Led by New York AG Letitia James, State Attorneys General Around the Country Promise to Sue EPA Over Clean Power Plan Repeal

State AGs across the country promise to take aggressive legal action in the face of the Trump administration’s finalization of the so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" rule.

The "Fossil Fuel Protection Plan" unlawfully undermines the agency’s statutory obligations under the Clean Air Act, increases dangerous climate pollution and puts vulnerable populations at risk.


June 19, 2019
Contact: Christopher Gray

Washington, D.C. — Today, New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of state attorneys general around the country in promising to sue the Trump administration following the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finalization of the so-called “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule. The ACE rule formally repeals the Clean Power Plan and replaces it with a plan that will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. electricity sector by 2030.
“The EPA’s so-called ‘Affordable Clean Energy’ rule neither promotes clean energy nor is affordable by any measure to the average American,” said New York Attorney General James. “It is yet another prime example of the Trump Administration’s weak attempt to deny that climate change has caused—and will continue to cause—devastating impacts on both the safety and health of all Americans and the economy. This catastrophic rule will prop up dirty and expensive coal power plants, undercut clean and sustainable electricity, and leave New Yorkers and all other Americans to foot the bill. Given its clear violation of the Clean Air Act, I intend to sue the EPA over this ‘Dirty Power’ rule and look forward to collaborating with other states and cities in taking action to protect all Americans from the increasingly disastrous impacts of climate change.”
The Trump administration announced its final rule this morning at a press conference held in the EPA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters in front of an audience of coal miners, conservative activists and energy industry lobbyists. During the press conference, Trump administration officials including EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler characterized the so-called ‘ACE’ rule as a crucial part of the administration’s plan to save the coal industry. Administrator Wheeler made no mention of the EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding, which classifies greenhouse gas emissions as a danger to human health and the environment, or the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which holds that the EPA is legally obligated to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
During a press conference held in Santa Barbara, California Attorney General Xavier BecerraColorado Attorney General Phil WeiserIowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblumstrongly criticized the Trump administration’s decision to ignore the climate crisis and promised that the AGs would sue the Trump administration over the rule within the next several weeks. 
At the press conference, Attorney General Becerra noted that the ACE rule violates the Clean Air Act in three ways. First, the EPA violated its statutory obligation to address carbon pollution from power plants by repealing the Clean Power Plan and replacing it with a rule that does not reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. Second, the new rule, which AG Becerra referred to alternately as the “Dirty Power Plan” or the “Fossil Fuel Protection Plan,” artificially narrows the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act. Finally, the Clean Air Act obligates the EPA to utilize the best system of emissions reduction in its rulemakings—a standard the so-called “Affordable Clean Energy” rule fails to meet.
“The Trump administration has produced a rule that turns Clean Air Act requirements on their head,” said David J. Hayes, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “The rule will unlawfully increase - rather than decrease - the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change; disproportionately harm vulnerable populations; and, by replacing state flexibility with an ineffectively narrow, command-and-control burn requirement, it violates the Clean Air Act's mandate to adopt the 'best system' of emissions control. By promising to sue, state AGs are demonstrating their commitment to protecting their residents and upholding the rule of law.”
In October 2018, a multi-state coalition of 19 state attorneys general representing more than 147 million people sent a comment letter to the EPA calling on the Trump administration to drop its plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan. That coalition was led by then-New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. The coalition appears poised to add new states following statements made today by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.


