The Environmental Protection Agency declined to provide an opposing view. Excerpts from a Sept. 24 letter from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to the head of the California Air Resources Board (CARB):
Since the 1970s, California has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act. California has the worst air quality in the United States, with 82 nonattainment areas and 34 million people 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.
As evidenced by the EPA's recent work on interstate air pollution issues as well as analysis accompanying its rulemakings, California's chronic air quality problems are not the result of cross-state air pollution or this Administration's regulatory reform efforts. In addition, the state of California represents a disproportionate share of the national list of backlogged State Implementation Plans, including roughly one-third of the EPA's overall SIP backlog.
California's total portion of the SIP backlog is more than 130 SIPs, with many dating back decades. Most of these SIPs are inactive and appear to have fundamental issues related to approvability, state-requested holds, missing information or resources. ....
We recommend that California withdraw its backlogged and unapprovable SIPs and work with the EPA to develop complete, approvable SIPs. In the event California fails to withdraw them, the EPA will begin the disapproval process consistent with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
As you know, if the EPA disapproves a SIP, that triggers statutory clocks for highway funding sanctions, which could result in a prohibition on federal transportation projects and grants in certain parts of California. ...
We certainly want to avoid these statutory triggers, but our foremost concern must be ensuring clean air for all Americans. That is our goal. To ensure that we are making progress on improving air quality in California, we request a response from CARB by Oct. 10 indicating whether it intends to withdraw these SIPs.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: EPA: Our goal is to improve California’s air quality