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News Releases

News Releases from HeadquartersOffice of the Administrator (AO)

EPA Administrator Wheeler calls out California’s Environmental Protection Failure

State’s homelessness crisis threatens human health and the environment

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EPA Press Office ( )

WASHINGTON (Sept. 26, 2019) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom raising several issues with the state’s failure to protect Californians from degraded water, outlining deficiencies that have led to significant public health concerns in California and the steps the state must take to address them.

“California needs to fulfill its obligation to protect its water bodies and, more importantly, public health, and it should take this letter as notice that EPA is going to insist that it meets its environmental obligations,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “If California does not step up to its delegated responsibilities, then EPA will be forced to take action.”

For years, California has pushed policies that have resulted in a homelessness crisis that now threatens human health and the environment, with potential water quality impacts from pathogens and other contaminants from untreated human waste entering nearby waters. California has been responsible for implementing the water discharge permitting program under the Clean Water Act since 1973; however, the state’s recent lack of urgency addressing serious issues in San Francisco resulting from lack of proper oversight and enforcement is concerning. This, among other issues identified in the administrator’s letter, is a failure to properly implement federal programs and has resulted in the subsequent need for more direct EPA oversight to ensure human health and environmental protection.

Administrator Wheeler also raised concerns about the state’s years long approval of the discharges of over 1 billion gallons per year of combined sewage and stormwater into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Despite California having abundant financial resources – which includes a significant tax base and EPA providing over $1 billion in federal grants and a $699 million loan through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act – San Francisco has not come into compliance with federal clean water standards and must still invest billions of additional dollars to modernize its sewer system.

California has 30 days to provide a written response to EPA outlining in detail how it intends to address the concerns and deficiencies identified in the letter.

To read the full letter, click here.

For more information about EPA’s clean water programs, click here.