The ongoing saga of President Trump vs. the Golden State took yet another freakish turn late Monday when the administration threatened to withhold highway funding from California, claiming the state has failed to demonstrate what steps it is taking to improve air quality.
Also last week, Trump announced his intent to revoke California's Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gases, which allows the state to set tougher vehicle emissions standards than the federal government (Greenwire, Sept. 18).
Although an EPA official cast Tuesday's notification as part of a broader effort to winnow a backlog of unapproved anti-pollution plans, the official sidestepped questions about what other states have outsize backlogs or whether the agency had ever taken similar action against other offenders. The EPA has the power to reject those plans and deny the state would could potentially be billions of dollars in federal highway aid.
CARB responded to Wheeler's letter saying, "The letter from the EPA contains multiple inaccuracies, omissions, and misstatements".
Last week, The Trump administration formally revoked California's authority to set its own automobile emission standards.
At a news conference at EPA headquarters, Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao defended the waiver revocation as a return to "one national program" for fuel efficiency (Greenwire, Sept. 19).
Separately Tuesday, California sued the EPA over the federal agency's March determination that salt ponds in the San Francisco Bay Area are not "waters of the United States" that are protected under the Clean Water Act.
"We actually need these extra clean cars in order to meet the health standards that are set by the federal government that we violate now on a very regular basis throughout Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley", said Nichols.
The Trump administration is following up on the president's threat to go after California for pollution that President Trump blames on the state's large homeless population.
Last year, California received almost $4 billion in funds, the highest amount of federal highway funding out of any state, second only to Texas, which received almost 3.7 billion in funding to maintain roads and other infrastructure.
California Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey accused the EPA of having "unclean hands" on the matter.
California's waiver was then updated in 2008 by the Obama administration as part of the auto industry bailout.
Wheeler's letter lists six California plans that are not in compliance. The letter actually puzzled state regulators because the backlog exists because the EPA has not approved any of the plans that have been submitted.
"The White House has no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being of Californians". California agencies have reported that pollution has decreased significantly since 1970, but many cities are still listed as failing to meet limits on those pollutants, according to EPA.
Asked whether the letter was politically motivated, a senior EPA official told reporters: "The letter speaks for itself".