Recent News

Frosh Joins Clean Power Plan Fight

11.04.2015

By Timothy B. Wheeler

Baltimore Sun

Nov. 4, 2015

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is jumping into a national legal donnybrook over President Obama’s climate policy, even though it’s against the wishes of his client, Gov. Larry Hogan.

Frosh announced Wednesday that he is joining with 16 other states in backing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which is being challenged by attorneys general from about two dozen other states. The other states’ lawyers filed suit in federal appeals court in Washington seeking to block the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing a regulation curbing climate-altering emissions from power plants.

Hogan spokesman Matthew A. Clark stressed that Frosh, a Democrat, isn’t acting on behalf of Maryland’s Republican governor.

“It’s not at all clear how the use of state resources to defend a suit against the federal government is the best use of taxpayer dollars,” Clark said. He said Hogan is “focused on finding balanced solutions to Maryland’s environmental challenges.”

The White House plan, unveiled earlier this year, calls for a 32 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel burning power plants by 2030, and increasing energy generation from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

Attorneys general opposing the plan contend the EPA has overstepped its legal authority and that the rule would hurt their states' economies.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones issued a statement Wednesday defending the agency’s rule, saying it’s “grounded firmly in science and the law and is fair, flexible, and affordable.”

While steering clear of taking a stand on the legal dispute, Hogan’s spokesman noted that Maryland is on track to curb its own carbon emissions 25 percent by 2020. He also pointed out that Hogan’s environment secretary, Benjamin H. Grumbles, recently joined business leaders in calling for setting a new goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.

“Marylanders are best served when state officials focus on improving Maryland rather than activist agendas at the federal level,” Clark said.

But Frosh, an ardent environmental advocate during 28 years in Maryland’s legislature, countered that too much was at stake to sit out the fracas over EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. He called climate change “an existential challenge” and said he believed Marylanders’ health and safety are at stake in deciding how to deal with it.

“Rising sea levels are claiming islands in the Chesapeake Bay, and extreme weather events threaten neighborhoods, homes and our natural resources,” he said in announcing his move.

Later, when informed of Hogan’s opposition, he said, “I don’t think we should be standing on the sidelines. It’s too important.”

Frosh said he had informed the governor’s office of his decision to get involved in the lawsuit and was aware of its opposition.

“We work together on most things, but we don’t agree on everything,” he said.

The attorney general’s office is supposed to represent the governor and the executive branch of state government, Frosh said, but it’s also his constitutional duty to advocate for Maryland’s interests in federal and appellate courts.

In this case, while Maryland may be taking steps to curb its own carbon emissions, Frosh said, “other states are not, and they’re trying to stop EPA from enforcing the Clean Power Plan rule. We can’t do it all by ourselves. Everybody has got to pitch in.”

Besides, Frosh added, intervening in the lawsuit really isn’t costing Maryland taxpayers much. His staff spent a little time researching the issue, he said, but Maryland is merely piggybacking on a legal initiatve in support of EPA brought by New York’s attorney general, also a Democrat.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun