Monday, 21 October, 2019

AGC Calls on EPA to Delay Cutting Highway Funds to California

Trump Administration Threatens to Withhold Highway Funds from California                 

     

     Mike Blake Trump Administration Threatens to Withhold Highway Funds from California Mike Blake
Sandra Phillips | 26 September, 2019, 09:43

The waiver will be replaced by the "Safe, Affordable, Fuel-efficient (SAFE)" rules created by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under the "One Nation Program Rule" policy set by the Trump administration.

In July, California lawmakers reached a deal with automotive manufactures Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW.

But Wheeler's letter to the California Air Resources Board puzzled state regulators and even former EPA officials who say the backlog exists because the federal government has not approved the plans. Becerra cited the 2007 Supreme Court case MA v. EPA, which held that the state has the ability to set its own fuel economy standards even if they are higher than those set by the Clean Air Act, to defend California's waiver.

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.

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.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper's administration is considering a clean energy plan that includes strategies for increasing registered electric vehicles in the state to 80,000 by 2025, The News & Observer has reported.

"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 the letter. The EPA has the power to reject those plans and deny the state would could potentially be billions of dollars in federal highway aid.

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"We believe that states across the country should withdraw inactive state implementation plans that date back in some places years or decades and in many cases have fundamental approvability issues", a senior EPA official said on the call.

Federal law requires states with dirty air to come up with a plan on how to reduce pollution. "Partly through the waiver, we have set California-specific emissions controls that have served to clean up the air tremendously".

California leaders, however, have attempted to go around the administration, negotiating their own agreement with automakers to voluntarily lower emissions on new cars built through 2026.

Governor Gavin Newsom described the EPA's position as a "threat of pure retaliation". "So, we will be communicating with states across the country on this front".

The legal battles between Washington and Sacramento are only likely to accelerate with the latest move by EPA's Wheeler.

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". Last week, California's attorney-general announced a lawsuit meant to retain the state's greenhouse gas waiver. 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.

"We've done all of the stuff that's easy many years ago, we've done lots of stuff that's hard as well", said Paulson of UCLA.

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