by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Environmental Protection Agency has reduced a backlog of proposed air quality regulations after California withdrew dozens of outdated plans under pressure.
The Obama-era EPA routinely failed to process plans to address air pollution submitted by states within the 18-month deadline, leaving more than 370 plans pending EPA approval in January 2019. The delay threatened the health of millions of Americans living in areas with poor air quality. Since then, the Trump administration has aggressively chipped away at this backlog, asking states to withdraw inadequate, unnecessary, or outdated plans that don’t meet EPA standards.
California submitted roughly a third of the plans stuck in bureaucratic limbo—the most of any state—prompting the agency to demand in September that it withdraw many of its “backlogged and unapprovable” plans. The agency threatened to cut off funding for federal highways along with a litany of other sanctions for any state that did not comply. The strategy has been effective. California has withdrawn 43 noncompliant air pollution plans, some dating back more than a decade.
The EPA has blamed California for the bureaucratic backlog—just 11 withdrawn plans originated in the other 49 states.