Wires

Trump EPA blasts California air quality, threatens to withdraw highway funds

David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - 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," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote California Air Resource Board chief Mary Nichols in a letter dated Sept. 24.

The letter contended that California "has failed to carry out its most basic tasks under the Clean Air Act."

Last week, the EPA said it was taking the unprecedented step of revoking California's waiver under the Clean Air Act to set tailpipe emissions standards and require zero emission vehicles, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said California was preempted from take action on tailpipe emissions.

On Friday, California and 22 other states sued NHTSA and it plans to challenge the EPA decision at a later date. The letter was reported Monday by the Sacramento Bee but was to be announced by the EPA Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration said it was withholding $929 million from California's high-speed rail project that was awarded in 2010. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)