AG Actions Spotlight: Taking on the Climate Crisis

September 17, 2019

Democrats know we need to confront the reality of climate change. Early in September, Democratic candidates for president participated in CNN’s climate town hall. And this week, the 2020 hopefuls will be at MSNBC/Georgetown University’s joint forum on climate. There is finally an intense spotlight around climate and our planet’s health in the lead up to the 2020 election.

This is critically important as the Trump administration actively takes steps to weaken critical environmental protections. But while Democratic candidates for president are talking about the importance of climate action, Democratic Attorneys General are stepping up to protect our environment and stop bad policies from taking effect.

In fact, since 2017, Democratic AGs have taken more than 250 actions related to climate, clean energy, and environmental issues on behalf of the American peoplethat includes more than 60 lawsuits brought by state Attorneys General. According to the Washington Post, Demcoratic Attorneys General “victories are piling up.”


1. Fighting Trump’s “Dirty Power Plan”

In June 2019, President Trump announced his EPA would be scrapping President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, for a more coal-friendly plan that Democratic AGs dubbed the “Dirty Power Plan.”

23 Democratic AGs led by New York AG Tish James are suing the Trump administration over their proposed harmful changes noting, “Rather than staying the course with policies aimed at fixing the problem and protecting people’s health, safety, and the environment, the Trump Administration repealed the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with this ‘Dirty Power rule.”

2. Fighting Off-Shore Drilling

In November 2018, the National Marine Fisheries Service, under the new direction of the Trump administration, authorized 5 private companies permits to use air guns for seismic testing, in search of oil and gas across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

Less than one month later, 9 Democratic AGs from up and down the East Coast intervened in a lawsuit to stop seismic testing from taking place in the Atlantic Ocean. North Carolina AG Josh Stein, who is leading the effort, said, “I will continue to do everything in my power to protect our state’s coast.”


3. Defending Fuel Efficiency Standards

In 2018, the Trump administration illegally attempted to delay a rule that increased the penalty imposed on automakers whose vehicle fleets do not meet minimum fuel efficiency standards.  With a lower penalty, automakers would lack a vital incentive to manufacture fuel efficient vehicles. Democratic AGs led by California AG Xavier Becerra sued (and won) and thus the administration was forced to implement the rule. Now, they are working to rewrite them altogether.

In August 2019, 13 Democratic AGs again sued the Trump administration to ensure that automakers aren’t rewarded for failing to manufacture fuel-efficient vehicles. New York AG Tish James said, “Without strong penalties for violating these fuel efficiency standards consumers, our economy, and our environment all remain in danger.”


4. Defending Endangered Species Act

In July 2019, the Trump administration proposed a rule weakening the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, which would limit protections for already at-risk animals and plants. This comes after 10 Democratic AGs submitted a joint comment letter describing the flaws with the proposed rollbacks.

Immediately, California AG Xavier Becerra & Massachusetts AG Maura Healey announced they would be suing the Trump administration following the release of the rule. “By gutting key components of the Endangered Species Act, one of our country’s most successful environmental laws, the Trump Administration is putting our most imperiled species and our vibrant local tourism and recreation industries at risk,” said AG Healey.


5. Defending Clean Air & Clean Water

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed a rollback of the “Clean Water Act.” Rolling back this regulation would end oversight of 15% of steams and more than half of the nation’s wetlands. In September, the Trump administration announced that the EPA would be issuing a final rule rescinding the Clean Water Rule. California AG Xavier Becerra said, “While we don’t go looking for a fight, there’s too much at stake for us to let this go. We’re prepared to defend the Clean Water Rule.”

Earlier this year, 15 Democratic AGs filed a comment letter warning that the Trump agencies have “reduced protections for tributaries, adjacent waters, wetlands and other important water resources that significantly affect down stream waters.”

21 Democratic AGs sued the Trump administration in August for easing restrictions on coal-fired power plants, saying that the new rule violates the Clean Air Act because “it does not meaningfully replace power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions.”

Regardless of the gridlock in Washington, Democratic Attorneys General have continued to prioritize fighting the ongoing climate crisis.

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