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EPA threatens California highway funding over backlog

By
Sommer Brokaw
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler threatened California with highway funding sanctions over backlogged reports on the state's plans to reduce air pollution. File Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler threatened California with highway funding sanctions over backlogged reports on the state's plans to reduce air pollution. File Photo by Alex Edelman/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threatened Tuesday to cut California's federal highway funding over a backlog of plans to meet air quality standards.

The threat came in a letter EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote Tuesday to the California Air Resource Board Chairman Mary Nichols, which also slammed the state's air quality.

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"Since the 1970s, California has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act," Wheeler wrote in the letter. "California has the worst air quality in the United States, with 82 non-attainment 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."

Furthermore, California has a disproportionate share of the national backlog of State Improvement Plans to reduce air pollution, the letter noted, including roughly one-third of the EPA's overall backlog.

The backlog is due to "fundamental issues" which make the plans unworthy of being approved such as "missing information or resources," Wheeler said in the letter to Nichols.

If California fails to withdraw the backlogged SIPs, the EPA threatens in the letter it would disapprove them, triggering "statutory clocks" for highway funding sanctions, including prohibition on certain federal transportation projects and grants. It would also allow the federal government to impose its own plan.

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Wheeler said that the CARB has until Oct. 10 to respond to his letter.

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