Attorneys General of 15 States Plan Court Action if Trump Scraps Clean Power Plan

Saturday, December 31, 2016
Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General (photo: Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

By Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service


MANHATTAN (CN) — If President-elect Donald Trump withdraws from the Clean Power Plan, his administration will meet 15 states battered by climate change in court, a coalition of attorneys general warned.


No sooner had President Barack Obama called the Clean Power Plan “the single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change” last year than his Republican antagonists vowed to defeat it.


Unveiled in August 2015, the plan envisioned a 32 percent reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants across the nation by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.


When the Environmental Protection Agency published its guidelines months later, West Virginia and Texas led roughly two dozen states in a lawsuit that went up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily blocked Obama’s plan until the courts had resolved it.


A deciding vote on sharply divided 5-4 order to stay Obama’s plan had been Justice Antonin Scalia, an archconservative who died less than a week after siding with the majority, in one of his last and most fateful decisions.


States that supported Obama’s vision have been trying to enact it independent of a federal mandate, but have continued to come under Republican opposition.


West Virginia had urged the incoming Trump administration — in a letter to Vice President-elect Mike Pence — to unravel the remnants of the plan by executive order on day one of his presidency.


But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, together with 14 other states and four localities, promised litigation should Trump choose that path.


“Our states and local governments are on the front lines of climate change,” their four-page letter to Trump begins. “We see firsthand the significant human and economic costs inflicted by unchecked carbon pollution: whether it is harms from severe drought in California, catastrophic storm surge in New York City, a record deluge on the Front Range in Colorado, routine high tide flooding in Hampton Roads, Virginia and in South Florida, or diminished shellfish harvest in Oregon or Washington State.”


Other attorneys general signing the Dec. 28 letter represent California, New Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, Vermont, Iowa, Virginia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington and the District of Columbia.


City attorneys and mayors of Boulder, Colo., New York City, South Miami and Broward County, Fla., also signed on.


As 2016 draws to a close, rising global temperatures have altered the landscape of several U.S. states, not only including the letter’s signatories.


In Alaska, melting ice has opened up the once-fabled Northwest Passage, but the heavily oil-invested state did not sign onto Schneiderman’s letter.


Calling the Clean Power Plan a “blueprint for the critical action needed to fight climate change’s devastating environmental, economic, and public health impacts,” Schneiderman estimated that the current rule for existing power plants would eliminate climate-change pollution equivalent to the emissions of more than 160 million cars annually — or 70 percent of those on U.S. roads.


“The science is clear and far too much is at stake to turn back the clock on our climate efforts,” the attorney general added.


Schneiderman’s letter ends with a warning to Trump should he attack the plan via executive order.


“In summary, we advocate that you reject misguided advice that the Clean Power Plan be discarded; advice that, if followed, would assuredly lead to more litigation,” the letter concludes. “Instead, we urge you to support the defense of this critically-important rule and the implementation of its carefully-constructed strategies to reduce emissions from the nation’s largest sources.”


Despite promising to keep an “open mind” on climate change, Trump has long attacked rising global temperatures as a hoax, and he has appointed fossil fuel executives and environmental opponents to top cabinet posts.


His choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is ExxonMobil’s CEO, and his picks for the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, and the Department of Energy, ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have long records of denying climate change.


To Learn More:

Water Wars on Horizon as Trump-Emboldened Forces Target Clean Water Rules (by Greg Bluestein, New York Times)

Nation’s Top Climate-Change Fighter, California, is ready to roll up Sleeves and Go It Alone (by Adam Nagourney and Henry Fountain, New York Times)

            Will Trump Scrap NASA’s Climate Research Mission? (by Andrew Revkin, ProPublica)


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