Trump EPA sets up role re­ver­sal in cli­mate bat­tle

Demo­crat-led states to take reg­u­la­tory agenda to court

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

As soon as Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump as­sumes of­fice Jan. 20, Repub­li­can at­tor­neys gen­eral who have spent the past eight years bat­tling the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cli­mate change agenda will have a new role: sup­port­ing the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s com­plex le­gal ef­fort to roll back that agenda.

By con­trast, states with Demo­cratic lead­er­ship — such as Cal­i­for­nia, where Gov. Jerry Brown has promised all-out war against Mr. Trump on global warm­ing — will go from be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal part­ners with the fed­eral government to le­gal ag­gres­sors on their own.

Repub­li­cans have be­gun ex­er­cis­ing their in­flu­ence over the in­com­ing pres­i­dent and his pick to lead the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral Scott Pruitt, who has built a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer by bat­tling the very agency he is about to lead.

Ear­lier this month, 24 at­tor­neys gen­eral signed an open let­ter lay­ing out how the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could be­gin to dis­man­tle Pres­i­dent Obama’s global warm­ing agenda. The

ef­fort was led by West Vir­ginia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Patrick Mor­risey, a Repub­li­can who of­ten part­nered with Mr. Pruitt in bring­ing law­suits against what they said was EPA over­reach

The let­ter fo­cuses on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, a pro­posal to limit car­bon emis­sions from power plants that re­quires all states to meet strict pol­lu­tion guide­lines laid out by the fed­eral government.

Fed­eral data show the plan would drive up elec­tric­ity prices.

The Supreme Court this year is­sued a stay halt­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Clean Power Plan, but Repub­li­can at­tor­neys gen­eral are ea­ger for the pro­posal to be for­mally taken off the books.

“The in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress now have the op­por­tu­nity to with­draw this un­law­ful rule and pre­vent adop­tion of a sim­i­lar rule in the fu­ture,” the at­tor­neys gen­eral wrote. “An ex­ec­u­tive or­der on Day One is crit­i­cal. The or­der should ex­plain that it is the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s view that the rule is un­law­ful and that EPA lacks au­thor­ity to en­force it. The ex­ec­u­tive or­der is nec­es­sary to send an im­me­di­ate and strong mes­sage to states and reg­u­lated en­ti­ties that the ad­min­is­tra­tion will not en­force the rule.”

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der, an­a­lysts say, is just the first step. Un­der Mr. Pruitt’s lead­er­ship, the EPA will have to go through a for­mal rule-mak­ing process to kill the Clean Power Plan, in­clud­ing pub­lic hear­ings, com­ment pe­ri­ods, draft pro­pos­als and other for­mal­i­ties that likely will take at least a year to com­plete.

“Soon af­ter Trump takes of­fice, they will is­sue a pro­posal to re­voke the Clean Power Plan, but that will ac­tu­ally have to be a fairly com­pre­hen­sive doc­u­ment that ex­plains the ra­tio­nale,” said Jef­frey Holm­stead, a lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal at­tor­ney and for­mer as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor at the EPA’s of­fice for air and ra­di­a­tion. “They can’t just say that the pres­i­dent said to get rid of it and we’re go­ing to do it.”

Be­cause of the Supreme Court stay and the im­pend­ing doom of the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Holm­stead said, states can con­tinue to ig­nore the emis­sions thresh­olds without penalty or threat of en­force­ment from Wash­ing­ton.

Some Demo­crat-led states are likely to con­tinue im­ple­ment­ing emis­sions re­duc­tion pro­grams and are poised to be­come the EPA’s le­gal ad­ver­saries over the next four years. They will as­sume the job held by Mr. Pruitt’s Ok­la­homa and Mr. Mor­risey’s West Vir­ginia, com­plet­ing a full role re­ver­sal.

In Cal­i­for­nia, Mr. Brown has chal­lenged Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt on cli­mate change. With each step the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion takes to kill the Clean Power Plan and other cli­mate pro­grams, Cal­i­for­nia and other pro­gres­sive states are sure to set up hur­dles with law­suits.

“We’re got a lot of fire­power,” Mr. Brown said in a speech this month. ”We’ve got the sci­en­tists, we’ve got the uni­ver­si­ties, we’ve got the na­tional labs, and we have the po­lit­i­cal clout for the bat­tle. And we will per­se­vere; have no doubt about that.”

The out­spo­ken Demo­crat said Cal­i­for­nia will launch its “own damn satel­lite” if the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion stops satel­lites meant to track global warm­ing and tem­per­a­ture pat­terns.

The New Eng­land coali­tion known as the Re­gional Green­house Gas Ini­tia­tive is ex­pected to keep pur­su­ing vol­un­tary emis­sions re­duc­tion pro­grams, even without arm-twist­ing from Wash­ing­ton.

The ul­ti­mate goal of the Trump-era EPA, an­a­lysts say, will be de­cen­tral­iz­ing power over en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grams and al­low­ing states such as Cal­i­for­nia to con­tinue harsh emis­sions lim­its if they choose.

“What I pre­dict Pruitt will do is just go back to the orig­i­nal in­ten­tion of the statutes [un­der the fed­eral Clean Air Act] where states have a lot of dis­cre­tion in how they im­ple­mented these things,” Mr. Holm­stead said. “A state can al­ways be more strin­gent than a fed­eral statute al­lows.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral Scott Pruitt, Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee to head the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, has built a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer by bat­tling the very agency he is likely to take over next year.

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