California is preparing for a huge fight over its climate with the Trump administration and its new EPA director, a battle that could have ramifications for residents across the nation, from New York to Washington state, from Maryland to Massachusetts, from Pennsylvania to Arizona – potentially affecting more than one of every three Americans.

In preparation for what elected officials expect to be a protracted brawl on auto emissions, the state has hired Eric Holder, attorney general under President Obama, to take on the Environmental Protection Agency’s new leader, Scott Pruitt.

A construction crane is silhouetted before dawn Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in downtown Los Angeles. Mayor Eric Garcetti won a second term Tuesday in a walkaway election, but his real victory came in beating back a ballot measure that would have placed restrictions on major developments that he sees as part of the answer to the city's notorious gridlock and smog. (AP Photo/John Antczak)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti won a second term on March 7, but his real victory came in beating back a ballot measure that would have placed restrictions on major developments that he sees as part of the answer to the city’s notorious gridlock and smog. (AP Photo/John Antczak)

California, home to 39 million Americans and an estimated 14.5 million cars, both the highest for any state, is fighting to maintain its higher automobile emissions restrictions, which its leaders say have rescued the state from high levels of air pollution.

The law, state officials said, has paid off.

Since 2015, Los Angeles’ “smog” days, those days in which air pollutants are higher than the federal regulation standards, have declined by nearly 50 percent compared to the numbers during the 1970s.

Health care and black elected officials say the fight is particularly important to African Americans because statistics show African-American communities suffer disproportionately from high levels of air pollution.

Due to California’s success, 13 other states, Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, have adopted its clean car standards.

Now, those states fear the EPA will no longer allow them the exemptions that it has done through every Republican and Democratic administration since the law was initiated.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma attorney general and has called scientific evidence of a correlation between climate change and human activity “religious beliefs,” refused to say whether the EPA under his direction will allow states to maintain higher emission control standards.

Newly-elected California Sen. Kamala Harris repeatedly questioned Pruitt about the states’ concerns.

Harris, who opposed Pruitt’s confirmation, said last week she was troubled by Pruitt’s response.

“California is a recognized leader on clean energy development and global effort to combat climate change,” Harris said in an interview. “During his hearing, I asked multiple times if he would uphold California’s motor vehicle pollution standards, and each time he shied away from that guarantee.”

California’s ranking senator, Dianne Feinstein, who also opposed Pruitt’s confirmation, said she and her constituency are also concerned about Pruitt’s environmental view.

California Congresswoman Karen Bass, a Democrat who represents Los Angeles, said if Pruitt’s doesn’t uphold the emissions controls rules, it could have a serious effect on the most vulnerable Americans.

“Something that seems to be far from his radar is the disproportionate effects climate change has on poorer communities,” Bass said an e-mail to Howard University News Service.

“Rolling back environmental protection is going to disproportionately impact communities of color already suffering from brownfields, toxic waste or the type of negligence that led to the Flint water crisis.”

President Trump, who has already signed executive orders to rollback EPA policies to protect the nation’s water, has said EPA is hurting the economy. Before Trump was elected, he called the EPA a “disgrace.”

“Every week they come out with new regulations,” he told Fox News in 2015. “They’re making it impossible. We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave it a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”

Despite Trump’s claims, the auto industry is flourishing in California under the state’s tighter emissions controls.  In 2015, the state nearly set a new record when new car sales rose 11 percent.  Californians bought more than two million cars that year.

According to Employment Development Department data, jobs in California’s automotive industry jobs have grown by 47,000 since 2011, nearly a 26 percent increase.