Massachusetts AG Maura Healey: Protecting the Environment

The dust has started to settle in the wake of the Schneiderman resignation. Yet, you have played a key role in the Exxon lawsuit. Specifically, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently rejected the company’s arguments that you were biased and that state courts lacked jurisdiction in the case. How do you see progress moving forward, both in the ExxonMobil case and the other pending lawsuits against the EPA?

The work we do as state attorneys general isn’t about just one person. It’s about the dedicated women and men in offices across the country who enforce the law and protect people’s rights.  Our commitment to protecting the climate and advancing clean energy is unchanged and stronger than ever. Together, we are advocating on a number of fronts to protect the environment and human health, and that work continues.

With regards to Exxon Mobil, our state’s highest court has affirmed our office’s authority to investigate the company and ordered it to turn over documents. We look forward to continuing our critical investigation.

There is a coalition working to push back on the Scott Pruitt agenda to deconstruct the EPA. The group has already filed formal comments objecting to Pruitt’s move to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Where does this currently stand?

Last month, I joined with a coalition of 27 states, cities and counties calling on the EPA and Scott Pruitt to abandon their misguided and illegal effort to repeal the Clean Power Plan and instead to implement this vital rule that would protect our climate and public health, and would help grow the clean energy economy. Following up on a related filing we made in January, we recently presented EPA with additional evidence that Pruitt’s involvement in EPA’s efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan has tainted the process with unfairness, given his repeated attacks against the Clean Power Plan while he was Oklahoma Attorney General and since his confirmation as EPA Administrator. We have been defending this critical rule in court for more than two years, and we are going to continue to fight to keep it on the books.

Can you outline previous coalition successes via lawsuits in the area of methane emissions, vehicle fuel efficiency, and other proposed rollbacks?

We’ve had a number of important wins so far:

  • In June 2017, we intervened in a lawsuit against EPA for halting critical regulations of methane emissions and other harmful pollutants from new and modified oil and gas infrastructure. One month later, the D.C. Circuit Court issued an order blocking the EPA from suspending the regulations.

  • Two days after we sued the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation for their illegal delay of a regulation that would lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on federal highways, the Administration backed down and allowed the regulation to become effective. The Administration is proposing to roll back this regulation, and we filed comments opposing that move.

  • After we sued the EPA for illegally delaying required actions to address harmful ground-level ozone, EPA decided to reverse the delay the next day and recently finalized those actions.

  • We have fought to stop the Department of Energy from delaying vital energy efficiency standards for appliances. These standards are both pro-environment and pro-consumer. Following a lawsuit we filed, the Trump Administration reversed course and finalized the efficiency standards for ceiling fans as written. We also sued to protect a suite of energy efficiency standards on a range of appliances that will save consumers and businesses an estimated $11.6 billion over a 30-year period and cause major reductions in air pollution. One month later, DOE implemented some of the standards (for walk-in coolers and freezers). In February 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in our favor as to the other standards and ordered the Trump Administration to implement them. That ruling is now on appeal, and we are continuing to fight this illegal delay.

What is your reaction to Pruitt’s move to disallow certain research, many of the findings based on private databases? Specifically, studies that have served as building blocks of pollution legislation such as the Harvard ‘Six Cities’ Study of 1993, and the American Cancer Society 1995 study which linked air pollution to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as lung cancer?

We will vigorously oppose this dangerous proposal. The environment and science are under assault by the Trump Administration. Trump and Pruitt have handed over decision-making to climate change deniers and lobbyists for polluting industries. They are more concerned with those industries’ profits than our environment and public health. We will work with our partners to fight EPA’s efforts to disregard science, and we will defend the well-supported EPA rules and regulations that are on the books now and are critical to public health and our clean energy future.

The Trump administration is set to  “reconsider” greenhouse-gas-emission rules for the nation’s cars. How do you see this playing out, and will it create a precedent for states creating their own mileage standards in conflict with federal law?

Earlier this month, I filed suit in the D.C. Circuit along with 16 other states to stop Scott Pruitt from trashing these common sense fuel emissions standards for cars built in the coming decade. We believe these limits on tailpipe pollution have done more than any other measure to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions, increase miles per gallon fuel economy, and save drivers money at the pump. EPA itself found in early 2017 that these rules will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 450 million metric tons and save drivers $1,650 per vehicle.  Since we know the transportation sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse pollution in the country, these rules are more important than ever, and my office will continue to work with our partner states to defend them.

Do you think that Pruitt’s fossil fuel industry ties, going back to his relationships in Oklahoma as the state’s Attorney General, makes it impossible for him to carry out his responsibilities ethically and without undue influence?

Yes, we have seen time and again that Scott Pruitt has no interest in protecting the air we breathe or the water we drink – a job he swore an oath to do. He has handed over decision-making to the polluting industries and climate change deniers. We have been vocal about the ways his involvement has tainted the EPA’s current effort to repeal Clean Power Plan, and we are urging EPA to follow the law and remove him from that rulemaking process, to restore some basic level of fairness there.

A version of this article appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

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