The Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter to the state where it threatens to cut federal transportation funding because the state has not filed timely pollution control plans. The letter sent by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to the state’s top air quality regulator, claims that the state allowed 130 inactive smog reduction plans to accumulate, stating that “California has the worst air quality in the United States.”
Politics as usual
The state and the federal government under the Trump administration have been at odds for years, but the rhetoric continues to heighten. According to news reports, the EPA’s salvo is likely in response to state regulators secretly negotiating with four major auto manufacturers to meet the state’s more stringent rules by reducing emissions and increasing fuel efficiency.
This is in direct contrast to the stated intent of the White House, which is trying to dismantle new vehicle pollution standards put in place by the Obama administration.
An ironic twist
This letter from the EPA is an attempt to undercut California’s reputation for being a leader in the movement to reduce gas emissions and improve air quality. The letter also announced that the feds were revoking the long-standing rule that allowed the state to impose its own standards for emissions and air quality.
In the Los Angeles Times, a professor of environmental law at UCLA criticized the agency’s letter and threat:
“It’s actually hard to think of a more hypocritical move by the most anti-environmental EPA in history than today’s threat to withhold highway funds from California for failing to do enough to fight air pollution while simultaneously taking away the state’s most effective tool for doing so.”
Sanctions may not come to pass
The EPA has stated that the sanctions would start to take effect in 2021 if it rejects California’s pollution reduction plans. This timeline makes the letter and the posturing seem relatively empty at this point, but this matter will likely continue to escalate – the administration also stated that it is removing regulations for the oil and gas industry to report methane emissions.
There is no doubt that many businesses are wondering how this back and forth between the feds and the state effects compliance and their bottom line. Speaking with an attorney with a background in environmental law may provide answers and useful analysis for how to proceed.