States challenging the Trump presidency’s stricter immigration enforcement and relaxation of environmental regulations represent “a new kind of progressive federalism” that steps in to force oversight that Congress won’t, New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Tuesday.
Speaking at an New York University School of Law’s “Green States” conference, Schneiderman and fellow Democratic counterparts in Illinois and Maryland say they see a duty to offer “legal resistance” to President Donald Trump.
Schneiderman said Trump’s advisers are “a group of people whose efforts to ensure dirtier air, more polluted water, and a less hospitable planet, ” and might “use the motto make America Grimy Again” — a play on Trump’s winning campaign motto from 2016.
To the chagrin of environmentalists, the Trump White House has appointed longtime critics of what they view as the excessive regulatory authority of agencies they’ve been charged with overseeing, including Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA over efforts to regulate smog, mercury, and other kinds of pollution.
In July, Schneiderman and 5 states challenged the EPA over toxic pesticide. In August, his office claimed victory over an attempt to delay smog regulations. A coalition of attorneys general including Schneiderman also successfully challenged Trump’s travel ban he says is to prevent terrorism but critics say unconstitutionally targets Muslims.
On Tuesday, Schneiderman said: “There is a second tier of protection at the state level.”
The Trump administration did not immediately return a message seeking comment, but has said that regulations adopted during Barack Obama’s tenure exceeded the executive’s authority, are undue burdens on business, put the United States at a competitive disadvantage and kill jobs.
Democratic foes dispute those positions.
The offices of Schneiderman and his counterparts at the NYU forum — Lisa Madigan of Illinois and Brian Frosh of Maryland -- promised to work with other attorneys general to push back on the White House.
Madigan said that when pollution goes down, the gross domestic product goes up.
“We have a moral obligation to do this work on behalf of future generations who will come to inherit our planet,” said Madigan, whose office also sued George W. Bush’s administration over the environment. Her office and others sued over mercury emissions, winning in 2008.
Schneiderman said he rejects concerns that the efforts to challenge federal authority are akin in principle to what southern states did during the Civil Rights Era.
“We’re way beyond that,” he said. “That’s ancient history.”