Bloomberg-backed group sends staff to states fighting Trump

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2017

The attorneys general of six states and the District of Columbia are getting some reinforcements in their battle against the Trump administration’s environmental policies.

The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, founded in August at New York University Law School, said legal fellows would be dispatched to seven selected offices to work as “special assistant attorneys general.” They will focus on “clean energy,” climate and broader environmental topics, nationally and regionally, the center said.

The NYU effort is backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies — the eponymous charity of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and led by former Obama administration Interior official David Hayes. They announced in August that they’d be working to coordinate the efforts of attorneys general and sending NYU Law fellows to help states (Greenwire, Aug. 17).

The seven attorney general’s offices now slated to get fellows in the “initial phase” of the program are in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Washington and Washington, D.C. All seven of those attorneys general are Democrats.

Chris Moyer, a spokesman for the center, said other states are applying for fellowships, adding that the center is nonpartisan.

“They will be working in AG offices,” he said of the fellows, “like any other employee in many ways.”

Democrats at the state level are grappling with the Trump administration over matters that affect the environment. They’ve been filing lawsuits against U.S. EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy and other agencies.

“State AGs are fighting not just for the environmental values we cherish, but for the application of the rule of law,” Hayes said in September (Greenwire, Sept. 27).

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in an interview that his office is getting two fellows. Because his office has to get budget approval from the Maryland Legislature, it can be hard to dedicate staffers in his office to environmental work, Frosh said.

“We don’t have people that can take on these actions,” Frosh added. “We’ve been patching things together to take on EPA and Interior.”

The fellows will be able to devote their time to environmental issues, including matters before the federal government. “It’s terrific,” Frosh said. “I think it’s money that will be extremely well-spent.”

Frosh said short-term thinking is a hallmark of the Trump administration. “They will look at what the most profit-seeking businesses care about,” he said.

Robert Marus, a spokesman for the D.C. attorney general’s office, said his office is getting one fellow. And Emalie Gainey, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, said two fellows would work under Healey.

“We are excited to welcome these staff members as we continue to lead efforts to combat climate change and enforce the laws that protect our air and water,” Gainey said.