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State Attorney Generals Attack Trump’s EPA Over Clean Power Plan Advice

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As promised, the left-leaning states are carrying through with their promises to bring about carbon reductions not just in their jurisdictions but also nationally. To that end, the attorney generals in such states as California, Illinois and New York have written EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt letters stating that his advice to states that wish to delay their implementation of the Clean Power Plan is both ill-advised and terribly conflicted.

The Clean Power Plan, of course, is now caught up in the courts. And while Pruitt has told the states that they do not need to follow through on the implementation schedule during this time, the Democratic attorney generals say that the plan remains the “law of the land.” That is because is has not been overturned and because the Trump administration has offered no alternatives, all while the US Supreme Court has previously said that the so-called “endangerment finding” is lawful — the ruling that says CO2 is harmful to human health and the environment.

The Clean Power Plan would require 32% cuts in CO2 emissions by 2030, from 2005 levels. The country is about half way there, largely because of the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity. President Trump signed an executive order in March that attempts to prevent the federal government from enforcing such actions, although it does not carry any legal weight. Meantime, his EPA administrator, Pruitt, had been the lead attorney to sue EPA while he was attorney general of Oklahoma, which is a conflict of interest that Pruitt had said prevents his involvement in this matter.

“As the governors of Washington, Oregon and California and the mayors of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, we speak today in unified opposition to President Trump’s Executive Order withdraw and rewrite the Clean Power Plan,” 17 attorney generals said when the executive order was written. “We won’t let the president’s misguided decision limit our region’s economic opportunities or our commitment to doing what’s right to make our cities and states cleaner and healthier for future generations.”

“We speak as a region of over 50 million people with a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion. There is no question that to act on climate is to act in our best economic interests,” the statement concludes. “Through expanded climate policies, we have grown jobs and expanded our economies while cleaning our air.”

They take issue with EPA Administrator’s advice to the states that while the Clean Power Plan is being litigated, the states do not have to meet the timetables set by the ruling.

Initially, 27  states petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a pause and in February 2016, the High Court obliged. It then sent the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which heard it in September 2016. 

While that court has allowed some delays, its ruling says that it will not simply dismiss the plan — that the Trump administration must come up with alternative proposal. The reasoning is the Supreme Court has already said that EPA has proven CO2 is a pollutant under the so-called endangerment finding. Just what the Trump administration would propose is unknown, given that it has sought to have the ruling completely tossed.

“States and other interested parties have neither been required nor expected to work towards meeting the compliance dates set in the Clean Power Plan,” EPA Administrator Pruitt wrote in March. “It is the policy of the EPA that the states have no obligation to spend resources to comply with a rule that has been stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States.”

The state effort tries to trump the Trump administration — by acting to reduce their CO2 emissions in accordance with the Paris climate agreement signed in December 15. To that end, California, wants to reduce its CO2 levels by 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels. New York has a similar goal. Transitioning to renewables is one way. Using its existing cap-and-trade system — a system allowing businesses to trade carbon — is another.

“We’re very confident that the EPA cannot simply dismantle the CPP and leave nothing in its place,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon, as quoted in The Hill. “We regret the fact that the president is trying to bow back history. But it’s not going to happen. The markets are moving. The states are moving.”

States with a heavy coal presence, however, support the president’s efforts to either tear apart or water down the Clean Power Plan. That includes those states that either mine coal or that depend on it to generate electricity.

“The so-called Clean Power Plan would have subjected Americans to higher electricity costs and could have weakened the nation’s power grid,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement.

The Clean Power Plan is expected to get a favorable ruling at the DC Court of Appeals. That’s because that court has previously decided in favor of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. It will then get appealed and the US Supreme Court will take another look at it. There, however, its fate is uncertain: The justices were tied at 4-to-4 but the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch could tilt the balance. Does it matter?

Nearly half of the Fortune 500, however, is taking steps to track and reduce their carbon emissions. Those companies are also trying to improve energy efficiencies and to increase their consumption of renewable energy, according to the Power Forward 3.0 report. And as the cost of the technologies and the fuels drop, companies are striving to do more and more. Some of the companies included are: Bank of America, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, IBM, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Kellogg Company and Wal-Mart Stores.

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