Attorneys General Continue to Battle the Trump Administration Over Environmental Regulations

Democratic Attorneys General have continued their efforts to combat the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back environmental regulations developed under the Obama administration in two recent actions. Thirteen AGs, including Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, sent a letter last week to Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, threatening legal action if the agency takes steps to weaken or delay the greenhouse gas emissions standards that were established in 2012 for cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2022-2025. A coalition of states led by democratic AGs also filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the Northern District of California against the Department of Energy on Tuesday, alleging that the agency’s failure to publish final energy efficiency standards for five categories of appliances and industrial equipment violates several federal laws.

The dispute regarding GHG emissions standards for light-duty vehicles began in March when Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Administrator Pruitt announced that the EPA would revisit the Midterm Evaluation process, which is required by the GHG emissions regulations. While the EPA had issued a Final Determination of the Midterm Evaluation on January 12 that left in place the unaltered emissions standards for model years 2022-2025, the agency now intends to make a new Final Determination by April 2018.

In their letter to Administrator Pruitt, the AGs responded to a May letter from Pruitt to California Governor Jerry Brown in which Pruitt argued that the first Midterm Evaluation process was legally flawed. Pruitt claimed that the EPA did not allow sufficient opportunity for public comment, did not submit a draft Technical Assessment Report and draft decision to the Office of Management and Budget, and acted prematurely. The AGs countered that the evaluation was “lawful and fully supported by the record” and that EPA concluded that “the current standards are feasible at a reasonable cost, will achieve significant carbon dioxide emissions reductions, and will provide significant economic and environmental benefits to consumers.” The letter stating the signatories’ intent to “vigorously pursue appropriate legal remedies” to preserve the current emissions standards was signed by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Many of those same attorneys general brought suit on behalf of the people of their states claiming that the DOE is violating the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the Federal Register Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to publish in the Federal Register the energy efficiency standards for portable air conditioners, uninterruptable power supplies, walk-in coolers and freezers, commercial boilers, and air compressors, which the plaintiffs allege were required to be published by March 15. The complaint states that DOE’s failure to finalize the standards undermines their interest in, among other things, increased energy efficiency and reduced energy use within their jurisdictions, and protecting their populations and environments. In May, the DOE published a final rule regarding the energy conservation standards for ceiling fans after plaintiffs filed similar lawsuits challenging delayed energy efficiency standards. Tuesday’s suit was brought by California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and the City of New York.

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