For Clients & Friends of The Gualco Group, Inc.
IN THIS ISSUE – “Folks, We’re About to Begin Our Descent”
UNDER THE DOME
- Newsom: State Spending Will Be “Sober”; Economic Slowdown Looms
- 700 Bills on Governor’s Desk; One Week to Go to Signing Deadline
- Half CA Voters Consider Moving; 60% Say Governor Doing Great
- Homelessness #1 Issue, Poll Finds, as 40% Worried About California
TRUMP v. CALIFORNIA
Capital News & Notes (CN&N) harvests California legislative and regulatory insights from dozens of media and official sources for the past week, tailored to your business and advocacy interests. Please feel free to forward.
READ ALL ABOUT IT!!
FOR THE WEEK ENDING OCT. 4, 2019
California’s longest-ever period of economic growth is slowing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday, warning that next year’s budget may not be as flush as this year’s.
“You’re already seeing the plane land in terms of the slowdown,” Newsom told reporters. “I think it’s going to reflect in a more sober look at next year’s budget.”
His 2020 budget blueprint is due in January.
This year, he rolled out his budget plans in an exuberant press conference where he pledged to spend more on many of his top priorities. Much of that came to fruition in the final $215 billion budget he signed in June.
This year’s budget built up California’s reserves to more than $19 billion in anticipation of the next recession. Record surpluses allowed the governor to boost health care, housing and education spending and grant asks from many lawmakers, such as making the first two years of community college tuition-free for California students.
He also used the surplus to pay down debt, including making billions of dollars in extra payments to state pension funds to reduce long-term debts at CalPERS and CalSTRS.
On Thursday, he says he’s seeing a slowdown as revenues come in closer to projections after months of coming in well over. He mentioned several of the state’s revenue streams — the personal income taxes, sales taxes and corporate taxes — and said some are coming in a little higher, some lower and others basically on target. Overall, that means a recession is likely on the horizon.
The national economy has been growing since June 2009.
“‘Folks, we’re about to begin our descent,’” Newsom said, mimicking a airplane pilot addressing passengers over a loudspeaker. “We’re still at 36,000 feet, but we’re about to begin our descent.”
Here’s a look at some California first laws Newsom signed, and a couple that are on his desk as his final week of bill action (signing and vetoes) opens Monday:
HEALTH CARE FOR UNDOCUMENTED ADULTS
That’s because the budget contained $98 million aimed at helping young undocumented people to get state-funded health insurance insurance.
The budget provision allows undocumented people under age 26 to enroll in Medi-Cal beginning in 2020. This marked an expansion of pre-existing coverage for undocumented people age 19 and younger.
While five other states and Washington, D.C., use state funds to cover income-eligible undocumented children, California becomes the first to expand that coverage to young adults.
At a news conference, Newsom said, “universal health care is a right regardless of immigration status.”
One person who isn’t a fan of the expanded coverage: President Donald Trump.
Trump said he would work to stop California from covering undocumented people, though he declined to specify how.
“You look at what they’re doing in California, how they’re treating people. They don’t treat their people as well as they treat illegal immigrants,” Trump said at a press conference.
NEW RIGHTS FOR GIG WORKERS
California’s new employment law makes it the first state in the country to attempt to force tech giants like Uber and Lyft to treat their gig workers like full-time employees.
The law, shaped by a 2018 California Supreme Court ruling, requires companies to reclassify many independent contractors as full-time employees, thereby granting them benefits such concessions as minimum wage, overtime pay, sick leave and unemployment and disability insurance.
The Legislature spent much of the year debating which professions to exempt from the law. Dozens of professions, from real estate agents to dog groomers, won exemptions that will workers continue to work as independent contractors.
Still, the law has Uber and Lyft concerned enough to pledge $30 million each for a proposed a ballot initiative that would amend state labor code to create a separate category for their workers.
NEW RULES FOR POLICE
California now has one of the toughest police use-of-force laws in the country, after Newsom signed Assembly Bill 392 into law.
That bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, was introduced as a result of a string of fatal police shootings of unarmed black men, including Stephon Clark of Sacramento.
Clark’s brother called the bill his legacy after Newsom signed it into law.
AB 392 requires police officers to use lethal force only when necessary, based on the totality of the circumstances during a given encounter. Previously, police were allowed to use deadly force when they felt it was reasonable to do so.
