Perseverance and New Beginnings

The sun rising over an agricultural field.

Last week, one day before the inau­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit vacat­ed the Trump administration’s so-called Afford­able Clean Ener­gy” rule (ACE), which rolled back the Clean Pow­er Plan and under­cut clean sources of elec­tric­i­ty. As a result, the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has the chance once again to devise a new pro­gram to curb green­house gas emis­sions from exist­ing pow­er plants. Twen­ty-three state AGs, led by New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James, helped build the legal and fac­tu­al record need­ed to defeat the ACE rule, and then played a key role in mak­ing the case in court. This win exem­pli­fies the extra­or­di­nary accom­plish­ments of the state AG com­mu­ni­ty in defeat­ing irra­tional Trump admin­is­tra­tion poli­cies and staving off the harm they would have wreaked on our com­mu­ni­ties and our plan­et. The defeat of the ACE rule also serves to high­light the hard work that lies ahead.

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion has made quick moves to return to a sci­ence-dri­ven agen­da of pro­tect­ing our envi­ron­ment, address­ing the cli­mate cri­sis and pur­su­ing envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice. This is tru­ly an era of change. But if those poli­cies are to be long-last­ing, then there is much work to be done. It is time for a dif­fer­ent type of advo­ca­cy.

The Biden administration’s efforts to address envi­ron­men­tal harms and tack­le the cli­mate cri­sis must be sup­port­ed by robust records that will hold up in court. State AGs are cru­cial to that effort, as they can push the admin­is­tra­tion to take posi­tions that are legal­ly sound, equi­table and effec­tive. Through this work, state AGs will be able to shape and defend the use of fed­er­al envi­ron­men­tal laws to tar­get the caus­es and con­se­quences of cli­mate change at the nation­al lev­el and to uphold states’ rights while doing so. They can also con­tin­ue to bring atten­tion to urgent envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice issues. And, as states con­tin­ue to inno­vate on cli­mate action, AGs can defend state author­i­ty in the area of clean ener­gy.

Of course, beyond all of this new work, state AGs will con­tin­ue the defen­sive and affir­ma­tive work we high­light­ed in our recent report, Full Court Press. In the two weeks since the report’s pub­li­ca­tion, state AGs have con­tin­ued to hold the line to pre­vent the Trump administration’s envi­ron­men­tal roll­backs from tak­ing full effect, most recent­ly by fil­ing law­suits chal­leng­ing a slew of mid­night rules final­ized by the admin­is­tra­tion on its way out the door. With these law­suits, state AGs are keep­ing the pres­sure on to make sure that the harm­ful rules pro­mul­gat­ed by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion are unwound.

We at the State Impact Cen­ter are excit­ed to con­tin­ue our work in sup­port of state attor­neys gen­er­al. We recent­ly wel­comed new lead­er­ship ded­i­cat­ed to the task of con­fronting the chal­lenges and meet­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties pre­sent­ed by this new era. We also said farewell to David J. Hayes and Eliz­a­beth Klein, who helped launch the Cen­ter in 2017 and guid­ed our work as a force against the Trump administration’s dereg­u­la­to­ry agen­da. David has joined the Biden White House as Spe­cial Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent for Cli­mate Pol­i­cy, and the admin­is­tra­tion has announced its intent to nom­i­nate Liz to serve as Deputy Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or. We will miss them, but we have no doubt that they will serve the admin­is­tra­tion and the coun­try well in their new roles. With our new team in place and our mis­sion more vital than ever, we look for­ward to this new chap­ter — and we are excit­ed to move for­ward, togeth­er, toward a clean­er and more just future.