AG Becerra: President Trump’s Attempt to Gut Clean Power Plan Foolish, Unlawful; We’ll Prove It in Court

EPA’s rollback and alternative plan will significantly increase emissions

SACRAMENTO, Aug. 13, 2019 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Governor Gavin Newsom, and Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols today — as part of a coalition of 22 states, the District of Columbia, and six local governments — filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan and its replacement rule, the so-called Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. The ACE Rule, a toothless substitute finalized on June 19, 2019, does nothing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or to promote clean energy generation. Instead, the new rule, termed by many as the “Dirty Power Plan”, is merely designed to dismantle the Clean Power Plan and protect coal and gas companies from any serious limits on climate change emissions from power plants. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the repeal of the plan and the replacement rule violate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) duty under the Clean Air Act and are arbitrary and capricious.

“President Trump’s attempt to gut our nation’s Clean Power Plan is foolish. It’s also unlawful,” said Attorney General Becerra. “His fossil fuel protection plan fails everyone who stands for cleaner air. And it fails our economy, which depends on clean energy now more than ever.  We know what our energy future must look like, and we won’t get there by following President Trump’s misguided proposal. Because we’re prepared to confront the climate crisis head-on, we’re prepared to confront President Trump head on in court.”

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“Climate change is a global threat that endangers our lives and livelihoods – polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink,” said Governor Newsom. “Now is a time for bold action, not for ripping up a decade-long effort that would reduce carbon pollution from one of the largest and most important sources of greenhouse gas emissions. With this legal action, California is once again standing up for common sense rules that protect the people and our planet. As the Trump Administration attempts to drag us backwards in the fight for our children’s futures, California will continue advancing the cause of American climate leadership.”

“Yesterday Governor Newsom released results of our latest inventory showing that we are now at zero carbon power fifty percent of the time,” said CARB Chair Nichols. “Those statistics translate into healthier lungs for our children and show the way to stop global warming. The ACE plan tries to reverse the progress California and other states are making and to keep the oldest and dirtiest coal plants on life support. It fails the tests of law and economics.”

The Trump Administration’s new rule would repeal the Clean Power Plan, which is the culmination of a decade-long effort by partnering states and cities to require mandatory cuts in the emissions of climate change pollution from fossil fuel-burning power plants under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Power Plan was expected to eliminate as much climate change pollution as is emitted by more than 160 million cars a year – or 70 percent of the nation’s passenger cars – and was estimated to prevent up to 3,600 additional deaths annually.

In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that:

  • The ACE Rule violates the EPA’s duty under the Clean Air Act to address carbon pollution from power plants, as the replacement ACE Rule does not meaningfully reduce power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions;
  • The rule attempts to artificially narrow the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act, which runs contrary to Congress’s intent that the EPA have broad authority to address monumental sources of energy and air pollution; and
  • The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to utilize the best systems of emissions reduction possible – the ACE Rule does the opposite.

California stands as a strong leader in protecting the Clean Power Plan. Attorney General Becerra issued a statement in March 2017 confirming his intention to defend the Clean Power Plan. In February 2018, he defended the Clean Power Plan in an EPA listening session in San Francisco. In August 2018, he issued a strong statement upon the announcement of the Trump Administration’s proposal to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Attorney General Becerra then joined a comment letter sharply criticizing the Trump Administration’s proposed alternative. On December 21, 2018, Attorney General Becerra entered the Fourth National Climate Assessment into the rulemaking records, further reinforcing the state coalition’s arguments for maintaining the standards to reduce emissions and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

The multistate coalition, which has opposed the Trump Administration’s wrong-headed assault on the Clean Power Plan, includes the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, and the chief legal officers of Boulder, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and South Miami.

A copy of the complaint is available here and here.