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.
“Since the 1970s, California has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act,” the letter states. “California has the worst air quality in the United States … and 34 million people [are] living in areas that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards — more than twice as many people as any other state in the country.”
California officials have until Oct. 10 to say whether it plans to withdraw its incomplete plans. As part of the Federal Clean Air Act, states must submit plans to reduce air pollution in areas that fail to meet certain standards.
In a statement to The New York Times, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the move “a threat of pure retaliation,” claiming the White House has “no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being” of residents.
Last week, the White House and California battled over the state’s authority to set its own tailpipe-emissions standards. The administration moved to block the Golden State from enacting stricter emissions standards than stipulated by the administration. It has been allowed to set its own pollution rules for decades because of how many cars it has on the road.
In response, 23 states have sued. Other states have adopted California’s emissions rules.