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Fed And State Environmental Battle Heats Up

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Sacramento, CA — The Trump administration’s environmental battle with California intensified Tuesday, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) threatened the state could lose federal highway funds if it doesn’t clean up its air.

This comes after California filed a lawsuit on Friday along with 22 other states to stop the Trump administration from revoking their authority to set greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. In a letter sent to the California Air Resources Board, the EPA referred to the state’s air quality as the worst in the country with 34 million people — twice as many as other states — living in areas that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

“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,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated in a news release. “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.”

Federal law requires states with dirty air to come up with a plan on how to reduce pollution, which must be approved by the EPA. The federal agency has a backlog of these plans up for approval, and California accounts for more than 130 of them or about one-third of the total.

Wheeler’s letter puzzled state regulators including former EPA officials that argue the backlog exists because the federal government has not approved the plans. Gay MacGregor, a senior policy adviser for the EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1983 until 2016, told the Associated Press, “It makes no sense. What they are doing today is basically punishing California for the EPA’s own inaction.”

The EPA shared that it plans to issue $40 million in grants to help areas around the country meet federal air quality standards, including several communities in California.