  • California: "President Trump’s Dirty Power Plan is more than just disgraceful and immoral, it is unlawful," said California Attorney General Becerra. "There is no justification for gutting a law that would have significantly reduced emissions and prevented thousands of premature deaths per year. While the Trump Administration might lack the necessary courage, we’re prepared to confront the climate crisis head-on."
  • Colorado: "We in Colorado face significant impacts from climate change, including historically low water levels. In addition, our state faces the risk of more extreme storms, forest fires, and disruption to our outdoor recreation and agricultural economies due to climate change. Because of this threat, Colorado is a national leader in moving to a clean energy economy and is committed to reducing emissions," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. "In rolling back the Clean Power Plan, the federal government is taking a dangerous course of action. Their plan slashes emissions goals that address climate change and weakens efforts to reduce harmful pollutants. As Colorado’s Attorney General, I will take whatever actions are necessary and appropriate to protect our land, air, and water.”
  • Connecticut: "There is nothing affordable or clean about coal. The Trump Administration is taking another giant step backwards in protecting our planet. They are trampling on the Clean Air Act and ignoring administrative law to finalize this outrageous rule. Connecticut is in close coordination with states across the nation and we are prepared to take legal action to block this measure," said Connecticut Attorney General Tong. "There is no serious debate—climate change is a severe threat and we ignore science at our own peril."
  • Illinois: "As a country, we need to take meaningful action to address the devastating effects of climate change," said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. "The EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy rule announced this morning is a giant step backward in that effort. The ACE rule is misguided policy that is neither safe, nor clean, nor affordable because it does nothing to combat climate change. I am committed to ensuring that this illegal and ineffective rule does not stand. The people of Illinois and around the country cannot afford the impact of unchecked climate change."
  • Iowa: "A combination of smart federal and state policies have contributed to the rapid growth of renewable energy in Iowa," said Attorney General Tom Miller "The Trump administration will endanger this progress by replacing the Clean Power Plan. Iowa is affected by climate change, particularly by flooding and droughts. We’re paying a cost. We can see how [the] Clean Power Plan will make a difference for Iowa."
  • Massachusetts: "The coal lobbyists and climate deniers running the Trump Administration wrote every word of this unjustifiable and illegal rule that will pollute the air, explode emissions, and cost thousands of lives," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. "Massachusetts is committed to addressing the climate crisis and the public health impacts on our residents, and we will be suing to stand up for science and federal law."
  • Michigan:  "I will oppose the Trump Administration’s attempt to keep America dependent on 19th century technology and ignore the impacts of greenhouse gases on our climate," said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. "The so called 'Affordable Clean Energy Rule' would replace the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would have reduced our dependency on old, coal-fired power plants, encouraged clean energy generation, and protected our environment and public health. I will be working with other states to challenge this backward facing 'regulation' that will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and address the imminent threat presented by climate change.  While the rest of the world is working to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Trump Administration continues to pander to its fossil fuel supporters."
  • New Mexico: "President Trump continues to make it clear that he is more interested in protecting industry profits than the health and safety of New Mexican families," said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. "Not only will this rule cost New Mexican taxpayers more money to implement than existing clean power regulations, but it is yet another step backwards in protecting our environment, and I will continue to fight the President's attempts to harm our environment and our State."
  • North Carolina: "The Clean Power Plan was a much needed plan to address the climate change crisis. The EPA’s fig leaf replacement neither promotes clean energy nor meaningfully reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it incentivizes the continued use of coal power generation," said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. "Even under the EPA’s flawed analysis, the new plan will reduce key carbon emissions by less than one percent. There are serious legal concerns about this action as well. The EPA has violated its duties under the Clean Air Act, has ignored relevant evidence in the record, and has used false assumptions to generate numbers in its new rule. For these and many other reasons, EPA’s change is arbitrary and capricious. The Trump Administration isn’t just sitting idly by as this crisis grows — it is actively making it worse. We need real action to address climate change and the tragic consequences it will bring to our economy and health."
  • Oregon: "This administration has gone to great lengths to deny Climate Change. The only way to avoid the worst case scenario is to adopt the Obama Clean Power Plan. We must act now," said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. "The lawsuit we will be filing in the coming weeks is one more step we can take as state Attorneys General, cities, counties and local governments to combat climate disruption. We no longer have the luxury of waiting, we must make these changes now."
  • Washington: "Today’s action is one of the most dangerous steps taken by the Trump administration to date for the health of our families, our environment and our economy," said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson as part of a joint statement with Governor Jay Inslee. "Our nation and our planet cannot afford for the federal government to be a bystander in the climate crisis, and we will challenge this unlawful action in court. By finalizing this plan, the EPA is abandoning its legal and moral responsibility to protect Americans against the harmful effects of carbon pollution, and sending a clear signal that it cares more about propping up the dirtiest sources of energy than it does about protecting the American people. Their own analysis acknowledges the plan will cause thousands of additional people to die and suffer from illnesses from increased pollution in this country. What’s worse, the EPA has somehow made its plan even weaker and more feckless—increasing carbon emissions compared to its original proposal last year...The Trump administration has chosen to ignore the facts, the clear science, and the letter of the law. The EPA has a legal obligation —as established by the bipartisan Clean Air Act and subsequent court rulings — to keep Americans safe from dirty and polluted air and the impacts of climate change. We can’t and won’t stand for this abdication of responsibility."
  • Washington, D.C.: "Climate change is already harming District residents: we’re experiencing severe heat waves and increased flooding," said Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. "The Trump Administration’s so-called "Affordable Clean Energy" plan is irresponsible and shows they have no interest in curbing carbon emissions that contribute to the climate change crisis and put Americans’ health and safety at risk. The District intends to join States and Cities across the country in suing to ensure that EPA follows Clean Air Act requirements and addresses climate-changing pollution."

The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to working with state attorneys general to protect and advance 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.