle as the state’s attorney general. This is good news for Californians because the state needs a smart and courageous legal mind to fill Harris’ shoes in the coming years. Becerra fits that bill to a tee.  

Today Becerra was confirmed by the California legislature, cementing his role as California’s top attorney. In a state proud of its diverse communities, Becerra will become the first Latino attorney general in California history. He has a robust record of standing up for the values Californians hold dear, including immigrants’ rights, environmental protections and civil liberties.    

Becerra will become the first Latino attorney general in California history. He has a robust record of standing up for the values Californians hold dear, including immigrants’ rights, environmental protections and civil liberties.

Like many others across the country, Californians are fearful of what a Trump administration could bring to the state. At Earthjustice, we’re gearing up to push back against the clear federal overreach we expect in the coming years. By tapping Becerra to fill the role of attorney general, California is sending a strong signal that it will not stand for government overreach to reverse the significant progress California has made on key issues.

Becerra’s record of standing up for what’s right speaks for itself, and we’re confident that his strong ethical and moral compass will carry over to this new post.  

President Trump has made it clear through his words and actions that his administration will seek to unravel fundamental protections for our water, our air, and our public lands. His cabinet picks include climate change deniers and polluter lobbyists who may seek to place profits for fossil fuel companies before the wellbeing of families and communities. We will need Attorney General Becerra to stand strong against environmental attacks—whether they’re attempts to destroy unique public lands, or exploit fossil fuel resources, or attack the Golden State’s clean air and water projects. We cannot allow the new administration to destroy decades of progress to keep our communities and economy healthy and thriving.

There will be important challenges for Becerra on the state level, too. While California is often viewed as an environmental leader, rogue companies continue to violate the law and foul our air and water. Whether it’s the lead poisoning of neighborhoods by the Exide battery recycling facility in Vernon, a massive methane leak perpetrated by SoCal Gas at its Aliso Canyon facility, or the myriad assaults on our health posed by California’s vast array of oil refineries, environmental disasters are all too common these days. We need the attorney general to send a strong signal that he will protect our health and environment and let big polluters that they must be good neighbors to local communities.   

Defending basic liberties and the values that Californians hold dear will be a strenuous but crucial job in the coming years. As such, Earthjustice is thrilled that Xavier Becerra will be a strategic and critical defender of the Golden State in weathering the storm ahead. 


The 45th U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, is bent on gutting environmental protections, and—with a polluter-friendly Congress at his side—he’ll likely do everything he can to dismantle our fundamental right to a healthy environment. The Capitol Watch blog series will shine a light on these political attacks from Congress and the Trump administration, as well as the work of Earthjustice and our allies to hold them accountable.

Based in Los Angeles, Adrian works on clean air, clean energy, and healthy communities issues as a deputy managing attorney for Earthjustice's Right to Zero campaign. Follow him on Twitter @LASmogGuy.

The California Regional Office fights for the rights of all to a healthy environment regardless of where in the state they live; we fight to protect the magnificent natural spaces and wildlife found in California; and we fight to transition California to a zero-emissions future where cars, trucks, buildings, and power plants run on clean energy, not fossil fuels.

Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.