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As West Virginia rejoices, supportive states ready for Clean Power Plan fight

The states that supported the Clean Power Plan have banded together once again, this time to oppose an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that directs the U.S. EPA to review the rule with the end goal of repealing it.

The coalition led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also includes the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia, as well as the chief legal officers of the cities of Boulder, Colo.; Chicago; New York; Philadelphia; South Miami, Fla.; and Broward County, Fla.

"We won’t hesitate to protect those we serve — including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump's actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change," the officials said in a joint statement issued March 28.

The attorneys general noted that the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would have been achieved by the Clean Power Plan are equivalent to taking more than 160 million cars off the roads for a year, or 70% of the nation’s passenger cars. The rule was created through a robust stakeholder process over several years and drew on the experience of utilities and states that have been working to reduce climate change-causing pollution.

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (at microphone) announces a multistate climate coalition on March 29, 2016, with six other attorneys general and former Vice President Al Gore (second from left).

Source: New York Attorney General's Office

"These states recognize that, on such a crucial issue that is already costing taxpayers billions of dollars in storm response and other costs, state action alone will not be enough and strong federal actions like the Clean Power Plan are needed," the statement said.

In October 2015, over half of the states filed a lawsuit against the EPA arguing that the rule was overly burdensome.

The officials pushing back against the Trump administration's attacks on the Clean Power Plan intervened in the litigation West Virginia v. EPA (No. 15-1363) to support the Obama administration's cause. For instance, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called Trump's denial of the threat of climate change "downright wreckless."

"We have a choice: we can lead this fight and capitalize on the unprecedented economic potential of clean energy, or we can bury our heads in the sand and waste an opportunity to create the next generation of energy jobs," McAuliffe said in a separate statement. "Here in the Commonwealth, we will continue to confront the impacts of climate change and support clean energy investments that will grow our economy and shape our future."

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington, as well as a number of mayors on the West Coast, said in another joint statement that the executive order threatened their economic opportunities.

"We speak as a region of over 50 million people with a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion. There is no question that to act on climate is to act in our best economic interests," the Western leaders' statement said. "Through expanded climate policies, we have grown jobs and expanded our economies while cleaning our air."

Conversely, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey cheered the signing of the order. He even accepted an offer from the president to attend the signing ceremony at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on March 28.

"It was an honor to stand alongside President Trump on this victorious day that means so much to those who call West Virginia home," said Morrisey in a statement. "My office has led the fight on all counts because this is something that matters to every West Virginian."

Morrisey said his team spent numerous hours drafting arguments, rulemaking comments and legal briefs in the effort to stop the Clean Power Plan. He was joined in his fight by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and other state agencies. North Carolina has since withdrawn its agency's participation in the matter at the direction of newly elected Gov. Roy Cooper.

"This is the shot in the arm coal needs to encourage people to place their bets on West Virginia again. My office will continue to do everything in our power to protect the Mountain State from unchecked federal overreach," Morrisey said.