The combination of “necessary” use of force and a requirement that courts take an officer’s actions preceding that use of force into consideration makes AB 392 a first-in-the-nation bill, according to Weber’s office.
COLLEGE ATHLETES CAN MAKE A BUCK
California college athletes will be the first in the nation to be allowed to make money, after Newsom signed a bill defying NCAA opposition.
The bill, called the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” allows student athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness and prohibits universities from revoking scholarships from students who get endorsement deals.
“This notion of ‘student-athlete,’ give me a break,” Newsom said in an interview on The Daily Show. “These guys are expected full-time to sacrifice themselves for athletics, but when they’re done, the next crew comes in and it’s just this cycle. At the end of the day, it perpetuates a cycle of inequality and a lack of equity. As it relates to the issue of sports, it’s time to rebalance things. … I recognize the consequence of this decision because we could substantially change the NCAA as we know it.”
The bill was opposed by the NCAA, which said in a letter that the new law would give California student athletes an “unfair recruiting advantage.”
AN END TO FUR TRAPPING
Fur-trapping has a long history in the United States, and California became the first state government to outlaw it.
“Fur trapping is a cruel practice that has no place in 21st century California. The fact that the majority of California taxpayers overwhelmingly disapprove of this archaic practice and have been unknowingly subsidizing it for years is simply unacceptable,” bill sponsor Gonzalez said in prepare remarks.
In addition, Gov. Newsom is considering signing a bill that would make California the first state to ban the sale of fur products from undomesticated animals, such as foxes and mink.
These laws would also be first-in-the-nation if they are signed by Newsom:
INMATES COULD NO LONGER HAVE CO-PAYS
A bill sitting on Newsom’s desk could make California the first state to bar jails from charging inmates co-pays for medical or dental care.
The first-in-the-nation bill was meant to ensure that inmates don’t decline health care because of financial worries.
While the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation suspended the practice of charging inmates co-pays last March, the bill makes it so that neither state prisons nor county jails may do so.
The California State Sheriffs’ Association opposed the bill.
PLASTIC RECYCLING STANDARDS COULD GET STRICTER
California’s plastic recycling standards could soon exceed not just the rest of America, but even that of the European Union.
Lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Newsom that would raise the minimum required content of recycled plastic for plastic bottles to 50 percent by 2030 — by contrast, the EU will require 30 percent of plastic bottles to be contain recycled content by 2030.
The bill imposes penalties for non-compliance but also grants the enforcing agency, CalRecycle, the authority to adjust those minimum content percentages during unfavorable market conditions.
The bill “bolsters demand for recycled plastic and ensures what has already been made does not contaminate our earth,” according to bill sponsor Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.
California would be the first in the nation to adopt such standards, according to Ting’s office.
UC Berkeley Intergovernmental Studies Poll
Half of the state’s registered voters admit to having given serious (24%) or some (28%)consideration recently to leaving California. Only modest differences are seen across most major regional or demographic subgroups of the state. However, there are significant partisan and ideological differences when examining the opinions of voters giving serious consideration to moving out of state, as three times as Republicans and conservatives as Democrats and liberals report this. The high cost of housing (71%) is the most common reason given by voters for wanting to leave California.
However, high taxes (58%) and the state’s political culture (46%) are also prominently mentioned, particularly by Republicans and conservatives. Another question in the poll updated a50-year time series asking Californians how they would describe the state as a place to live. The results of the latest poll are somewhat more upbeat than recent past measures.
Half the of state’s registered voters(50%) now describe California as “one of the best places” to live, up from 43% who felt this way in 2013, the last time this question was posed. However, here too, partisanship and political ideology play a prominent role, with Democrats and liberals nearly three times as likely as Republicans and conservatives to describe California as one of the best places to live.
The poll also finds voters approving of the job Gavin Newsom is doing as governor three to two. Six in ten voters (60%) approve of Newsom, while 39% disapprove. Yet, of those who approve, relatively few (18%)approve strongly, while most of those who disapprove of the Governor’s performance disapprove strongly(27%).Opinions are the Governor are highly partisan. Democrats overwhelmingly approve of the Governor’s performance in office, with 86% giving a positive rating and just 13% offering a negative assessment. Republicans view of the Governor is just the opposite, with 83% disapproving and 17% approving.
