Congress: Opportunities for Attorneys General in Environmental, Energy, and Climate Policy

An illustration of the US capitol building.


State attor­neys gen­er­al seek­ing to engage on envi­ron­men­tal, clean ener­gy, and cli­mate issues may be inter­est­ed in pur­su­ing options in the cur­rent 117th Con­gress (20212023). There are many avail­able levers for this. Sig­nif­i­cant weight is giv­en to attor­neys gen­er­al (AGs) who reach out direct­ly to mem­bers of Con­gress about their con­cerns. And in recent years, some state attor­neys gen­er­al have suc­cess­ful­ly includ­ed greater involve­ment in Con­gress’ actions with­in the scope of their advocacy.

Exam­ples of recent and suc­cess­ful out­reach include: In Feb­ru­ary 2017, attor­neys gen­er­al suc­cess­ful­ly wrote to the Sen­ate to urge it to oppose a Con­gres­sion­al Review Act repeal of the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Pre­ven­tion rule. In 2018 and 2019, coali­tions of attor­neys gen­er­al staved off the steep­est of the pro­posed cuts to the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency’s (EPA) bud­get and beat back antien­vi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy rid­ers in the annu­al appro­pri­a­tions processes.

In April 2020, attor­neys gen­er­al sub­mit­ted tes­ti­mo­ny in sup­port of hydro­flu­o­ro­car­bons (HFC) phase­down leg­is­la­tion that was even­tu­al­ly includ­ed in COVID-19 relief leg­is­la­tion in 2021.

This issue brief pro­vides an overview of pos­si­ble steps that an advo­cate can take to pur­sue con­gres­sion­al action advanc­ing cli­mate, envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice, and clean ener­gy goals. In addi­tion, in order to illus­trate the avail­able routes, the brief pro­vides an overview of recent AG efforts, along with the results of those actions.