California joins 21 states in lawsuit against Trump’s scrapping of clean-energy plan
Aug. 13, 2019 Updated: Aug. 13, 2019 3:39 p.m.
California joined 21 states Tuesday in a lawsuit to halt the Trump administration’s repeal of a key environmental regulation that aimed to cut power plant emissions by nearly a third by 2030.
Andrew Wheeler, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator, announced in June that the agency was killing the Clean Power Plan, which was adopted by the Obama administration, and replacing it with a far weaker rule that would reduce emissions by less than 1% by 2030.
The suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, contends the repeal and replacement of the Clean Power Plan fails to satisfy the EPA’s duty to reduce power-plant pollution, restricts the agency’s regulatory authority and doesn’t employ the best emission-reduction systems.
The complaint marked the 55th time California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sued the Trump administration, and it’s the 27th complaint over environmental regulations, according to Tara Gallegos, a spokeswoman for the office.
The state’s top prosecutor was joined Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols in announcing the lawsuit. Becerra said the Trump administration’s new policy is a “toothless substitute” for the Clean Power Plan, adding that it bends over backward to protect the fossil fuel industry at the expense of the public’s interest.
Becerra noted that Trump’s rollback is not only bad for the environment, but also financially impractical for many states and businesses that already took steps to reduce power plant emissions.
“It’s about teaching your kids addition and subtraction when they’ve already mastered multiplication and division,” Becerra said. “President Trump, catch up.”
Newsom said the Trump administration was trying to take the country back to an age that no longer exists while California leads the world into a clean energy future.
“This is not just about fighting Donald Trump. This is about our kids and our grandkids,” he said.
The Clean Power Plan, negotiated with states over a decade, aimed to reshape the American power industry by calling on states to burn less coal and instead use cleaner fuels such as natural gas, solar, wind and other lower or no-carbon sources. The plan required states to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants 35% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Power Plan are roughly equivalent to taking 160 million cars, or 70% of the nation’s passenger vehicles, off the road, Becerra said.
The Clean Power Plan specifically promoted cooperation by creating a system that allowed local and state governments that used dirtier methods to actually lower their emissions through purchasing clean power on a shared grid. The Trump plan treats every power-generating source as a unit without regard for regional cooperation.
Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, imposed the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which would reduce power plan emissions by just 0.7% and 1.5%.
Such a move undercuts states like California, which have passed climate change legislation and made cutting emissions a priority, while also harming states that want and need assistance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Nichols said.
Although California joined the lawsuit, the Trump administration’s plan is not expected to have much of an impact on the state because it gets little electricity from coal-fired power plants. And nothing about the new rule will prevent California from pursuing its commitment to 100% clean energy by 2045, officials said.
The state Air Resources Board announced Monday that California continues to cut its greenhouse gas emissions — by 1% in 2017, the latest year available — as well as reduce electricity emissions by 9%. For the first time since California started tracking greenhouse gas emissions, most of the state’s power came from clean sources, the governor’s office said. But the state faces even more ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by another 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
Nichols said it is important to have a strong national standard for cutting emissions at coal-fired power plants, because all states now share electricity and infrastructures across regional grids.
“It doesn’t work state-by-state anymore. That is an old model,” Nichols said.
Joining California in the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, as well as the cities of Boulder, Colo., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and South Miami.
San Francisco Chronicle staff writers J.D. Morris and Peter Fimrite contributed to this story.
Michael Cabanatuan and Alexei Koseff are San Francisco Chronicle staff
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