These findings come from aBerkeley IGS Poll conducted online in English and Spanish among a random sample of 4,527 of the state’sr egistered voters September 13 -18.
Public Policy Institute of California
The latest Californians and Their Government Poll, from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, released yesterday:
Homeless New #1 Issue
When asked to identify the most important issue facing the state today, Californians are most likely to name homelessness (15% adults, 16% likely voters) and jobs and the economy (15% adults, 13% likely voters). Other top issues named include housing costs and availability (11% adults, 11% likely voters), immigration and illegal immigration (9% adults, 11% likely voters), and the environment (8% adults, 10% likely voters).
“Homelessness and housing costs are now being mentioned as much as the economy and immigration when asking about the most important problems facing the people of California today,” Baldassare said.
The most important issue varies across regions. In Los Angeles, one in five residents (21%) identify homelessness, while one in five in the San Francisco Bay Area (22%) name housing. Pluralities in the Central Valley (19%), Inland Empire (14%), and Orange/San Diego (14%) identify jobs and the economy as the top issue.
Californians Worry About California
Many Californians are concerned about the overall direction of the state. Fewer than half (46% adults, 41% likely voters) say the state is headed in the right direction, while 48 percent of adults and 54 percent of likely voters say it is headed in the wrong direction. In fact, the share of adults who are optimistic about the direction of the state is at its lowest point since May 2015.
State Voting System
Amid concerns about America’s voting system, how confident are Californians about the system in their state? Just over one-third have a great deal (18%) or quite a lot (18%) of confidence, down from October 2004 (26% great deal, 25% quite a lot). There are partisan differences in concerns about the system: Democrats (50%) and independents (43%) are more likely than Republicans (34%) to believe it is too hard for eligible people to vote, while Republicans (79%) are more likely than independents (53%) and Democrats (43%) to believe it is too easy for ineligible people to vote.
A strong majority of Californians say they are very (38%) or somewhat (32%) worried about being able to cover the cost of health care in the next few years, with at least two-thirds across regions expressing concern (66% Central Valley, 68% Orange/San Diego, 69% San Francisco Bay Area, 70% Inland Empire, 75% Los Angeles). The level of concern is particularly high among lower-income Californians: more than half (52%) say they are very worried about affording health care costs.
“Many lower-income Californians are worried about their ability to pay their health care costs and cope with disasters such as wildfires and earthquakes, as well as about mass shootings in their local areas,” Baldassare said.
An overwhelming majority of Californians (71%) see immigrants as a benefit to the state because of their hard work and job skills. At least six in ten have held this view since January 2013. Across regions, residents of Los Angeles (76%) are the most likely to view immigrants as a benefit (73% San Francisco Bay Area, 72% Orange/San Diego, 67% Central Valley, 67% Inland Empire). Older adults (59% 55 and older) are much less likely than younger adults (79% 18 to 34, 76% 35 to 54) to view immigrants as a benefit.
Half of Californians worry a lot (29%) or some (21%) that someone they know could be deported. Across regions, the level of concern is highest in the Inland Empire, with 41 percent saying they worry a lot (30% Los Angeles, 29% Central Valley, 26% Orange/San Diego, 26% San Francisco Bay Area).
Californians face the threat of natural disasters such as wildfires, floods, and earthquakes. An overwhelming majority say they are either very (29%) or somewhat (54%) knowledgeable about preparing for a disaster. At the same time, a solid majority are either very (28%) or somewhat (32%) worried about damage, injury, or major household disruption from a natural disaster. This concern is more prevalent among lower-income Californians (annual household income under $40,000), with an overwhelming majority saying they are very (40%) or somewhat (30%) worried.
In the wake of several recent mass shootings, including one in Gilroy, California, 68 percent of Californians say laws covering the sale of guns should be more strict, while 10 percent say they should be less strict and 19 percent say they should be kept as they are now. Views were similar in October 2018 (64% more strict, 13% less strict, 21% kept as they are). About four in ten (38%) say they are very concerned about the threat of a mass shooting in their area, up from 28% in January 2016. Lower-income Californians are especially likely to be very concerned (48%) about this threat.
Bonds on the 2020 Ballot
A $15 billion bond for school and college construction that has been approved by the legislature for the March 2020 ballot—and is awaiting the governor’s signature—is favored by 66 percent of adults but only 54 percent of likely voters.
