The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bill Walker, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6746
Scott Gerber, Office of the California Attorney General, (916) 324-5500

State Attorneys General Urge Senators to Close Loopholes in Climate Bill

Letter: House bill would allow old, dirty coal plants to keep polluting


Attorneys general of five states urged Senate leaders to
strengthen the federal climate bill by requiring cleanup or closure of
dirty coal-fired power plants, preserving state authority to set
stricter clean air standards than in federal law and ensuring that
citizens can sue to enforce the bill's provisions.

"We believe that passage of a [stronger] bill ... will build upon
the efforts of states to address climate change, and by demonstrating
the nation's commitment to achieving carbon reductions, will put the
U.S. in a stronger position in negotiations on a new international
climate accord in Copenhagen later this year," said the letter, sent
August 31.

Read the letter (PDF)

The letter was signed by attorneys general Jerry Brown of
California, Terry Goddard of Arizona, Richard Blumenthal of
Connecticut, Joseph R. Biden III of Delaware and Anne Milgram of New
Jersey. It was sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada;
Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, chair of the Environment and Public
Works Committee; Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; and Sen.
James Inhofe of Oklahoma, ranking Republican on Boxer's committee.

The attorneys general wrote that ACES "represents a strong
foundation upon which the Senate can build," and made suggestions "to
strengthen the measure's effectiveness," including:

  • ACES' elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency's
    authority to regulate pollution from existing coal-fired power plants
    "would allow owners of older, dirtier plants to continue operating (or
    expand) their plants, free from controls such as improved efficiency or
    cleaner fuels," the AGs wrote. "This is exactly the wrong signal to be
    sending and will delay the fundamental transition in energy production
    needed to meet our long-term climate objectives."
  • The House bill preempts state-level controls on greenhouse
    gases in its first five years, but the AGs argued that states must be
    allowed to continue their own approaches to reducing emissions.
    "Allowing states to go beyond federal minimum requirements -- which is
    the model of most existing federal environmental statutes -- has worked
    well to improve the nation's environment over the past four decades and
    stimulated innovation through creative state experimentation," said the
  • The attorneys general support the provisions for strong
    federal oversight of the cap-and-trade regime established by the bill
    "to deter potential violations and market tampering." But they said
    they were concerned the Senate bill would be based on weaker
    enforcement provisions in legislation introduced by Senators Dianne
    Feinstein of California and Olympia Snowe of Maine. "From our vantage
    point as enforcers, and having seen the tremendous potential for
    damaging market manipulation in the recent housing market meltdown and
    the California energy crisis of 2000-01, we believe that strict
    regulation, oversight, and enforcement of these new markets is
    critical," the letter said.

Earthjustice, which worked closely with state AGs on a landmark case
in which the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has the right to regulate
carbon dioxide as air pollution, welcomed the letter and said the
Senate should pay heed.

"With the passage of ACES, the House has begun the important and
urgent work of addressing the threat of climate change," said Sarah
Saylor, senior legislative representative for Earthjustice. "Leadership
now falls to the Senate, where there is an opportunity to address the
recommendations made by the attorneys general. These states have been
leading the way on global warming already and have a lot to bring to
the table."

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.