April 27, 2020

Whitehouse, Markey, Merkley, Schatz, Gillibrand Call on DC Circuit to Strike Down Trump EPA’s Do-Nothing Power Plant Rule

Senators: whenever the fossil fuel industry is involved, Trump’s EPA cannot be trusted to make reasoned decisions

Washington, DC – Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a major challenge to the Trump administration’s Clean Power Plan replacement rule.  The senators write that the so-called Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule—a toothless replacement for the Obama administration’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants—is the product of Trump officials who owe their careers to the fossil fuel industry.  With the fossil fuel industry’s close allies and former employees running the Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the senators argue, the do-nothing rule is the product of a captured agency, is arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, and is an improper delegation of rulemaking authority from a federal regulator to an industry it regulates.

With former fossil-fuel industry lobbyists and lawyers at the helm, EPA has decided to do nothing about [greenhouse gas] emissions,” the senators write. The ACE Rule is not the product of reasoned decision-making by EPA that in any serious way grapples with the evidence of harms from climate change.”

The senators note the fossil fuel interests that have infiltrated the Trump EPA and those interests’ almost complete control over agency decision-making.  Major fossil fuel companies, industry executives and lobbyists, and powerful trade groups have all been revealed as guiding Trump policymaking, with many sending personnel directly into the Trump EPA.  For instance, current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler came to the EPA after serving as a top lobbyist for the coal industry, and former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rose to political prominence in Oklahoma by raising money from fossil fuel interests.

The senators continue, “The record of this case, and of other regulatory matters of which this Court may take notice, indeed raise the question whether this EPA is even capable of fair decision-making in matters involving the interests of the fossil fuel industry, or whether rampant cronyism, conflicts of interest, and corruption leave EPA under present leadership unable to conform itself to the strictures of [federal administrative law].”

The senators point to a mountain of evidence for their argument: improper contacts between the EPA’s political leadership and the fossil fuel industry; strong evidence that agency decision-making was dictated by the needs of the fossil fuel industry; and the ACE rule’s failure to grapple with the overwhelming economic and scientific evidence on the massive costs associated with carbon pollution.

A PDF copy of the senators’ brief is available here.



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