Last week, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined a coalition to oppose the Trump administration’s attempts to delay the US Court of Appeals from making a decision on the Clean Power Plan. That 2015 plan would have helped states reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Utilities, the coal industry and 24 states immediately sued to stop the plan from being implemented. The appeals court unanimously denied a motion to stay the rule, but in 2016, the US Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to issue a stay pending the appeals court decision.
Then, at the end of March, Trump ordered the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and revoke the Clean Power Plan, which would have required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The EPA followed up by asking the court, six months after oral arguments were heard, to hold the litigation in abeyance while it reconsiders the rule. Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, was Oklahoma’s Attorney General and among those who sued to overturn the Clean Power Plan.
The EPA’s online rule summary of the plan still states, however, “EPA firmly believes the Clean Power Plan will be upheld when the merits are considered because the rule rests on strong scientific and legal foundations.”
According to a statement from Balderas’ office, granting abeyance would delay the litigation for years and indefinitely delay implementation of the plan, which is aimed at reducing pollution and slowing the pace of climate change. In the motion to dismiss the EPA’s request to delay the court decision, the coalition argues that the stay doesn’t affect the validity of the rule or justify a delay in the ruling. They also argue that an indefinite delay of the rule will harm those states and their residents “who have waited years to obtain relief” from power plant emissions. According to the motion, states have already experienced increased temperatures, increased levels of ozone which exacerbates asthma and other respiratory diseases, more severe storms, wildfires and droughts, rising sea levels and harm to fisheries due to increased ocean acidification.
The coalition supporting the Clean Power Plan is led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. In addition to New Mexico and New York, it includes California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Washington State as well as the chief legal officers of New York City, Boulder, Chicago, Philadelphia, South Miami and Florida’s Broward County.