December 9, 2019
Contact: Tom Lalley

New Report: State Attorneys General Reach Milestone in Defense of Health and Environmental Laws

Attorneys general reach 300 legal and regulatory actions, blunting many severe consequences of the Trump administration’s worst rollbacks, but more actions lie ahead.

Washington, D.C. — A new report from the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law details the 300 legal and regulatory actions that state attorneys general have now taken in defense of clean energy and environmental laws and policies since the start of the Trump administration, and the profound consequences the administration’s regulatory rollbacks will have unless stopped. The report, 300 and Counting: State Attorneys General Lead the Fight for Health and the Environment, was released today at a press conference in Washington, D.C. with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. The Center today also launched a new Attorney General Actions database that allows users to sort AG actions by state, targeted agency, issue, action type and document type.
The report examines the AGs’ response to some of the administration’s most serious assaults on the environment in six key areas:

  • The Failure to Confront Climate Change
  • The Reversion to Dirtier, Unhealthy Air Quality
  • The Weakening of Clean Water Protections
  • The Exploitation of Our Public Lands & Wildlife
  • The Undermining of Clean Energy & Energy Efficiency
  • The Failure to Keep Americans Safe from Chemical Accidents and Dangerous Toxics

Of these areas, state attorneys general have taken the most actions in defense of legal requirements to combat climate change. The report highlights how the administration’s rollbacks are setting the stage for significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions from the sources of nearly half of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions – 37% more emissions from the electric power sector; 100% more emissions from passenger cars and light-duty trucks; and 53% more emissions from the oil and gas sector – and how attorneys general are mounting multiple administrative and judicial challenges in response.
The AGs’ 300 actions have created a defensive shield that, to date, has blunted the worst of the administration’s anti-environmental agenda that would impose an enormous economic, public health and environmental cost on the public. As the report details, these costs come in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars in forgone benefits from rolled-back energy efficiency standards, and severe health impacts such as millions of additional asthma attacks and tens of thousands of additional premature deaths as the result of weakened air quality standards.
“With an administration beholden to the fossil fuel industry and denying climate change — states must continue to lead the fight against efforts to dismantle our progress towards a clean energy future,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “Reaching this milestone of 300 actions shows that we stand on the side of science, the rule of law, and protecting our environment for generations to come.”
“With a record number of natural disasters and lives on the line, we can’t afford to sit back as President Trump’s team tears apart our environmental progress and puts public health increasingly at risk,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “This report makes it clear: we will turn to every tool possible to fight back, for the sake of protecting our children's health and defending our decades of progress. While the world meets in Madrid to map out climate action, we’re fighting to keep America’s existing promises intact, sometimes as the only barrier to President Trump taking us backwards.”
“State attorneys general take little joy in reaching the milestone of 300 legal actions in defense of the environment, but our hands have been forced by the Trump administration’s reckless rollbacks that are contrary to the mission and purpose of the nation’s environmental laws,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. “We will continue to act whenever our natural resources and our communities are threatened, and when the administration ignores clear evidence and the law.”
“This report underscores the critical role of state attorneys general in standing up to the Trump administration’s across-the-board effort to undercut the nation’s bedrock health, safety and environmental laws, and to expose the administration’s efforts for what they are: unsupportable, poorly reasoned attempts to twist the law and the facts so that fossil fuel and other industry interests can shift climate and conventional pollution risks to the rest of us,” said David J. Hayes, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “State attorneys general will not stop at 300 actions. More danger lies ahead; the fight is far from over against an administration that is brazenly using the very laws Congress passed to protect health and then environment to give an undeserved and unlawful pass to major polluting industries.”
The report released today is a follow-up to an earlier report by the State Impact Center that focused on a suite of environmental regulatory rollbacks that would negatively impact state clean air and climate change interests by easing restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from major sources in the coal, oil and gas, and automotive industries.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
For more information, visit our website