Liberal-leaning states are promising to push forward with aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing renewable energy sources just as President Trump moved to roll back much of his predecessor’s efforts to combat climate change.
In state capitols from Albany to Sacramento, Democrats lambasted the executive order Trump signed Tuesday that begins the process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era rule aimed at cleaning up coal-fired power plants.
“President Trump’s decision to ax the Clean Power Plan cedes U.S. global leadership and increases the risk that climate change will continue to damage our state. We can’t afford to slow our efforts, and we won’t,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Tuesday.
A coalition of 17 Democratic attorneys general and city attorneys from six cities said they would consider what legal actions could be taken to block Trump’s order.
“We’re very confident that the EPA cannot simply dismantle the CPP and leave nothing in its place,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “We regret the fact that the president is trying to bow back history. But it’s not going to happen. The markets are moving. The states are moving.”
Inslee, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the Democratic mayors of Seattle; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Oakland, Calif.; and Los Angeles said in a joint statement that the new executive order “moves our nation in the wrong direction and puts American prosperity at risk.”
Separately, Jerry Brown and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) reaffirmed their states’ commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years to well below previous highs. Both states have set goals of lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
In both statements, the governors said collective action is necessary to combat a global problem. New York is a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperation between Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states that established a cap-and-trade program. Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia, in northwest Canada, have signed a similar agreement.
“It doesn’t make sense for Oregon to do it alone. It makes sense when we [combat climate change] on a regional basis,” Kate Brown said Saturday in Seattle, where she and Inslee met to plot strategy.
Last week, California’s Air Resources Board voted to implement strict emission limits on automobiles and to require automakers to get more zero-emission vehicles to market. That vote came after Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider greenhouse gas emission limits put in place by the Obama administration, limits in which California has a say under the 1970 Clean Air Act.
California must now seek a waiver from the EPA for its stricter limits. If that waiver is granted, as it was under the Obama administration, other states may adopt those same emissions limits.
Environmental groups say states taking action on climate change will enjoy the secondary benefit of cornering the market on renewable energy. New York has committed to developing wind turbines off Long Island. States like Washington and Oregon already get a huge percentage of their power from renewable hydro sources.
“Ultimately, states that lead like California, Washington and other, they are trying to capture as much of the clean energy market as possible,” said Bill Holland, state policy director at the League of Conservation Voters. “The governors of states like Washington and California are acting in the real world to create economic opportunity.”
But Republican-led states said the new executive order would reverse a rule that put an unfair onus on states and the energy industry.
“We’re heartened by the president’s latest action, which shows he’s serious about returning common sense and the rule of law to the EPA,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement. “And we look forward to the EPA returning to the cooperative approach with the states that the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act expressly require as it reconsiders the unlawful Clean Power Plan.”
The Democratic opposition to Trump’s rollback represents a new front in a burgeoning legal war between the administration and blue states, one reminiscent of the battles fought by Republican attorneys general against the Obama administration’s climate actions in recent years.
In the case of the Clean Power Plan, Republican states are still fighting the Obama-era rule. A coalition of 19 Republican-led states asked the EPA earlier this month to reconsider several rules, including the Clean Power Plan, under a collaborative framework they said was envisioned by both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.