This narrow margin coincides with concern about the state’s economic outlook. Fewer than half (41% adults, 37% likely voters) expect good times financially in California during the next 12 months, while slightly larger shares (50% adults, 54% likely voters) expect bad times.
“A $15 billion state bond measure for education funding on the March ballot starts with slim majority support as the state’s elected leaders and economic outlook are getting mixed reviews,” Baldassare said.
A potential November 2020 ballot measure that would amend Proposition 13 to tax commercial (but not residential) properties at their current market rate and direct some of the new revenue to K–12 public schools is supported by 57 percent of adults. However, fewer than half (47%) of likely voters favor the measure, and this share is down somewhat from April 2019 (54%). A potential state bond measure to fund water infrastructure is favored by 68 percent of adults and 57 percent of likely voters.
The Californians and Their Government survey is supported with funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the PPIC Donor Circle.
Findings in this report are based on a survey of 1,705 California adult residents, including 1,194 interviewed on cell phones and 511 interviewed on landline telephones. Interviews took place from September 16–25, 2019. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences.
The sampling error, taking design effects from weighting into consideration, is ±3.2 percent for all adults, ±3.7 percent for the 1,344 registered voters, ±4.2 percent for the 1,031 likely voters, and ±4.9 percent for the 692 respondents who answered question 9 (preference for Democratic nominee). For more information on methodology, see page 22.
California Dept. of Water Resources
California began a new water year Oct. 1 with significantly more water in storage than the previous year thanks to above-average snow and precipitation.
Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s (SWP) largest reservoir, is currently at 102 percent of average for the date compared to just 62 percent of average at this time last year. Shasta Lake, the Central Valley Project’s (CVP) largest reservoir, is at 126 percent of average compared to 88 percent of average last year. San Luis Reservoir, the largest off-stream reservoir in the United States where water is stored for the SWP and CVP, is at 132 percent of average compared to 117 percent of average last year. In Southern California, SWP’s Castaic Lake is at 112 percent of average compared to 108 percent last year.
“The significant rainfall and snowpack made for a great water year in 2019, so we start the new year in a good place,” said Department of Water Resources (DWR) Director Karla Nemeth. “However, we all know too well that California’s weather and precipitation is highly variable. What we could have today could be gone tomorrow. Conserve. Recycle. Recharge. People and the environment depend on it.”
Water Year 2019 highlights include:
- There were more than 30 atmospheric rivers with many making landfall in northern California.
- The state’s snowpack on April 1 was 175 percent of average.
- Statewide reservoir storage is 128 percent of average through the end of September which is approximately 29.7 million acre-feet.
The water year runs from October 1 to September 30. Rainfall and snow amounts help determine annual allocations for the State Water Project. State Water Project contractors received 75 percent of requested supplies this year, up from an initial allocation of 10 percent due to above-average precipitation.
For more information, visit DWR’s California Data Exchange Center website which shows current water conditions at the state’s largest reservoirs and weather stations in addition to measures of current rain and snow precipitation.
Opposed by California officials, the Trump administration’s $1.3 billion plan to raise Shasta Dam and increase reservoir storage has run into a roadblock that could delay the project or even kill it.
The state has called raising Shasta Dam a potential environmental disaster for the nearby McCloud River — and has succeeded in bottling up the project by obtaining court rulings that prevent Westlands Water District from preparing an environmental review required by state law.
Westlands, the giant farm-irrigation agency in the San Joaquin Valley, wants more storage in Shasta Lake and would be a crucial financial partner in the project with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The big blow came earlier this week, when Westlands announced it was halting the environmental review. The announcement came several days after the California Supreme Court decided against hearing Westlands’ appeal of an earlier ruling that prevented the water agency from moving ahead on the study.
“It is disappointing and I don’t know whether it will be the end of it or not,” said Tom Birmingham, the general manager of Westlands. He added that Westlands hasn’t abandoned the Shasta project, however, and federal officials said they are trying to find a way to keep the project going.
Westlands’ announcement comes as feuding continues between California and the Trump administration on a range of environmental issues and other matters. The state has sued the Trump administration more than 60 times, and last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threatened to pull billions in highway funds from California amid a dispute over greenhouse gas regulations.
On Monday, the federal government did back away from a plan to pump more water to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley from the ecologically fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta this fall — a proposal opposed by the state. But more often than not, the two sides fight their environmental battles in court, and the Shasta Dam project has been no exception.
