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In a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, more than a dozen Democratic attorneys general on Wednesday vowed to "vigorously oppose in court any attempt to remand the Clean Power Plan." (Photo: Phil Richards/cc/flickr)

In a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, more than a dozen Democratic attorneys general on Wednesday vowed to "vigorously oppose in court any attempt to remand the Clean Power Plan." (Photo: Phil Richards/cc/flickr)

Setting Stage for Major Climate Battle, Dem AGs Put Trump on Alert

Letter from coalition of Democratic attorneys general say that Trump should ignore advice to scrap Clean Power Plan

Lauren McCauley

If President-elect Donald Trump goes ahead with his plan to destroy U.S. climate regulations, he's going to face a whole heap of trouble, a coalition of Democratic attorneys general is warning the incoming president.

In a letter (pdf) dated Wednesday, AGs from 13 states and five additional localities advised Trump against plans to renege on President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP), saying that such a course of action "would assuredly lead to more litigation."

The warning is in response to a letter (pdf) sent earlier this month by a number of Republican AGs to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan which declared the CPP "unlawful," and encouraged the GOP lawmakers to issue an executive order "on day one" that would withdraw the rule "and prevent adoption of a similar rule in the future." 

However, "history and legal precedent strongly suggest that such an action would not stand up in court," the Democratic AGs argue, adding that they "would vigorously oppose in court any attempt to remand the Clean Power Plan."

"If the challengers are so confident in their oft-repeated claim that the Clean Power Plan is 'unlawful,' why not let the court decide the claims that they themselves brought?" they ask. The CPP is currently being weighed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

These "legal chess moves," The Washington Post's Chris Mooney wrote on Thursday, reflect "two views of how vulnerable this major regulation is to reversal under Trump—and sets the stage for one of the biggest, and perhaps longest running, environmental battles of his administration."

And looking at Trump's promises to slash environmental regulations, including the CPP, as well as his numerous climate change-denying cabinet appointments—particularly Scott Pruitt, his nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—such a battle is likely.

Nonetheless, David Doniger, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, argued that scrapping emissions regulations "will not be as easy as some may think."  

"The rule of law constrains what the incoming administration can do and how they can do it," Doniger wrote in response to the Republican AGs' letter. "The rules of politics constrain what even the most ardent climate-deniers can do in Congress. And the rules of the marketplace will keep power companies moving toward clean energy while Washington fiddles with policy."

The Democratic AGs—who hail from the states of New York, California, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, the District of  Columbia, as well as Boulder, Colorado, New York City, South Miami, and Broward County in Florida—said they represent communities "on the front lines of climate change."

"We see firsthand the significant human and economic costs inflicted by unchecked carbon pollution," they wrote, "whether it is harms from severe drought in California, catastrophic storm surge in New York City, a record deluge on the Front Range in Colorado, routine high tide flooding in Hampton Roads, Virginia and in South Florida, or diminished shellfish harvest in Oregon and Washington state."

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