WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration escalated its fight with California on Tuesday, accusing the state of failing to enforce the U.S. Clean Air Act and threatening to withdraw billions of dollars in federal highway funds to the country's most populous state.
California, which has imposed strict state standards limiting vehicle emissions in defiance of Trump's attempts to roll back regulations, has "the worst air quality in the United States," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote to California Air Resource Board chief Mary Nichols in a letter dated Tuesday.
EPA officials acknowledged they had not sent any similar letters to other states and denied the letter was politically motivated. They say California has the largest backlog of state implementation plans to address ambient air quality standards.
The letter contended that California "has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act" and 34 million people in the state live in areas that do not meet air quality standards "more than twice as many people as any other state."
Wheeler said in a statement "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."
California is set to receive just over $4 billion in federal highway funding in the budget year that starts Oct. 1.
U..S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the "threat to withhold California’s highway funding over clean air quality reports is the height of hypocrisy. California doesn’t need to be lectured by an administration beholden to polluters."
She added that "the administration is trying to undo all the progress we’ve made in reducing harmful emissions and combating climate change."
John Coequyt, the Sierra Club's global climate policy director, said blocking the state's tailpipe emissions limits will make it harder to improve air quality.