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Schneiderman leads 27-member State, County, & City coalition in defending Clean Power Plan

PRESS RELEASE

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, leading a 27-member coalition of states, counties, and cities, today filed comments opposing the Trump administration’s “unlawful and unsupported” proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the first nationwide emission limits on existing fossil fuel-burning power plants. Attorney General Schneiderman – who has long led the coalition that intervened in defense of the Clean Power Plan – has made clear that he will sue if the Trump administration finalizes the repeal.
In comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in response to its proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the coalition charges that the proposal is “unsupported by the facts or law” – not only ignoring the Plan’s increasingly compelling scientific underpinnings, but also the Agency’s obligations to regulate power plant emissions of existing power plants under the federal Clean Air Act. The coalition also charges that EPA’s newly revised analysis of the economic impacts of the Clean Power Plan is error-filled, and amounts to “a thinly-veiled attempt to provide factual support for its predetermined conclusion to repeal the [Plan].”
“Climate change is having an increasingly devastating impact on our communities. Yet the Trump EPA is, unconscionably, moving to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which limits one of the largest sources of climate change pollution – existing power plants,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The law and the science are clear. The Trump EPA’s efforts to dismantle this vital measure once again demonstrate that they’re more committed to pleasing the fossil fuel industry than protecting the health, safety, and wallets of New Yorkers and Americans. As we’ve made clear, if the Trump EPA refuses to protect those they serve and abandons this unlawful and unsupported repeal of the Clean Power Plan, we’ll see them in court.”
Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in today’s comments are the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and the chief legal officers of the cities of Boulder (Colorado), Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and South Miami (Florida), and the county of Broward (Florida).
In their comments, the coalition compares constrained vision of “the nation’s most protective environmental statute” – the Clean Air Act – newly adopted by the Trump EPA to “a horse with blinders (if not a blindfold)” that “completely ignores the dire threat climate change poses, the interconnected nature of power plants, and the nature of the pollutant (carbon dioxide) that is the subject of regulation.” Specifically, the coalition challenges the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan on a number of fronts, including that:
  • Scientific reports issued after the Clean Power Plan was finalized provide further demonstration of the critical need to promptly and sharply cut climate change pollution from power plants and other large sources.
  • The Clean Air Act is clear in requiring EPA to set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants.  The Trump EPA’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plant – without simultaneously replacing it – would violate the Act.
  • Legal arguments being made by the Trump EPA in support of its proposed repeal were carefully considered and rejected when raised in the Clean Power Plan rulemaking. As nothing has changed to now make these arguments meritorious, the proposed repeal is both contrary to the Clean Air Act, and arbitrary and capricious.
  • The Trump EPA’s revised analysis on the economic impacts of the Clean Power Plan contains numerous errors, and systematically underestimates the benefits of the Clean Power Plan while exaggerating its costs.
States, counties, and cities are on the front lines of climate change. The coalition submitted with its comments an appendix highlighting the threats they are facing. For example, among the harms that New York faces from climate change are:
  • Flooding Worsened by Sea Level Rise.  The more than 12 inches of sea level rise New York City has experienced since 1900 expanded 2012 Hurricane Sandy’s flood area by about 25 square miles, flooding the homes of an additional 80,000 people in the New York City area alone. The costs of Hurricane Sandy to New York alone will likely top $40 billion, including $32.8 billion to repair and restore damaged housing, parks, and infrastructure and to cover economic losses and other expenses.
  • More Extreme Storms. In 2014, Long Island received more than 13 ½ inches of rain – nearly an entire summer’s worth – in a matter of hours, breaking the state’s rainfall record.  That deluge flooded over 1,000 homes and businesses, opened massive sinkholes on area roadways, and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate to safer ground. Attorney General Schneiderman released a report in 2014 entitled “Current and Future Trends in Extreme Rainfall Across New York State” that highlights dramatic increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme rain storms across New York.
  • More premature deaths and asthma attacks from smog. Continuing increases in climate change pollution are predicted to lead to higher ozone concentrations in the New York metropolitan region, driving up the number of ozone-related emergency room visits for asthma in the area by 7.3 percent – more than 50 additional ozone-related emergency room visits per year in the 2020s, compared to the 1990s.
The Clean Power Plan 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, along with the companion rule applicable to new, modified, and reconstructed power plants, will control these emissions by setting limits on the amount of climate change pollution that power plants can emit. The Clean Power Plan is 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.
Earlier this week, the Attorney General’s and New York City Mayor’s offices delivered testimony from their “People’s Hearing” on the Clean Power Plan to the EPA. The testimony can be read here.
This matter is being handled for the Attorney General by Assistant Attorney General Brian Lusignan, Affirmative Section Chief Morgan A. Costello, Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers, and Chief Scientist Alan Belensz of the Environmental Protection Bureau, and Chief Economist Dr. Peter A. Malaspina. The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Matthew Colangelo.