States, cities oppose Trump bid to stall litigation

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2018

In her first full day on the job, New York’s acting attorney general stood firmly today against Trump administration efforts to unravel the Clean Power Plan.

Barbara Underwood, who was sworn in yesterday afternoon, led a coalition of states and cities in a court brief opposing the administration’s request to further delay litigation over the Obama-era climate rule.

“This office’s commitment to protecting New Yorkers from the devastating impacts of climate change is unwavering,” Underwood said in a statement. “Our coalition has long fought to defend the Clean Power Plan, including strongly opposing the EPA’s efforts to block court review of its legality.”

Underwood was named acting attorney general after former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned Monday over allegations that he abused and was violent to four women.

Schneiderman had led states in opposing the Trump administration’s deregulatory actions. Today’s brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, signals that Underwood will continue the fight and push for climate action.

The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Led by West Virginia, numerous states and industry entities challenged the rule in the D.C. Circuit. A New York-led coalition of states sided with EPA.

The court put the litigation on hold in April 2017 to allow the Trump EPA time to figure out what it wanted to do with the rule.

The Trump administration last year announced plans to repeal the rule and has sought comment on whether it should be replaced. The D.C. Circuit has since extended the hold on the litigation.

The brief filed today by the states and cities argues the Trump administration has displayed a “lack of urgency” in acting on the rule. EPA is trying to “stave off judicial review of the legality of the Clean Power Plan,” the brief says.

“It has now been over a year since this court’s April 2017 grant of EPA’s initial motion for abeyance premised on additional rulemaking,” the brief says, “and EPA has neither completed a rulemaking nor even committed to a deadline for doing so.”

Joining New York on the brief: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Several cities, including New York, also signed on to the brief. Environmental groups filed their own brief opposing any additional delay in the litigation, which was argued in front of the full D.C. Circuit in September 2016.

“We continue to appeal to the D.C. Circuit to reject the Trump EPA’s weak promises related to repealing (and possibly replacing) the Clean Power Plan at some undisclosed future date — and rule on legal merits of this critically important measure,” Underwood said.