Raising the dam by 18.5 feet, as the federal government has proposed, would increase the storage capacity of Shasta Lake by 634,000 acre-feet, enough to fill two-thirds of Folsom Lake.
It would also back up the Shasta reservoir farther into the McCloud River, which feeds into the lake, and that’s where the controversy comes in. California officials, environmentalists and members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe say backing up the reservoir into the McCloud would harm the area’s trout fishery and submerge sacred tribal sites in wet years. State officials said the plan would harm the “free-flowing condition” of the McCloud, in direct violation of the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Birmingham, though, said the impacts would be minimal, and he said state officials are mistaken when they say the project would be ruinous. “There is not a single scientific, technical, thorough analysis conducted by any department or agency of the state on how enlarging Shasta Dam … would affect the free-flowing condition of the McCloud River or its wild trout fishery,” he said.
Raising Shasta Dam has been discussed for decades. Former President Barack Obama’s administration effectively shelved the project over funding issues, but the Trump administration resurrected it. Last year Congress appropriated $20 million for pre-construction planning, although Democrats thwarted a proposal by Republicans, led by then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, to exempt Westlands and other farm water agencies from having to contribute money to the project.
Under federal law, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation can’t raise the dam unless local water agencies such as Westlands put up at least half the money. So far Westlands is the only agency that has publicly declared any interest in funding the project.
Jeff Hawk, a spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam, said “we continue to explore options” with other local agencies to pay for the project.
Environmentalists, however, hope Westlands’ retreat marks the death knell for raising Shasta Dam.
“It is a setback for the project; we hope it signals to any potential cost-share partners that it’s not a project worth supporting,” said Nina Robertson, a lawyer with Earthjustice, the environmental law organization that worked on the lawsuit against the project. “It violates state law and it’s not a good project.”
Critics of the project have noted that Trump’s Interior secretary, David Bernhardt, is a former lobbyist for Westlands, which would benefit from the extra storage capacity at Shasta.
Westlands officials have said Bernhardt had never lobbied the government on the Shasta issue, and Bernhardt has denied violating any ethics rules.
The irrigation district, which sprawls over several hundred thousand acres in Fresno and Kings counties, has been pursuing the Shasta project for years. In 2007 it bought a seven-mile stretch of land along the McCloud River, including an exclusive private fishing club, for $35 million to smooth the way for the dam raising. Birmingham was worried that developers might someday build expensive homes on the river, making the dam project almost impossible.
In July, after environmentalists and the California attorney general sued, a judge in Shasta County Superior Court halted Westlands from working on the environmental review. However, Birmingham said the water district is allowed to conduct a narrow study of whether the project would harm the river or its trout fishery.
“We now have to step back and figure out how long it will take us to prepare this analysis in the abstract,” Birmingham said. “Undoubtedly it will take some significant time.”
If the district concludes the project won’t harm the river or fish, it could try again to prepare a formal environmental study. But Birmingham predicted that it would get hit again with litigation from project opponents.
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s political feud with California has spread collateral damage across more than a dozen other states, which have seen their regulatory authority curtailed and their autonomy threatened by a Trump administration intent on weakening the environmental statutes of the country’s most populous state.
When the administration last month revoked California’s authority to set state-level standards on climate-warming tailpipe emissions, it simultaneously stripped that power from 13 other states that follow California’s standards and ensured that no other state could set fuel-efficiency standards in the future. The Environmental Protection Agency last week California that threatened to wield rarely used provisions of environmental law to withhold federal funding from the state if it did not take specific steps to clean its air and water.
“This is new and unusual,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a Republican lawyer who served in the E.P.A. in both Bush administrations. “E.P.A. has in the past been reluctant to use the very potent mechanism of withholding federal funding, as long as the state is acting in good faith.”
“But,” he added, “there’s obviously some bad blood.”
The maneuvers reversed the traditional positions of the two parties. Republicans have often claimed the mantle of protectors of states’ rights, and the prerogative of state governments as the laboratories of democracy. Democrats have often championed the pre-eminence of Washington over the states in battles over civil rights and health care. That has not always been the case. Republicans in Washington have tried to block state assisted-suicide laws, for instance, while Democrats have championed liberal state laws, for example on gun control.
