The Trump Administration’s EPA is threatening to withhold highway funds from California because of the state’s poor air quality. Just last week, the EPA rolled back parts of the Clean Air Act, which California was using to set their own emissions rules.
Federal law requires states with dirty air to come up with a plan on how to reduce pollution. Those plans must be approved by the EPA. The agency has a backlog of these plans awaiting approval, and California accounts for more than 130 of them, or about one-third of the total.
In a Tuesday letter sent to the California Air Resources Board, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler chastised California for its backlog of pending rules and regulations to reduce pollution in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards.
Wheeler blamed California for the backlog on Tuesday, saying most of the plans are “inactive” and have “fundamental issues related to approvability.”
Wheeler didn’t mince any words in warning the state to get its act together…or else:
“California has failed to carry out its most basic responsibilities under the Clean Air Act, and as a result, millions of Californians live in areas that do not meet our nation’s air quality standards,” Wheeler said in a news release. “EPA stands ready to work with California to meet the Trump Administration’s goal of clean, healthy air for all Americans, and we hope the state will work with us in good faith.”
He asked the state to withdraw the plans and come up with new ones. If they don’t, the government would punish the state by withholding federal road dollars – a process that could take up to 18 months.
Governor Gavin Newsom is not pleased with the administration and claims the assault on California’s efforts to improve air quality is political.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has been critical of President Trump’s environmental record and challenged the administration in court. Newsom called Wheeler’s letter a “brazen political stunt.”
“The White House has no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being of Californians. This letter is a threat of pure retaliation,” Newsom says.
And so it is. Trump is hardly the first president to use his power to target states that oppose a president’s policies in retaliatory regulatory action. This case may be more blatant than usual, given the extreme animus of Democrats in California toward Trump and the contempt they continuously show toward his administration’s policies.
So Newsom can whine all he wants, but the EPA has a point. Sloppy, incomplete paperwork is the real problem here, not some dark, political revenge scheme. Before Newsom has a leg to stand on with his criticism, he might want to get his own environmental house in order.