Thursday, August 24, 2017

State Lawyers Use Pruitt's Playbook Against Him — by Suing

Democratic state attorneys general are gearing up to oppose the Trump administration’s positions on climate change. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is pictured. (Credit: Office of California Attorney General) Click to Enlarge.
Now, as President Trump's EPA administrator, Pruitt is on the flip side, facing a legal onslaught from Democratic attorneys general he's long sparred against in court.  And as Pruitt attempts to use his new position to unravel Obama-era climate rules he's long fought, his foes are hoping attorneys general who oppose Trump will take a page from Pruitt's past playbook.

Among those urging a states-based bulwark against Trump's climate change agenda are former top Obama administration officials, environmental lawyers, and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, New York City's former mayor.

State lawsuits against the new administration's environmental policies are already piling up as Democratic attorneys general seize on climate change as a central battleground in their legal war with President Trump.  Bloomberg and former Obama administration officials have launched a new effort to help states fight any efforts to roll back climate and environmental policies.  And with both chambers of Congress held by Republicans, many see attorneys general as the left's best hope for contesting Trump's climate change agenda.

"The role of state attorney generals is uniquely important," said David Hayes, former Interior deputy secretary during the Obama and Clinton administrations.  "AGs have enormous credibility and standing to represent the citizens of their state when it comes to environmental and health-related issues."

Hayes is the executive director of the newly launched State Impact Center at the New York University Law School.  The group's mission is to help AGs "fight against regulatory roll-backs and other actions that undermine key clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections."  The center is funded by nearly $6 million in grant money from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity of the former New York mayor and environmentalist.

Hayes emphasized that the new venture is nonpartisan and is open to working with Republican attorneys general "who care about and are interested in a progressive environmental clean energy and climate change agenda."  But, he added, "unfortunately, these days, it seems as though these issues have fallen along partisan lines."

State attorneys general have long been active in big lawsuits that set federal climate policies.

Take the high-profile lawsuit Massachusetts v. EPA, for example, in which a 2007 Supreme Court opinion was issued determining that EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  In that case, Massachusetts and other states were challenging the George W. Bush administration's argument that the Clean Air Act didn't allow the agency to clamp down on those emissions.  The court's decision paved the way for the Obama administration to issue greenhouse gas limits.

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