The fight over California’s fuel-economy standards fits into that last category, but legal experts said the Trump administration’s actions are new. They amount to a novel weaponizing of environmental laws intended not only to undermine California’s liberal government but to send a message to other states that might defy Mr. Trump. “It looks like a search-and-destroy, and it sends a chilling message to other states,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.
In this case, critics noted, the Clean Air Act specifically offered states the ability to set their own environmental standards if Washington grants them a waiver.
“This is a very powerful tool that the Clean Air Act gives to the states,” said Phil Weiser, the attorney general of Colorado. “To pull the rug out from states, to do something this prescriptive, this stepping-on-states’ rights, is a threat to the very principle of states’ rights.”
The E.P.A. administrator, Andrew Wheeler, said this week that the administration believed in states’ rights, to a point. California’s economic power is so great that its policies have gravitational force far beyond its border: “We embrace federalism and the role of the states,” Mr. Wheeler said, “but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation.”
But impugning California’s commitment to clean air and water struck William K. Reilly, who headed the E.P.A. under the first President George Bush, as disingenuous, he said. The state, he said, is “historically the originator of the most innovative and successful air pollution controls” in the country.
“I’d be surprised if the E.P.A administrator could defend this letter and keep a straight face,” he said.
Mr. Wheeler did just that on Wednesday when he was asked if his letters to California political retaliation for the state’s efforts against his policies were
“No, not at all,” he said. “We found a lot of discrepancies between the way California is operating their water programs compared to others states.”
Mr. Wheeler announced last month that the E.P.A. would revoke a waiver granted to California by the Obama administration that allowed the state to establish its own tough fuel economy standards for cars sold into its giant market. That waiver had been granted under the 1970 Clean Air Act, which allows states to set tighter emissions standards.
Because vehicle emissions represent the nation’s largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases, the legal authority under the Clean Air Act represents one of the most powerful tools that states can use to combat climate change. Under the law, any other state could enact standards in line with California’s, and 13 states had done so before the administration wiped them out. Two other states, Minnesota and New Mexico, had planned to join California’s standards.
Twenty-three states have now sued the Trump administration over the move. While not all of those states followed the California standard, attorneys general for the states said they saw the move as an unlawful infringement on states’ rights that would prevent them from taking action to combat climate change in the future.
All the state attorneys general on to the suit are Democrats, but some represent states that Mr. Trump won in 2016, or hope to win in 2020, including North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Mexico.
“The Trump administration has assaulted states’ rights,” said Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, “and Exhibit A is this clean car law, where states have taken it upon ourselves to protect our citizens and now they are unlawfully trying to strip us of our authority.”
Collateral damage aside, Mr. Trump has seen the moves as focused on California, which has filed 60 lawsuits against the Trump administration over issues ranging from immigration to health care. Even as the threat of impeachment swamps his presidency, Mr. Trump remains fixated on California.
On Wednesday, he said, “We just sent a violation to the city of San Francisco, unsafe water, unsafe conditions.”
“With all the talk about the E.P.A.,” he continued, “there’s needles and drugs all over the street, there’s tents, there’s people that are dying in squalor in the best location in San Francisco.”
Mr. Trump was enraged in July when four automakers that opposed his plan to roll back the Obama administration’s vehicle pollution standard had signed a deal with California to comply with its tighter emissions standards, even if the broader rollback goes through.
If other automakers signed on to the deal, as California has encouraged them to do, it would render Mr. Trump’s rollback moot.
Last week, Mr. Wheeler sent a pair of highly unusual letters to Sacramento. One noted that California has the nation’s largest backlog of incomplete or inactive state-level plans to address certain types of air pollution and threatened to impose penalties such as withholding highway funds if the backlog is not addressed. While many other states have similar backlogs, none have received such letters, according to Miles Keough, head of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
The second letter accused the state of failing in its obligations to meet clean water standards, accusing it of “deficiencies that have led to public health concerns.” Again the E.P.A. issued a veiled threat that federal funding could be at risk.
But data on the E.P.A.’s own website indicates that at least 40 states have a higher percentage of water systems in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act than California.
Keith Ellison, the attorney general of Minnesota, said he saw in Mr. Wheeler’s letters an implicit threat to any state at odds with Mr. Trump’s deregulatory agenda. “Those letters just look like rank retaliation, punishment,” Mr. Ellison said. “It’s the most abusive approach to states’ rights that I’ve ever seen.”