Posted by Brandon Jarvis
RICHMOND(April 27, 2018)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed official public comments opposing the Trump administration’s plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the most promising national plan to reduce air pollution and mitigate the effects of climate change. Herring and a 27-member coalition of states, counties, and cities state that the “unlawful and unsupported” repeal plan would have a significant negative impact on communities like Hampton Roads that are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.
“Virginia is already confronting the effects of climate change and sea level rise, particularly in Hampton Roads, which faces the prospect of billions in spending on infrastructure and coastal resiliency measures in the coming decades,” said Attorney General Herring. “To turn our back on the most promising plan to mitigate climate change and sea level rise is foolish, and to do it in this way is unlawful. We will continue to defend the Clean Power Plan and the economic, environmental, and health benefits of cleaner air and water, because the cost of inaction is just too high.”
In their comments, Attorney General Herring and his fellow filers state that the EPA’s repeal proposal is “unsupported by the facts or law,” not only ignoring the Clean Power Plan’s increasingly compelling scientific underpinnings, but also the EPA’s obligations to regulate power plant emissions under the federal Clean Air Act. The coalition also charges that EPA’s newly revised analysis of the economic impacts of the Clean Power Plan is error-filled, and amounts to “a thinly-veiled attempt to provide factual support for its predetermined conclusion to repeal the [Plan].” The coalition compares the Trump administration’s approach to “a horse with blinders (if not a blindfold)” that “completely ignores the dire threat climate change poses.”
Specifically, the coalition challenges the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan on a number of fronts, including that:
- Scientific reports issued after the Clean Power Plan was finalized provide further demonstration of the critical need to promptly and sharply cut climate change pollution from power plants and other large sources.
- The Clean Air Act is clear in requiring EPA to set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. The Trump EPA’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan without simultaneously replacing it would violate the Act.
- Legal arguments being made by the Trump EPA in support of its proposed repeal were carefully considered and rejected when raised in the Clean Power Plan rulemaking. Since nothing has changed to now make these arguments more worthwhile, the proposed repeal is both contrary to the Clean Air Act, and arbitrary and capricious.
- The Trump EPA’s revised analysis on the economic impacts of the Clean Power Plan contains numerous errors, and systematically underestimates the benefits of the Clean Power Plan while exaggerating its costs.
States, counties, and cities are on the front lines of climate change. The coalition submitted with its comments an appendix highlighting the threats they are facing. For example, among the harms that Virginia faces from increasing climate change are:
- The Hampton Roads area has experienced the highest rates of sea level rise along the East Coast: in Virginia Beach, the sea has risen by approximately 30 inches since 1880.
- Ordinary rain events now cause flooding in the streets of Norfolk, including large connector streets going underwater.
- Norfolk naval base, the largest navy base in the world, is currently replacing 14 piers due to sea level rise, at a cost of $35-40 million per pier.
- According to Old Dominion University’s Center for Sea Level Rise, the city of Norfolk alone will need at least $1 billion in the coming decades to replace current infrastructure and keep water out of city homes and businesses.
- According to a recent study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, costs from three feet of sea-level rise in the Hampton Roads region are expected to range between $12 billion and $87 billion.
The CPP, which was developed over several years with an unprecedented amount of input from states, cities, nonprofits, the business community, and the public, calls for a 32% national reduction in carbon pollution from power plants by 2030, including a 32% reduction in the Commonwealth’s carbon output by 2030, roughly the same reduction the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says Virginia achieved between 2007 and 2012. Power plants are responsible for about one third of the country’s carbon pollution, making them the single largest source in the country. Implementing these reductions will make a lasting impact by removing the carbon equivalent of approximately 166 million cars.
In addition to Attorney General Herring, comments were filed by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and the chief legal officers of the cities of Boulder (Colorado), Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and South Miami (Florida), and the county of Broward (Florida).
According to the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, 64% of Virginians believe climate change is happening and half believe that it is mostly caused by human activity. More than half believe that climate change will harm people in the United States, 76% support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 66% support limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants as proposed in the CPP.