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Trump Administration Suddenly Holding California to Higher Environmental Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to force the state of California to spend highway money on public transit, because of the environment.
October 3, 2019, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Stas Enso

The Trump administration seems to love to antagonize California, mostly by revoking or weakening environmental regulations, like the recent episode of President Trump announcing via Twitter that California would no longer have a Clean Air Act waiver to require higher emission standards from car companies. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, the state of California has responded to the president's agenda with lawsuit after lawsuit. California also sued to keep its Clean Air Act waiver.

In recent weeks, however, the dynamic has changed, and the Trump administration has begun antagonizing California with threats of environmental enforcement. First, President Trump threatened to punish California with an environmental violation if it didn't take aggressive action to curb homelessness. Late in the day on October 2, the Trump administration followed through on that threat, as reported by Kurtis Alexander and Dominic Fracassa.

More recently, the Trump administration threatened to force the state to spend money intended for highways on public transit instead.

"The Environmental Protection Agency on September 23 threatened to start enforcing long-dormant Clean Air Act provisions that would force many regions in California to stop building new highway projects and instead either transfer that money to mass transit projects or else lose it entirely," reports Jeff Davis.

Davis notes the weirdness of the whole situation: "This sounds like a headline that would have occurred in the Obama Administration during its more ambitious first term, but no, this was in fact the Trump Administration."

The threat is predicated on the letter of the Clean Air Act law, as described clearly by Davis. The letter of the law also means the state wouldn't entirely lose the money, but could be forced to spend it on transit instead of roads.

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Published on Friday, September 27, 2019 in Eno Center for Transportation
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