Aug 13, 2019

29 states and cities sue Trump administration over weakening of climate rules

New York Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A group of 29 states and local governments on Tuesday filed suit against the Trump administration's move to replace Obama-era climate rules for power plants with a more modest alternative.

Why it matters: The litigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, sets the stage for a new federal court battle over the scope of regulators' authority and duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

  • It's a dispute that could affect how aggressively a future president can impose emissions-cutting rules on power plants, and perhaps other facilities like oil refineries.

The big picture: In June, the EPA announced final rules that require states to make coal-fired units more efficient over time, but the rules lack binding CO2-cutting targets.

  • Trump's rules replaced a wider 2015 regulation that sought to drive more sweeping power sector changes by enabling states to meet carbon-cutting mandates by moving to lower-emitting and zero-carbon sources.
  • That Obama-era mandate never took effect because it was stayed by the Supreme Court.

"My office, and this groundbreaking coalition of states and cities from across the nation, will fight back against this unlawful, do-nothing rule in order to protect our future from catastrophic climate change," James said in a statement.

Why you'll hear about this again: The disputes over the Obama administration rule and the Trump EPA's replacement center in part on whether the EPA, under the Clean Air Act, can promote broad changes to the electricity system that go beyond emissions from specific plants.

  • Trump administration officials, when rolling out their "Affordable Clean Energy" rule in June, argued that Obama's EPA went beyond its Clean Air Act authority.

The new litigation was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The EPA told Axios in a statement: "EPA does not comment on pending litigation. In regards to ACE, EPA worked diligently to ensure we produced a solid rule, that we believe will be upheld in the courts, unlike the previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan."

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EPA proposes roll back to Obama-era methane regulations

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules Thursday designed to ease Obama-era regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas business.

Why it matters: Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. The oil and gas industry is a significant source of emissions from wells plus natural gas pipelines, compressors and other equipment.

Go deeperArrowAug 29, 2019

Corporate heavyweights split with Trump on energy regulatory rollbacks

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

For the first time yesterday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce publicly split with the White House over its plan to freeze Obama-era vehicle emissions and mileage rules.

Why it matters: While K Street is directionally inclined toward deregulation, there can be colliding interests below the surface. And that's certainly the case when it comes to the oil and auto industries.

Go deeperArrowAug 30, 2019

New twist in the Trump-California auto fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration could soon move to revoke California's authority to set vehicle pollution rules that are tougher than federal standards, per multiple reports Thursday.

Why it matters: It’s the next phase in the high-stakes battle between the White House and California over carbon emissions and mileage rules and a key part of the wider White House effort to freeze Obama-era standards, rather than allowing them to get significantly tougher through the mid-2020s.

Go deeperArrowSep 6, 2019