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Attorney General Bonta Defends EPA Authority to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Power Plants

Argues in brief to U.S. Supreme Court that Trump-era "ACE" rule was mistaken in interpreting Clean Air Act to limit EPA authority 

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, as part of a multistate coalition, filed a response brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. In 2019, the Trump Administration repealed the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with the so-called “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule, claiming EPA’s authority to regulate these emissions was much more limited than previously understood. In the brief, the coalition argues — as it did successfully in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — that the Trump Administration’s repeal unlawfully invented limits on the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

“We cannot let the coal industry and special interests dictate our response to the climate crisis,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Right now, we’re at a crossroads, and our next steps are critical. The Clean Air Act is one of the most important tools we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and these transparently self-serving attempts by industry interests to artificially limit the EPA’s authority to implement the Clean Air Act are contrary to law and contrary to common sense. I urge the Supreme Court to affirm the D.C. Circuit's decision in this case.”

“California is leading the nation’s fight against climate change, and we’ll use every tool at our disposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — the Clean Air Act is critical to addressing this crisis and ​protecting Californians from harmful power plant emissions,” said Governor Gavin Newsom.

“The Trump Administration promulgated the ACE Rule based on an incorrect view of the Clean Air Act,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph. “The D.C. Circuit rightfully vacated the ACE Rule as contrary to law. CARB strongly believes the D.C. Circuit decision is right on the law, and the Supreme Court should affirm the decision.  EPA needs the full authority of the Clean Air Act to reduce dangerous emissions from power plants and address the climate crisis.”

Existing power plants emit more greenhouse gases than any other category of stationary sources. The Clean Power Plan was the culmination of a decade-long effort by partnering states and cities, among others, to reduce those emissions with meaningful nationwide limits. When the Trump Administration repealed the Clean Power Plan in 2019, Attorney General Bonta joined a multistate coalition challenging that action in court. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in the coalition’s favor and vacated the ACE rule, the coal interests and states supporting the rule filed petitions for certiorari. The Supreme Court agreed to take up the case in late October 2021.   

In the brief, the coalition urges the Supreme Court to affirm the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, arguing that, in repealing the Clean Power Plan and replacing it with the ACE rule, the Trump Administration relied on an erroneous interpretation of Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, wrongly limiting the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary sources.

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the cities of Boulder, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and South Miami, in filing the brief.

A copy of the brief can be found here.