SAN FRANCISCO — Just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom praised the federal government for its response to catastrophic wildfires and power outages affecting millions, President Donald Trump on Sunday slammed the California Democrat — and threatened to cut off future federal funding to the fire-battered state.
Trump, in a spate of postings on Twitter, lambasted what he called Newsom’s “terrible job” regarding the state’s forest management practices, saying that the governor should stop listening to environmentalist “bosses” and “clean” the forest floors. And he also slammed Newsom for state water-management practices, suggesting that California must open up what he called “ridiculously closed water lanes.”
Saying Newsom had repeatedly requested federal funds, Trump threatened to cut him off.
“Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing—and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more,” the president tweeted.
He then tweaked Newsom’s leadership: “Get your act together Governor.”
The governor responded a short time later.
“We’re successfully waging war against thousands of fires started across the state in the last few weeks due to extreme weather created by climate change while Trump is conducting a full on assault against the antidotes,” he told POLITICO in a statement.
His office also pushed back hard against Trump, noting that the governor’s fire prevention and management projects included an investment of $225.8 million to help streamline programs specifically aimed at “reducing fuels in the forest, increasing forest health, and defensible space around homes.’’ The governor’s office in addition said that there were currently 35 priority projects in addition to the redeployment of National Guard personnel to assist the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in controlling the fires.
Newsom in recent weeks has laid into PG&E, the investor-owned utility that has been blamed for sparking catastrophic fires because of its outdated equipment and failed infrastructure. He has said he may explore a takeover of the utility unless it emerges from bankruptcy with a solid plan to protect California homeowners and consumers and avoid widespread outages before the 2020 fire season.
Sunday was not the first time the president has vowed to withdraw federal funding from the state — though he has never made good on the threat. He did so back in January, saying that “unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money.”
After that tweet, following the Paradise-based Camp Fire, which killed more than 80 people, Newsom responded that “disasters and recovery are no time for politics,’’ and said the state was working hard to “modernize and manage our forest and emergency responses.”
Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, cited the governor’s leadership in directing the agency to pursue 35 priority projects to reduce wildfire risk in vulnerable communities. That’s in addition to Cal Fire’s regularly scheduled prescribed burns and fuel reductions, he added.
“We are in a good place, and we’re very active,” McLean said.
He added that California experienced one of its “best winters in a long time,” meaning that state firefighters now had enough water access to combat blazes. McLean also noted that oversight of the state’s land was divided between local governments, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service — meaning that the Trump-controlled federal agency had some responsibility for the current situation, too.
Trump’s string of tweets on California kicked off Sunday with: “The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers.”
He finished: “But our teams are working well together in….. …putting these massive, and many, fires out. Great firefighters! Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!”
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