The Trump administration sent California a letter threatening to freeze federal highway funding and implement other sanctions against the state over its “failure” to submit complete reports on its implementation of the Clean Air Act.
Democrats reaction was swift and scathing saying that the president was acting out of retaliation.
“This letter is a threat of pure retaliation,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “The White House has no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being of Californians.”
In a letter dated Sept. 24 to California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler accused California of decades of failure to “carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act,” according to a document provided to The Chronicle by the Air Resources Board.
That law, which California has been negligent in complying with, requires states to submit implementation plans to the EPA outlining their efforts to cut emissions of six types of pollutants. When Trump took office, the administration faced a backlog of over 700 reports, and roughly 140 of those that remain are from California, Wheeler said in an interview.
“When I learned about this a couple months ago, the question I asked the staffer was, ‘why are we holding on to these – why haven’t we acted?’” Wheeler told McClatchy. “And the response I got back was, ‘we didn’t want to deny them and they couldn’t approve them.’ Well that’s ridiculous to allow 34 million people to live in areas not in compliance with our air standards.”
The Trump administration is giving California until October 10 to rescind their “incomplete” plans and resubmit new reports addressing 82 municipalities facing noncompliance.
If they fail to do so another EPA official said it will trigger “sanctions clocks” under the law that would penalize the state with cuts to highway funding – and allow the federal government to impose an implementation plan of its own.
California receives more highway funding than any other state in the country so the penalty for noncompliance is substantial. According to the Department of Transportation California is projected to receive more than $19 billion from the Federal Highway Administration between fiscal years 2016 and 2020.
Shockingly, for a state that boasts of their proactive stance on climate change, only about a dozen of California’s 58 counties meet the EPA’s standards for Ozone air quality, while about half meet the standards for fine particulate matter in the air, such as dust, smoke or other inhalable particles. The counties that meet both standards are primarily rural and sparsely populated.
Seems California has a lot more to be concerned about than plastic straws.
American Lung Association: Most polluted cities
Cover photo: Coalition for Clean Air