The Trump administration has not exactly proven itself remotely open to outside counsel — quite the opposite, really. It would probably be easier to push a cruise ship a different direction with one hand than it is to redirect their policy pushes once they get them in motion. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as led by Trump appointee Andrew Wheeler has threatened to strip as much as $19 billion in federal highway funding for California if the state doesn’t submit updated plans to bring areas with dirty air into compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards. The demand is ironic — it’s the state’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set their own emissions standards that the Trump EPA just moved to end last week, and the state says they need the cleaner cars to bring their air quality up to par.
Still, discussing the environmental clean-up implementation plans in question, Wheeler claimed in a letter to California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols:
‘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… We recommend that California withdraw its backlogged and unapprovable SIPs… In the event California fails to withdraw them, the EPA will begin the disapproval process… 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.’
Nichols has acknowledged the dirty air that Wheeler points to, but the Trump administration appears to be absolutely refusing to engage on any substantive level to clean up the air as efficiently as possible. Instead, they’re engaging in a political tit-for-tat and demanding concerned interests like California simply fall in line with the system the Trump administration has set in motion.
In response to the Trump administration’s rollback of California’s permission to set their own emissions standards, the state and almost two dozen others — and even the governments of a few major cities — have taken the Trump team to court, arguing their move was arbitrary and capricious.
Nichols has insisted:
‘The standards that we are now in the process of enforcing are necessary to protect the public health and welfare, not just because we care about the future of the planet or polar bears, it’s because we actually need these extra clean cars in order to meet the health standards that are set by the federal government that we violate now on a very regular basis throughout Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.’
On Monday, at a climate conference in New York, California Governor Gavin Newsom bluntly insisted:
‘I don’t know what the hell happened to this country that we have the President that we do today, on this issue. It’s a damn shame, it really is. I’m not a little embarrassed about it, I’m absolutely humiliated by what’s going on.’
Trump can’t even be trusted to treat the conversation seriously. This week, he — as, remember, the president of the United States — took to Twitter to mock prominent teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. He’s a world leader, and this is what he’s doing.
Featured Image via screenshot