Press Release

ACE Rule Vacated: State AGs’ Work Led Court to Toss Major Pillar of Trump Administration’s Climate Deregulatory Platform

D.C. Circuit finds so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule ‘rested critically on a mistaken reading of the Clean Air Act.’

Washington, D.C. — The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center today applauded the years of work by state attorneys general that provided the legal shovel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to dig up and toss the Trump administration’s so-called Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. The court vacated the rule, finding that it “hinged on a fundamental misconstruction” of the Clean Air Act and remanding it to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“For four years, state attorneys general used every tool at their disposal to reveal the shoddy legal arguments and fudged math behind the Trump administration’s anti-climate policies. The so-called ‘Affordable Clean Energy’ rule was no exception. New York Attorney General Letitia James and 22 fellow AGs provided the court with more than enough evidence and justification to dig up this weed and toss it out,” said Jessica Bell, Deputy Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “Now the hard work begins to put in place a permanent, legally sound rule that will reduce carbon pollution from power plants as the broader economy continues to transition to clean energy generation. State AGs, the State Impact Center and clean energy allies are ready to get to work.”

“For four years, the Trump Administration has been consistent in undermining our nation’s response to climate change, and in rewarding big polluters for actions that threaten the wellbeing of this planet and its people. But, today, on its final day, the courts ruled against the Trump Administration’s attempt to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan. This ruling affirms what we’ve said all along — the ‘Affordable Clean Energy’ rule did nothing to promote clean energy, and was not affordable for American consumers. Instead, this ‘Dirty Power’ rule served to support dirty and expensive coal power plants, undercut clean and sustainable electricity, and left New Yorkers and all other Americans to foot the bill. I am proud of my office’s leadership in the fight against this unjust and illegal rule, which will no longer see the light of day,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“This decision is a major rebuke of the Trump Administration’s lawless anti-science agenda. The Dirty Power rule was a craven attempt to enrich the fossil-fuel industry at the expense of our climate and public health. It’s time to recognize the enormous damage that is being done to our environment and our economy by outdated and expensive coal plants and to fully embrace the transition to clean, renewable and truly affordable power,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.

In the EPA’s rulemaking process and subsequent litigation, a coalition of 23 state attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James firmly made the case that the Trump administration was flatly wrong in its contention that the Clean Air Act required repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The coalition also argued that the Trump administration’s ACE rule did not identify specific GHG emissions targets that states must meet, and may not yield any overall GHG emissions reductions.

Today’s decision has two critical findings. First, the court held that the EPA had made the requisite endangerment finding for regulating carbon emissions from power plants, which will require the EPA going forward to regulate carbon emissions from the power sector. Second, the court rejected an argument brought up often in challenges to the EPA’s authority to regulate in this area: that a drafting error in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prohibits the EPA from regulating carbon emissions under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act because the EPA already regulates a different pollutant — mercury — from power plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act.

State attorneys general have also fought the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and the oil and gas sector.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center:
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan academic center at NYU School of Law. The Center is dedicated to working towards a healthy and safe environment, guided by inclusive and equitable principles. The Center studies and supports the work of state attorneys general (AGs) in defending, enforcing, and promoting strong laws and policies in the areas of climate, environmental justice, environmental protection, and clean energy.