New Attorneys General are good news for public health and the environment in 2019
- January 9, 2019
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By Ben Levitan
EDF Legal Fellow Lance Bowman co-authored this post
Looking for some good news to start the year?
Right now, there are new state Attorneys General taking office across the country who have committed to protecting public health, the environment, and the rule of law.
Many of them are replacing Attorneys General who lost their elections last year – and who also opposed public health and environmental protections.
Here are a few examples:
Coloradans elected Phil Weiser as their new Attorney General. Weiser has expressed a firm commitment to environmental protection and conservation, has promised to defend the rule of law, and has vowed to combat President Trump’s aggressive, health-harming rollbacks.
Weiser marks a welcome change from Colorado’s last Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, who sued in an attempt to stop the Clean Power Plan — our first-ever national limits on power plant carbon pollution — despite widespread support from the public, her own state’s governor, and the Colorado public health and environmental department.
Coffman also declined to represent Colorado in its efforts to limit methane pollution, and fought to prevent cities from holding energy companies accountable for their role in exacerbating climate change.
Dana Nessel has just started her term as Attorney General of Michigan. Nessel has publicly declared her intention to hold chemical companies accountable for PFAS, and promised to re-evaluate what she has characterized as a “highly suspect” investigation into the Flint water crisis.
Nessel replaces former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a staunch opponent of basic environmental protections who spearheaded a years-long legal battle against EPA limits on mercury pollution from coal plants and repeatedly punted on addressing water contamination from the chemical PFAS despite the considerable health risks.
Meanwhile, Schuette’s attempt to parlay his anti-environmental record into higher office ended in failure. He lost his bid to be Michigan’s governor, and will now watch from the sidelines as his successor restores the rule of law to protect human health and the environment for the well-being of all in Michigan.
Josh Kaul won the race for Attorney General of Wisconsin. Kaul has expressed a firm commitment to protecting clean air, clean water, and public health, and has promised to hold polluters accountable for breaking the law.
Kaul defeated the incumbent, Brad Schimel, who infamously voted to prohibit employees of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands from “engaging in global warming or climate change work” while on the job.
Aaron Ford has just been sworn in as Nevada’s top legal officer. In the run up to his election, Ford expressed strong support for the Clean Power Plan and criticized the anti-environmental agenda pursued by his predecessor.
Like Michigan’s Bill Schuette, Laxalt was unable to leverage his anti-environmental agenda into higher office. Laxalt was soundly beaten by Steve Sisolak in the race for Nevada Governor.
Continuing the fight for public health and the environment
Beyond Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin, Attorneys General in several other states are set to continue efforts to protect public health and the environment.
Hector Balderas of New Mexico, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, Brian Frosh of Maryland, Tom Miller of Iowa, and TJ Donovan of Vermont are among the Attorneys General who have established impressive records of defending and enforcing health and environmental safeguards. Each was elected to a new term in November.
Xavier Becerra, who was appointed Attorney General of California after his predecessor won a Senate seat, has valiantly stood up for the health and environment of his constituents. In November, Californians resoundingly elected him to a term of his own.
Kwame Raoul is set to begin as Illinois’ new Attorney General, and to continue his predecessor Lisa Madigan’s record of defending and enforcing health and environmental safeguards. Raoul will be able to build on his work as State Senator, where he filed a bill that would grant residents greater legal standing to sue over air pollution, contaminated water, and other concerns.
In New York, newly-elected Attorney General Letitia James is positioned to build on the progress of her predecessor Barbara Underwood. In her new role, James has already demonstrated leadership in litigation to address climate-harming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
A pivotal moment
On Election Day the American people used their votes to demand clean air, clean water, and a return to the rule of law. These new Attorneys General — now formally stepping into their roles — are poised to be powerful voices for commonsense safeguards in the face of reckless federal rollbacks.