Report

Where Are We Now? A Year of Agency & Attorney General Action

“Where Are We Now? A Year of Agency & Attorney General Action” looks at AG policy wins from the past year; reviews federal rulemaking progress during the Biden administration so far; and examines the importance of and obstacles to public input, as well as the role AGs can play in facing those challenges.

Executive Summary

The past year has seen a lot of movement in the climate, energy, and environmental justice space. Many different coalitions of state attorneys general (AGs) have been hard at work pushing for those changes. This Report discusses some of their policy wins over the past year.

  • Vehicle Emissions. AGs’ hard work to reduce emissions from the transportation sector has paid off for the environment and public health—with stronger Clean Car Standards, stricter corporate average fuel economy standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to authorize California to adopt car emissions standards that are stricter than the federal standards through what is known as a “waiver.”
  • ESG in Retirement Plans. AGs successfully pushed the Department of Labor to permit retirement plan advisors to consider climate and other environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in investment decisions.
  • Energy Efficiency. AGs secured a key settlement requiring the Department of Energy to issue more stringent standards for a variety of common consumer products.
  • Interstate Air Pollution Reductions. EPA issued a proposal to clean up air pollution that crosses state borders in line with safeguards for which AGs had advocated.
  • PFAS. From letters to Congress to state enforcement suits, AGs have taken many actions to address the discharge of PFAS (forever chemicals). Accomplishments in 2022 include pushing EPA to protect public health and the environment.

These are just some highlights from the past year.

The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center is tracking and helping to publicize new agency activity of potential interest using a Twitter hashtag, #StateImpactAlert. The data from this hashtag also provides a rough indicator of the kind of progress the administration is making towards its climate, equity, environmental, and financial goals. This Report highlights four areas where there is likely to be more action from agencies in 2023:

  • Chemical Accident Safety Rule. EPA has proposed to strengthen protections for communities and first responders around facilities handling hazardous and explosive chemicals.
  • Methane Emissions. EPA and the Bureau of Land Management have proposals out to curb methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
  • Vehicle Emissions. EPA is considering California’s request to implement standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Financial and Tax Agencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission is grappling with rules around climate risk disclosure. The Internal Revenue Service is working to implement the Inflation Reduction Act’s plethora of tax credits and incentives.

Follow the hashtag, #StateImpactAlert, to stay up-to-date on these and other rules.

While it is clear there is a lot going on, there are a number of obstacles to public participation as those rules develop. AGs have a role to play in working to make sure that people with lived experiences can participate in the rulemakings that will affect their lives. They can advocate for funding and engage and educate the public on the issues. This is an important piece of promoting an equitable transition to clean energy and addressing harms from pollution.

This Report begins by discussing several significant policy achievements this past year. The next Section looks at what is to come. The last Section of this Report looks at the requirements and reasons for public comment, as well as challenges in building robust public participation and highlights a role for AGs.

AG Actions by State — 2022

The Center’s AG Actions Database tracks actions of regional and national significance taken by attorneys general to advance clean energy, climate, and environmental laws and policies. The following graph depicts state actions by issue area for states with five or more total actions.

Source: The data in this chart were drawn from entries in the Center’s database from January 1, 2022 through December 2, 2022.1 Please note, the database filters actions into more specific categories than the ones represented, and many state actions span multiple categories. For purposes of this chart, the actions are listed only once and are categorized into the issue that they align with most closely. While the Center strives to be thorough in recording state actions in the database, we cannot guarantee that every action is represented here.

  1. State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, Table of State AG Actions on Clean Energy, Climate, and the
    Environment – 2022, https://docs.google.com/spread....