States say EPA’s climate rule guidance is 'legally incorrect'

States say EPA’s climate rule guidance is 'legally incorrect'
© Greg Nash

Democratic attorneys general want the Trump administration to rescind guidance that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent to states about complying with the Obama administration’s main climate change regulation.

The coalition, representing 13 states and seven cities and counties, said in a Thursday letter that EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Senate confirms top EPA air regulator | Feds to roll back emissions rule for big trucks | Defense bill mandates climate study EPA seeks to repeal part of Obama emissions rule for big trucks Senate confirms top air regulator at EPA MORE incorrectly told states that if the Clean Power Plan takes effect, compliance deadlines will be extended.

But the law and previous court cases on that question show that the deadlines are not automatically extended, argued the attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D).

The attorneys general accused Pruitt of using the March 30 guidance he sent to state governors as a way to delay or repeal the Clean Power Plan without going through the full regulatory or legal process to do so.

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“The facts are clear: the EPA has a legal obligation to limit carbon pollution from its largest source: fossil-fueled power plants. So if President Trump wants to repeal the Clean Power Plan, he must replace it,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“Scott Pruitt cannot simply wish away the facts by giving governors bad legal advice,” he said. “We’ll continue to fight to ensure that the federal government fulfills its legal responsibility to New Yorkers’ health and environment.”

The Clean Power Plan has been on hold since February 2016, when the Supreme Court put a judicial stay on it. The EPA is working to repeal it fully.

Pruitt, who was a leader in the litigation against the rule in his previous job as Oklahoma’s attorney general, sent the March 30 letter to assure states that they do not have to do anything to comply.

“It is the policy of the EPA that states have no obligation to spend resources to comply with a rule that has been stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Pruitt wrote at the time.

“To the extent any deadlines become relevant in the future, case law and past practice of the EPA supports the application of day-to-day tolling,” he continued, referring to the practice of pushing off deadlines.

The rule would have required states to submit their initial plans for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by Sept. 30.