U.S. states sue EPA, Pruitt for rolling back climate change rule

(Reuters) - A group of U.S. states led by New York sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, accusing Administrator Scott Pruitt of trying to illegally roll back limits on the use of climate change pollutants known as hydrofluorocarbons.

FILE PHOTO: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt attends a cabinet meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Eleven states and the District of Columbia said Pruitt violated the federal Clean Air Act on April 27 by issuing “guidance” that they said effectively rescinded regulations adopted in 2015 under the Obama administration.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood accused the EPA under President Donald Trump of trying “to gut critical climate protection rules through the backdoor,” by revoking the 2015 limits rather than going through a public review process.

The states petitioned the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to throw out Pruitt’s decision.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency does not discuss pending litigation.

Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are often used in air conditioning, refrigerants, aerosols and foam-blowing.

The EPA had in 2015 estimated that limiting the pollutants’ use could by 2020 reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million to 31 million metric tons.

Underwood said 30 million metric tons was enough to power 3.2 million homes.

She also noted that the D.C. Circuit last August upheld EPA authority to declare that HFCs were not safe substitutes for ozone-depleting substances, though it refused to require manufacturers that had replaced such substances with HFCs - when HFCs were thought safe - to switch to something else.

In the April 27 guidance, the EPA said revoking the 2015 limits would “dispel confusion and provide regulatory certainty” for users.

Other states joining Wednesday’s lawsuit include California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington.

They and New York are among many Democratic-led or -leaning states that have filed lawsuits challenging a long list of Trump administration policies.

Such lawsuits were a central focus of Eric Schneiderman, who preceded Underwood as New York’s attorney general. Schneiderman resigned last month after women accused him of sexual assault.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman