300 and Counting: State AGs Lead the Fight for Health and the Environment
David J. Hayes (Past Executive Director) / Elizabeth Johnson Klein (Past Deputy Director) / Hampden T. Macbeth (Former Staff Attorney) / Jessica Bell (Deputy Director) / Tom Lalley / Sydney Colopy (Former Program Manager) / December 1, 2019
Since taking office, the Trump administration has engaged in a concerted, across-the-board attempt to weaken many of our nation’s bedrock health, safety and environmental laws. Unless stopped, these efforts will have profound consequences:
- The adverse impacts of climate change — including severe property damage and loss of life — will accelerate;
- Our air and water quality will decline, hitting the most vulnerable Americans especially hard;
- Oil and gas and other private, extractive industrial activities will be prioritized over conservation, recreation and wildlife uses of our public lands and offshore ocean resources;
- Our communities will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and major industrial disasters.
State attorneys general have mounted a vigorous defense against the administration’s assaults on our environmental, climate and clean energy values. Since the start of the Trump administration, state attorneys general have taken 300 actions to advance laws and policies covering air, water, toxics, clean energy and other environmental issues. They have exposed 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, typically under the false guise of harmless “deregulatory” actions.
Thankfully, state attorneys general have created an effective defensive shield that, to date, has blunted the worst of the administration’s anti-environmental agenda. Out of 28 environmental cases tracked by the NYU Institute for Policy Integrity, for example, the administration has won only once. But the most significant battles are now getting underway. More danger lies ahead; the fight is far from over.
To assist interested parties in keeping track of the important work of attorneys general on clean energy, climate and environmental matters, this report announces the launch of a searchable “Attorney General Actions” database that will enable users to more easily access and review the 300 significant regulatory and legal actions undertaken by attorneys general.
This report also culls representative actions from the large body of state attorney general activity in the clean energy, climate and environmental arena. Our goal is not to cover the waterfront, but instead to highlight some of the administration’s most serious assaults on our environmental values and key actions that attorneys general are taking in response. To do so, the report presents short takes on six major topics:
- 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