California fires back at ‘politically motivated’ EPA letter

By Alex Guillén

10/02/2020 10:05 AM EDT Updated: 10/02/2020 12:32 PM EDT

California officials on Thursday sent a scathing response to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s criticisms of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s electric car executive order, saying the agency has engaged in “baseless mistruths” and accusing it of abdicating its responsibilities to humanity.

Background: Newsom’s order issued last week would ban the sale of cars that burn gasoline or diesel by 2035. Legal experts say the state would need EPA’s approval under the Clean Air Act to do so, something the Trump administration is all but guaranteed to deny.

Wheeler on Monday sent a letter hinting that EPA would not approve California’s plan and mocking the state’s recent electric grid reliability issues.

California’s response: EPA under Wheeler “has abdicated its role in protecting human health and the environment” in favor of spreading “baseless mistruths” about Newsom’s order, wrote California EPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld and California Air Resources Chair Mary D. Nichols.

“Plainly stated, your politically motivated letter, dated September 28, continues an unprecedented series of attempts by the nation’s chief environmental steward designed to obstruct responsible actions to protect Californians,” they wrote. “This is especially troubling given that California is in the middle of a climate emergency which would benefit from U.S. EPA’s assistance rather than political posturing.”

EPA is legally obligated to regulate greenhouse gases, but instead “has allowed fossil fuel interests to dictate the agenda” by deregulating climate rules on the power and transportation sectors, they added.

Aside from reducing carbon emissions, Blumenfeld and Nichols also argued that ending the sale of fossil fuel-burning vehicles is necessary because of lingering air quality problems unique to California, home to six of the ten U.S cities with the worst air pollution. Smog is exacerbated by the state’s geography, but also because of climate change. Cars are responsible for 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gases — more than 50 percent if oil extraction and refining are considered.

And they pushed back on Wheeler’s taunts about California’s power outages, writing that it was not electric vehicles that caused the issue but instead “record breaking heat waves across California and our neighboring states.”

“California will continue to lead the fight against climate change,” they wrote. “We sincerely hope that you and your Agency redirect your attention to working collaboratively with states to address the very real climate emergency.”

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