This was written by Lana Schwartz. The post highlights the incredible work of the Environmental Defense Fund’s legal team, headed by Moms Clean Air Force co-founder Vickie Patton:
In the final days of the Trump administration, we got to say goodbye to a lot of things — and with thanks to EDF’s Legal team, it turns out that includes two harmful Trump administration rules: One that scrapped the Clean Power Plan and replaced it with a do-nothing rule that would even allow carbon pollution to increase at many power plants, and another that attempted to undermine the use of science by the EPA.
In fact, for both cases, we and our litigation partners were able to make the argument that the Trump administration’s actions were based on unlawful legal interpretations. If allowed to stand, these interpretations would have limited the actions of future administrations and curtailed climate progress.
“Not only did we get these rules off the books in their own right, but in doing so we were able to dispatch with really harmful restrictions that would’ve bound the Biden/Harris administration,” Ben Levitan said of the big wins.
In 2015, EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan, and once Trump took office, he set about trying to replace it with the misleadingly named Affordable Clean Energy rule. The rule severely weakened EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. And while it wouldn’t make sense for EPA officials to re-instate the Clean Power Plan at this point (given the deadlines it had outlined), the current EPA can develop new limits based on current opportunities to reduce climate pollution from the power sector.
EDF was a petitioner in this case, which was argued in part by our outside counsel, Sean Donahue. Our Legal team conducted research, drafted sections of the briefs, and coordinated with a wide variety of NGOs and other entities to bring this litigation forward. The team’s work built on years of groundwork laid through comments we submitted, as well as other public comments, that demonstrated that the Trump administration had acted arbitrarily and unlawfully.
Our other legal victory struck down an EPA rule that gave less weight to scientific studies for which underlying data couldn’t be made publicly available — such as health data protected by confidentiality requirements. The rule severely limited EPA’s capacity to adequately safeguard public health and the environment. Ultimately, because EPA tried to use an unlawful shortcut to establish the rule, the judge was quick to rule in EDF and our co-plaintiffs’ favor.
“We knew when Trump came into office that environmental law would face unprecedented threat. As his term ended, it was great to see two court opinions that so resoundingly upheld EPA’s authority to use rigorous science and protect the public,” Ben told Insider.
“It’s a galvanizing call for the work ahead,” Dena Adler said, “and infuses new hope into the process of how we can advance climate and health protections going forward under a new administration.”