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AG Nessel Fights Federal Attempts to Weaken Environmental Protections Despite Climate Change Warnings

LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office continues to fight against federal attempts to weaken environmental protection laws as Michigan leaders double down on efforts to put the state on track toward being carbon-neutral by 2050 under a new plan announced today by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan establishes steps the state can take to reduce its carbon footprint in the coming years, such as increasing energy efficiency in state buildings and facilities.

Michigan is home to thousands of inland lakes and waterways, acres of forestland and – of course – the Great Lakes, which all play vital roles in the state’s economy and may be impacted by climate change. Federal efforts to undermine environmental safeguards threaten those Michigan assets, along with natural resources across the rest of the U.S.

In a video message, Attorney General Nessel said the country needs stronger environmental protection laws, not weaker ones.

“With raging fires out west, tropical storms and hurricanes that are slamming the south, and major ice floes that are literally melting away in Alaska, it’s clear that climate change is a very real thing – not some smoke-and-mirrors voodoo science,” Nessel said. “Our country needs stronger laws, not weaker ones that play to the oil and gas industry as the Trump administration has consistently pushed for. My office will continue to focus our efforts on stopping the Trump administration from its devastating changes to environmental rules and laws that threaten to eliminate decades of progress.”

The Michigan Department of Attorney General, with colleagues across the nation, is involved in several ongoing cases related to climate change in which federal regulations are being challenged. Those include: 

  • New York, et al v EPA, D.C. Circuit Court Case No. 19-1165.  (Consolidated into American Lung Assn, et al v EPA, Case No. 19-1140.)  The Attorney General in August 2019 joined a petition for review in the D.C. Circuit Court challenging the replacement for the Clean Power Plan, the Affordable Clean Energy rule – also called the “Dirty Power Rule.”
  • California, et al v Chao, D.C. District Court Case No. 1:19-cv-02826-KBJ. In September 2019, the Attorney General’s office joined a challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia involving the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposed regulation declaring that state emissions regulations are preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, making it more difficult for states to restrict pollution on their own.
  • California, et al v Wheeler, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 19-1239. In a related case, the Attorney General joined a petition for review in November regarding an action by EPA under the Clean Air Act revoking California’s waiver to establish its own emissions standards for vehicles.
  • New York, et al v U.S. Dep’t of Energy, 2nd Circuit Court Case No 19-3652 and New York, et al v U.S. Dep’t of Energy, 2nd Circuit Court Case No 20-743. In November and February, the Department  joined separate petitions for review in the Second Circuit Court challenging the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) decision to repeal an Obama-era rule that would have expanded the type and number of lightbulbs subject to increased energy efficiency standards and failing to amend definitions for incandescent lightbulbs. Lighting consumes up to 10 percent of the total electricity used.
  • California v USDOE, et al, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 20-71068.  The Attorney General’s office in April joined multistate litigation, led by California, challenging a final rule by the DOE referred to as the Process Rule.  The Process Rule unlawfully changes the parameters for how the DOE makes decisions about energy efficiency standards.
  • Maryland v. USDOT et al, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals No. 20-1318.  In mid-August the Attorney General’s office joined a lawsuit challenging the Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Management Administration’s final rule authorizing the transportation of liquid natural gas by railroad car. This rule, in addition to creating safety concerns for communities near railroads, has climate change implications because it will increase consumption of natural gas and, in turn, greenhouse gas emissions.
  • California v. Wheeler, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Case No’s 20-1357 and 20-1367.  Earlier this month, the Attorney General joined two petitions for review challenging EPA’s revision of the Clean Air Act rules that govern emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from oil and gas production. The rules will essentially deregulate the emission of greenhouse gases from oil and gas industry operations.
  • Washington v. Bernhardt, U.S. District Court for Alaska Case No. 3:20-cv-00224-SLG.  Also early this month, the office joined a lawsuit challenging the Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to open portions of the Alaska Coastal Plain in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. 

Attorney General Nessel’s office has consistently taken a strong stance when addressing environmental issues in the state, with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters recently giving the Attorney General an “A” rating for her office’s work to protect natural resources.

For more information on the Attorney General’s efforts, visit the Department’s website.

Click here to view the Attorney General’s message on climate change and related lawsuits her office is involved in.