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Attorney General William Tong

03/19/2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS COALITION CALLING ON EPA TO WITHDRAW ITS PROPOSAL TO WEAKEN EMISSIONS STANDARDS FROM COAL POWER PLANTS

Twenty Attorneys General, Seven Local Governments Warn of Harm to Communities Should Emissions Increase

Attorney General William Tong today joined 20 attorneys general and seven local governments in a coalition led by California to demand the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdraw its proposal to weaken federal standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed coal-fired power plants. The coalition asserts in its comments that these standards protect against increased emissions and further acceleration of climate change. The proposal, if finalized, could increase carbon dioxide pollution contributing to climate change by weakening current requirements that new power plants minimize their emissions to the extent feasible. Under EPA’s proposal, a new coal-fired plant would be able to emit 35 percent more carbon dioxide than it could under current law. In 2015, after exhaustive technical analysis, EPA determined that new plants can meet the current standard by using carbon capture and storage. The coalition asserts that the EPA’s reversal of that finding and its new proposal are arbitrary and capricious, and in violation of its statutory obligation to control emissions under the Clean Air Act.

"The Trump EPA's attempt to gut federal standards for new coal-fired power plants is a sweetheart deal for the fossil fuel industry with severe harm to public health. These changes are arbitrary and capricious in violation of the EPA's clear obligation to control emissions under the Clean Air Act. The risks of climate change are undeniable and failure to reduce emissions now is a mistake we cannot afford to make," said Attorney General Tong.

In danger are the New Source Performance Standards adopted by the EPA in 2015 after a comprehensive examination in which the EPA determined that partial carbon capture and storage was the best system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired plants.

Failing to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions creates significant threats and harms to these states and their populations by intensifying the harms of climate change including increased heat waves, severe storms, flooding, disease, pests, and threats to air quality, utilities, infrastructure, agriculture, timber, marine industries, and regional ecosystems. Since the EPA’s publication of the rule it now proposes to eliminate, the earth has experienced the warmest year on record. A vast majority of scientists, including those from the federal government, warn of dire circumstances should the U.S. fail to reduce emissions, risking thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, more than the current gross domestic product of many U.S. states. Cited in the filed comment are statistics supporting these projections from government agencies including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; the American Meteorological Society; Department of Energy; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, representing the work of over 300 governmental and nongovernmental experts.”

In the letter, the coalition points out a number of alarming issues with the EPA’s proposal:

• The proposal is arbitrary and capricious and in violation of the Clean Air Act, as it runs counter to the agency’s evidence of the best achievable system of emission reduction;
• A new coal-fired plant would be expected to be able to meet the proposed weakened standard even if it did not use any carbon dioxide controls at all;
• EPA provides inaccurate costs of meeting the 2015 emission standards;
• EPA ignores the increased environmental harms that could result from changing the emission standard;
• EPA fails to justify reversing its finding that carbon storage capacity is sufficiently available and accessible throughout the country; and
• The agency has not provided enough information to permit the public to comment meaningfully.
Joining Attorney General Tong in demanding the proposed rule be withdrawn are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (by and through its Minnesota Pollution Control Agency), New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia; the Maryland Department of the Environment; the cities of Boulder, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and South Miami; and the county of Broward.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Snook and Assistant Attorney General Matt Levine, Head of the Environment Department, assisted the Attorney General in this matter.

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