EPA threatens to pull highway funds over California's air quality

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Andrew Wheeler, the federal Environmental Protection Agency chief, sent a letter to California's Air Resources Board on Tuesday warning that the government may take actions - including withholding the funds - unless California addresses its plans to combat air pollution.

Believe it or not, this isn't a joke.

In his letter, Wheeler declared that the "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".

"If the EPA is serious about wanting to help California's air quality, it should drop its attack on this important initiative to cut pollution", Pettit said.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted California's standards, according to the The Washington Post and other media outlets. The letter comes days after the filing of a California-led lawsuit challenging the EPA's decision to revoke a decades-old rule that allows the state to set tougher vehicle emissions standards than those required by federal law.

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).

This latest move by the Trump administration illustrates the gulf between federal regulation and common-sense understanding of California's aggressive regulation of vehicle emissions.

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Last week, the White House and California battled over the state's authority to set its own tailpipe-emissions standards. Wheeler says California represents a disproportionate share of the backlog of such plans.

These environmental policy fights between California and the Trump administration are part of a bigger political fight, according to CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

Last week, CARB Chairwoman Nichols said that the Trump Administration is only making things worse, especially with its latest moves on California's waiver and any upcoming rollback of CAFE.

The Trump Administration has long signaled its plan to roll back the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards set during the Obama Administration. They were deemed necessary because After World War II ended, the West Coast's aerospace industryand other manufacturing plants boomed, which resulted in much more air pollution.

Brownstein said Newsom "is always balancing between the undeniable appeal of fighting with Trump", calling it "good politics in California", but noting that "there are a lot of ways the federal government can make life hard for a state".

That same year, the Federal Air Quality Act was enacted, which allowed California to set its own stringent air quality rules due to the amount of cars on the road and population density that was much higher than other states. He asked the state to withdraw the plans and come up with new ones. President Trump should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the Presidency, in particular the chapter on respecting the Rule of Law.

Following news that the feds may withhold highway funds, Senator Feinstein responded more bluntly, calling any "threat to withhold California's highway funding over clean air quality...the height of hypocrisy".

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