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Legally Speaking
June 2018 
1. EPA Releases Pesticide Training Materials Facing AG Pressure
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit in May along with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its decision to delay critical safeguards protecting agricultural workers and their families from pesticides. 

In June, the EPA reversed course and published a notice in the Federal Register stating that the expanded pesticide safety training materials, in accordance with the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, were available for use.

"Again and again, the EPA has broken the law – and we’ve fought back and won," said AG Underwood.
2. 9 AGs Object to Removal of Independent Scientists from Advisory Committees

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson led a coalition of nine Attorneys General in objecting to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's directive that bars independent scientific experts affiliated with universities from serving on EPA advisory committees if their institutions receive EPA grants, while continuing to welcome participation by industry-funded scientists.

The nine Attorneys General filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs in Physicians for Social Responsibility, et al. v. E. Scott Pruitt, objecting to the arbitrary and capricious line-drawing used by EPA to exclude independent scientific experts from serving on advisory committees.

"The advisory committee Directive has already caused dozens of uniquely qualified scientists to be removed from their posts on EPA advisory boards and committees, while leaving in place (and even increasing) persons affiliated with regulated industries," said the Attorneys General in their brief. "Industry-funded or even industry- employed members of the Science Advisory Board thus have risen from comprising 40 percent of Board members to now comprising nearly 70 percent."

California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection joined Washington in filing the brief.

3. AGs Challenge Trump's Two-for-One Executive Order
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a motion to intervene in Public Citizen, Inc., et al. vs. Trump, et. al. to challenge a Trump Executive Order that requires most federal agencies to arbitrarily repeal at least two existing regulations for every new major regulation an agency issues.

"Particularly when it comes to the environment, many federal regulations benefit our two states’ air, land and water equally,"
 said AG Rosenblum. "The idea that two regulations must be repealed for every one that is adopted would be downright silly—if it weren’t so dangerous. This ‘Two-for-One' Executive Order allows for no consideration of the value of benefits to the states of the repealed regulations—making it downright illegal."
4. 11 AGs Sue to Protect Climate Regulations

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood led a coalition of 11 Attorneys General in filing suit against the EPA for seeking to illegally roll back climate protection regulations adopted in 2015. The AGs argue that EPA violated the federal Clean Air Act when it effectively rescinded regulations prohibiting the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – an extremely potent greenhouse gas – through guidance, rather than a public rulemaking process. 

Joining Attorney General Underwood in the lawsuit are the Attorneys General of California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

5. AG Stein Plans Appeal to Force Duke Energy to Pay for Coal Ash Pollution

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced plans to appeal Duke Energy Carolinas' 1.2% utility rate hike, challenging the provisions that make customers pay $475 million in coal-ash cleanup costs.

“We are reviewing the rest of the order as well,” said AG Stein of the decision by the North Carolina Utilities Commission that imposed the rate increase. “But the coal-ash issue is far and away the most important part of the ruling and we will appeal.”

AG Stein has previously urged the North Carolina Utilities Commission to prioritize ratepayers’ wallets over Duke Energy’s.

“Duke Energy has known that coal ash was going to be an issue since at least the 1990’s, but the company didn’t deal with it. Now that it's more expensive for Duke to clean up its coal ash mess, it wants North Carolinians to pay the price. That's wrong, and that's why I oppose Duke's request to dramatically hike up our power bills," said AG Stein in January, 2018.

6. OP-ED: A Free Pass to Kill Migratory Birds

In a New York Times op-ed, Lynn Scarlett and State Energy & Environmental Impact Center Executive Director David J. Hayes lay out how one of our nation's oldest wildlife protections - The Migratory Bird Treaty Act - is currently under threat by the Trump administration. 

"As part of the Trump administration’s drive to remove 'unnecessary' regulatory 'burdens' on the energy industry, the Interior Department has advanced an alternative interpretation of the law that absolves companies from engaging in foreseeable and preventable activities that kill birds."

"The implications of the Interior Department’s new position on bird killings are troubling, because building owners, oil and wind energy companies and others will no longer have any legal incentive to reduce or eliminate bird deaths caused by their operations."

"Upending core protections in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and removing the incentives for companies to work cooperatively with government and nonprofit partners to protect our nation’s birds from harm, does a profound disservice. Our nation’s magnificent birds deserve better."

7. OP-ED: Oil Industry Traded Safety for Energy Dominance

In an op-ed in The Hill, State Energy & Environmental Impact Center Deputy Director Liz Klein explains how the oil and gas drilling safeguards created in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster are now on the chopping block. 

"Just two years after the 
Blowout Preventer and Well Control Rule was finalized — and long before many of its key provisions have even taken effect — the current administration is now proposing to eliminate or weaken requirements that were specifically aimed at preventing further disasters. BSEE’s guiding policy direction is now to encourage energy development and reduce ‘unnecessary regulatory burden.’"

"The recurring theme throughout the Deepwater Horizon post-mortems was that regulators had been so captured by the industry they were meant to oversee that the regulatory structure in place was woefully insufficient and decades behind where it should have been. Compounding the problem was an industry found to have a disturbing lack of commitment to overall safety.

Which makes the specific provisions now targeted for rollback so concerning. For example, identified for elimination is the creation of a network of BSEE-approved third-party experts that would verify that key inspections, maintenance activities, and drilling operations are being performed safely."

"No longer is the focus on safety first — the very mission of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement — which will only compel less-well-meaning companies to continue to cut corners."

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