California has joined with 21 other states, the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, and five other cities in a legal challenge to the Trump administrationâs repeal of Obama-era clean power rules.
The coalition, led by New York State, is suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to try andÂ block the agency from relaxing regulations on coal-burning power plants.
At a Tuesday morning press conference in Sacramento, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the Trump administrationâs policy would increase air pollution and exacerbate global warming.
âThis is not just about fighting Donald Trump,â said Newsom. âThis is about our kids and our grandkids. This is about clean air, clean water and endangered species. Iâll say it. I kind of miss Richard Nixonâ – whose administration authorized the EPA in nearly five decades ago.
The lawsuit argues that the agency is responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and that the Trump administrationâs Affordable Clean Energy rule fails this mandate. Also, the new power rules prop up aging coal-fired power plants, increase dirty air pollution and threaten the country’s most vulnerable people. The regulations replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.
Newsom announced the lawsuit flanked by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols.
Becerra called the administrationâs attempt to scrap Obama climate rules foolish, unlawful, and a betrayal of âeveryone who stands for cleaner air.â
âIt fails our economy, which depends on clean energy now more than ever,â he said. âWe know what our energy future must look like, and we wonât get there by following President Trumpâs misguided proposal.â
Less than 24 hours before, Becerra vowed to sue the Trump administration for its plan to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Monday, he said California wouldnât âpick a fight every time this administration decides to take an actionâ but it would challenge actions when the state feels it is necessary.
Nichols said the federal plan reverses Californiaâs progress on combating climate change and keeps âthe oldest and dirtiest power plants in the country on life support.â
President Nixon signed the federal Â Clean Air Act into law in 1970 to prevent air pollution and protect public health. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the law applies to greenhouse gas emissions andÂ climate change issues. After that ruling, the Obama administration said in its Clean Power Plan that carbon emissions from American power plants and cars endangered public health.
âThis opened the door — or maybe requires,Â thatâs what this lawsuit will be about — EPA to regulate emissions of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and factories,â said Eric Biber, director of the Environmental and Energy Law Programs at UC Berkeley Law.
âThe focus here is really electric power plants,â he said. âThe Obama Administration took two steps. The first step was to regulate emissions from new power plants. The second one was an effort to regulate emissions from existing power plants.â
David Doniger, senior strategic director for climate and clean energy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the Trump administration is misreading the law.
âThe goals of the Clean Power Plan were issued by Obamaâs team in 2015 and are being met or surpassed,â he said. âThe right thing to do at that point, because climate change is getting worse, is revise the standards and make them stronger. Instead, what the Trump administration is doing is reinterpreting the Clean Air Act so that it canât do anything about climate change.â
Doniger said his organization, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and other groups plan Wednesday to file another lawsuit challenging the Trump administration on this issue.
Two public health organizations, the American Lung Association and American Public Health Association, have already sued. Doniger said he expects all of the legal challenges will be folded into one case called American Lung Association vs. Wheeler.
In February, Andrew Wheeler became Trump’s EPA administrator.