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Policy & Politics

Auto Emissions Redux: 24 States Sue Trump Administration, EPA Threatens To Cut Off Highway Funding

Last week, the EPA said California was doing too much to cut auto emissions. This week, it says California is not doing enough to cut air pollution, putting California in a no win situation.

Chutzpah, so they say, is murdering your parents and then throwing yourself on the mercy of the court because you’re an orphan. By that definition, what the Trump administration is doing to the state of California is chutzpah to the fourth power.

First it announced it is revoking California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act — which has allowed California to set higher emissions standards for cars sold within its borders for decades  — because those standards are too high and force automakers to raise the price of their products. That in turn means fewer people can afford to buy new cars.

Now Andrew Wheeler, the lifelong Koch Brothers suck-up in charge of the EPA, says his agency will withhold billions of dollars in federal highway and transportation funds from California because the state “has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act,” according to the Washington Post. In a letter dated September 23, Wheeler says the federal money will be held back if the agency determines the state is not taking sufficient steps to show how it aims to cut air pollution such as soot or smog-forming ozone.

The letter goes on to say that 34 million Californians live in areas that don’t meet federal National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which is more than twice as many residents as in any other state. Nevertheless, California has more than 130 “state implementation plans” which are blueprints pending approval by federal authorities designed to tackle those pollutants.

“California has the worst air quality in the United States,” Wheeler wrote, adding that many of  those 130 plans “are inactive and appear to have fundamental issues” that would prevent them from getting approved.

California Governor Gavin Newsom excoriated Wheeler and the EPA for what he described as  “a threat of pure retaliation. While the White House tries to bully us and concoct new ways to make our air dirtier, California is defending our state’s clean air laws from President Trump’s attacks. We won’t go back to the days when our air was the color of mud. We won’t relive entire summers when spending time outside amounted to a public health risk.”​​

Janet McCabe, who served as acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation under President Barack Obama, tells the Post, “It’s ironic that EPA is taking California to task for not solving the air quality problem when for decades the state has been moving forward with the most aggressive clear air rules and programs in the nation.”

You’re damned right, Janet. On the one hand, the EPA is saying California’s emissions standards are too high. On the other hand, it contends they are too low. It’s a “heads we win, tails you lose” situation that amply illustrates the government’s main motivation is punishing California for not kowtowing to the scorched earth policies that characterize today’s Republican party.

21 states plus the District of Columbia have joined California in filing suit against the EPA over its revocation of the emissions waiver, according to NPR. “Two courts have already upheld California’s emissions standards, rejecting the argument the Trump Administration resurrects to justify its misguided Preemption Rule,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement released Friday. “Yet, the Administration insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health.”

California attorney general Xavier Bacerra may have had the best line of the week when he responded this way to the administration’s revocation of the emissions waiver. “The Oval Office is really not a place for on-the-job training. 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. Mr. President, we’ll see you in court,” he said.

Now it is up to the courts to determine whether the United States is a civil society governed by law or a nation of mafiosi sworn to carrying out la vendetta. With the federal judiciary now stocked with right wing crazies — especially 5 justices of the Supreme Court — the outcome is very much up in the air.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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