Attorneys General Eric Schneiderman of New York and William Sorrell of Vermont co-sponsored the meeting, with attorneys general George Jepsen of Connecticut, Brian E. Frosh of Maryland, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and Claude Walker of the US Virgin Islands in attendance, along with former Vice President and leading climate activist Al Gore, and representatives from a total of 17 state attorneys general offices.
“As a Commonwealth and as a nation, we can’t put our heads in the sand because we are already confronting the realities of climate change,” said Attorney General Herring. “Hampton Roads is our Commonwealth’s second most populated region, it’s our second biggest economy, and it is the second most vulnerable area in the entire country as climate change drives continued sea-level rise. State government, local governments, and the military are spending millions to prepare for this challenge, and even more significant investment and resiliency measures will be required in coastal communities and elsewhere. I’m proud to have Virginia included in this first-of-its-kind coalition, which recognizes the reality and the pressing threat of man-made climate change and sea level rise. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to explore opportunities to address climate change, encourage the growth of our clean energy sectors, and build a cleaner, more sustainable future.”
Herring is working with the members of the new coalition and others as part a group of 25 states, cities and counties that have intervened to defend the “Clean Power Plan,” an ambitious and achievable national plan that will reduce carbon pollution, protect Virginians’ health, and protect our economy, coastal communities, agriculture/forestry industry and the military from the impacts of climate change. Today, the Commonwealth of Virginia and fellow intervenors filed a brief to the DC Circuit Court in support of the Clean Power Plan, which also advances the goals of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s comprehensive Virginia energy plan to reduce pollution while prioritizing development of Virginia’s clean energy sector.
In December 2014, Attorney General Herring submitted comments to the EPA regarding the draft Clean Power Plan rule. In his comments, he recommended an approach that considers all implementation costs and benefits, as well as the cost of inaction to Virginia and other vulnerable areas. He recommended that, in developing the final rule, the EPA give Virginia more credit for recent investments in zero-carbon generation, offer Virginia more flexibility for adjusting its implementation plan if necessary, treat energy efficiency investments more equitably compared to clean energy generation investments, and help promote cooperation among neighboring states. The final Clean Power Plan made substantial improvements in each of these areas, including incentivizing energy efficiency investments, and relaxed Virginia’s pollution reduction target by 15% to a level that both energy companies and environmental advocates agree is achievable.
Attorney General Herring previously made Virginia the first Chesapeake Bay state to defend the Bay cleanup plan against attacks by out-of-state special interests and states that don’t border the Bay. His amicus brief filed in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals laid out Virginia’s history of interstate cooperation and cooperation with federal partners to clean up the Bay, as well as the economic, environmental, and intrinsic value of the Bay to Virginia. The Bay cleanup plan was unanimously upheld by the Third Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of the case.
“With gridlock and dysfunction gripping Washington on the generation-defining issue of climate change, it is up to the states to lead.We stand ready to defend the next president’s climate change agenda and vow to fight any efforts to roll-back the meaningful progress we’ve made over the past eight years,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “And our offices will begin working together on important state-level initiatives, such as investigations into whether fossil fuel companies are misleading their investors about how climate change will impact their investments, fossil fuel companies, and our planet.”
Vermont Attorney General Sorrell said, “We are happy to have work closely with New York to organize this meeting. As we all know, global warming, if not reversed, will be catastrophic for our planet. We, the states, have a role to play in this endeavor and intend to do our part.”
“The states represented here today have long been working to sound the alarm, to put smart policies in place to speed our transition to a clean energy future, and to stop power plants from emitting millions of tons of dangerous global warming pollution into our air,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “In Massachusetts, we’re a leader in clean energy and together we’re taking a thoughtful, aggressive approach to ensuring our planet’s health for generations to come.”
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, said “I am delighted to meet with so many thoughtful leaders to strategize on ways we can protect our citizens from the greatest threat we collectively face, climate change. I am proud to have worked with them and others in defending the Obama Administration’s action to combat global warming, and look forward to discussing how we can best further that important work. I also appreciate the opportunity to discuss potential future efforts, including the merits of possible joint investigations in this important area.”
U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker said, “The Virgin Islands, which is especially vulnerable to environmental threats, has a particular interest in making sure that companies are honest about what they know about climate change. We are committed to ensuring a fair and transparent market where consumers can make informed choices about what they buy and from whom. If ExxonMobil has tried to cloud their judgment, we are determined to hold the company accountable.”
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said, “Climate changes poses an existential threat to Maryland and to nation. I am proud to join with my colleagues across the country in this important collaboration, and am willing to use every tool at our collective disposal to protect our air, our water and our natural resources. The pledge we are making today can help insure a cleaner and safer future.”
“Climate change has real and lasting impacts on our environment, public health, and the economy,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “California has been a national leader in fighting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and I am proud to join this effort to preserve and protect our natural resources for future generations to come.”
“Washington state has long made protecting our environment a top priority,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “A problem like climate change is bigger than any one state. I look forward to working with the coalition on innovative solutions to combat and reverse the harmful effects of climate change.”
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said, “Our natural resources are the lifeblood of our state’s economy and our quality of life. Global climate change demands immediate action and I am committed to using the authority of my office to address the problem in a meaningful way by defending important EPA regulations against attacks led by the coal industry and exploring litigation options that will hold the worst polluters accountable for their actions.”
“I am committed to working with Attorney General Schneiderman and the coalition to protect the progress we are making on climate change in this country. Our work will protect the health and well-being of New Mexico children and families, and that is the priority of the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.
“Our office has a mandate to protect the public interest, and this includes ensuring that our community is not negatively affected by preventable climate change. We welcome this crucial state-to-state cooperation to ensure that we do everything we can to fight the causes of climate change regardless of whether the federal government continues to partner with us in these efforts or not,” said District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine.