New York, NY — A coalition of 20 attorneys general (AGs) and several cities led by New York Attorney General Letitia James filed comments yesterday in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule addressing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. In their comments, the AG coalition explains that cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are urgently needed, citing detailed state-level information about harms, including flash flooding, the recent “once-in-a-millennium” heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, catastrophic flooding in Vermont just last month, and extreme heat that has led to thousands of emergency room visits in Phoenix. Additionally, the AGs urge the agency to address pollution from “peaker” plants, to conduct a fuller analysis of the rule’s impacts on the many and overlapping environmental and health impacts felt by the most vulnerable communities, and to better assess and address the impacts of the proposal on hydrogen and carbon capture technologies.
“The power sector is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and cuts are urgently needed after years of legal and regulatory delays,” said Bethany Davis Noll, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “These comments provide the agency with detailed scientific and legal analysis that will assist it in finalizing a stronger and durable rule.”
Background — In 2009, EPA found that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health and welfare in the Endangerment Finding, and it has never reversed those findings. In fact, the analysis has become stronger in the intervening years. In 2015, EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan, which restricts carbon emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants. In June 2019, after a change in administrations, EPA finalized the Affordable Clean Energy rule, repealing the Clean Power Plan. In August 2019, a coalition of 23 AGs filed a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Clean Energy rule. In January 2021, the court sided with the coalition of AGs, vacated the Affordable Clean Energy rule, and directed EPA to develop a new rule that is consistent with the Clean Air Act. In 2021, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the West Virginia-led appeal in that case and on June 30, 2022 the Supreme Court issued a ruling siding with the petitioners in West Virginia v. EPA. This proceeding is EPA’s new effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Of yesterday’s comments, California AG Rob Bonta said: “Day in and day out, we are seeing the dangerous effects of climate change, with environmental justice communities bearing the brunt of the harm. No state — whether red or blue — is being spared.”
Hundreds of thousands of comments have been filed already, including comments from environmental justice-focused groups such as this letter filed by several academic institutions and environmental justice and allied organizations. Also, see several statements from members of the environmental justice community, linked here. All the comments are available on regulations.gov.
The attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C. joined AG James in yesterday’s comments.
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.