Legal Insurrection readers will recall that President Donald Trump’s administration has become the target of at least 50 lawsuits initiated by California and its Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Additionally, Becerra recently threatened to sue the federal government for the recent roll-back of Obama-era coal-burning power plant restrictions.

Somewhere, Saul Alkinsky is smiling as President Trump applies Rule for Radicals #4: Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.

The political war between California and the Trump administration escalated Monday with a letter from Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, warning that Washington would withhold federal highway funds from the state if it did not rapidly address a decades-long backlog of state-level pollution control plans.

The letter is the latest parry between President Trump and the liberal West Coast state that he appears to relish antagonizing. California’s recent actions on clean air and climate change policy have blindsided and enraged him, according to two people familiar with the matter.

While California has angered Mr. Trump with its efforts to adhere to stricter state standards on climate change pollution from vehicles even as Mr. Trump has sought to roll back such standards nationally, Mr. Wheeler’s new letter to the state offers a twist on the narrative.

Wheeler’s wrote a damning assessment of California’s inactions regarding compliance with 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,” Wheeler wrote.

…Under the Clean Air Act, states that don’t meet federal air quality standards are required to submit “State Implementation Plans.” Wheeler says California represents a disproportionate share of the backlog of such plans.

“Since the 1970s, California has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act,” said Wheeler. He then laid out the penalties for failing to meet federal requirements, which include losing federal highway dollars. California is expected to receive about $8 billion in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

The EPA Chief only learned this summer of a giant backlog of “State Implementation Plans” (SIPs), including more than 130 unprocessed plans from the Golden State.

[Wheeler] was told the backlog resulted from previous administrations’ unwillingness to deny plans from California due to the harsh penalties tied to a failing grade from the EPA.

“When I learned about this a couple months ago, the question I asked the staffer was, ‘why are we holding on to these—why haven’t we acted?'” Wheeler said. “And the response I got back was, ‘we didn’t want to deny them and they couldn’t approve them.’ Well that’s ridiculous to allow 34 million people to live in areas not in compliance with our air standards.”

The agency says the plans it currently has on file from California fail to meet the “minimum threshold of public health protection necessary for approval.” The EPA also says it’s prepared to put together plans for California itself if the state declines to cooperate.

California #Resistance leaders are unhappy with the developments.

“This letter is a threat of pure retaliation,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “The White House has no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being of Californians.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called the EPA’s warning letter “the height of hypocrisy,” adding that “California doesn’t need to be lectured by an administration beholden to polluters.”

…”If the White House wants a fight over what what needs to be done to protect our air, we are happy to have that fight any day,” she said.

I might suggest that instead of posturing, drama, and lawsuits, state political leaders follow the advice of citizen activist and city decontamination expert Scott Presler: Stop talking. Start doing.

 
 
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