Through its Environmental Protection Division, the Office of the Attorney General (AGO) fights to address climate change and air pollution. Below are examples of the Environmental Protection Division’s recent work.
After admissions that Volkswagen installed software to cheat emissions tests performed on its diesel vehicles, Attorney General Maura Healey secured multistate settlements requiring Volkswagen and affiliated companies (1) to pay more than $570 million for violating state laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices by marketing, selling and leasing diesel vehicles equipped with illegal and undisclosed defeat device software, and (2) to pay $157 million to settle environmental claims by Massachusetts and 9 other states.
The settlements provided more than $40 million in payments to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, $75 million in funds for environmental mitigation projects in the state, and comprehensive relief for affected consumers. In addition, the automakers agreed to increase the availability of new electric zero-emission vehicles.
For more information about the Volkswagen settlements, please visit this page.
Exxon Mobil Investigation
On April 19, 2016, the Attorney General opened an investigation into Exxon Mobil Corporation concerning potential violations of the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, M.G.L. c. 93A, Section 2. The investigation concerns whether Exxon may have misled Massachusetts consumers and/or investors with respect to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change and climate change-driven risks to Exxon's business.
For more information about the Exxon Mobil investigation, including court filings, please visit this page.
The Clean Power Plan
The Clean Power Plan, announced in August 2015, calls for mandatory greenhouse gas emission cuts from existing fossil fuel-burning power plants under the Clean Air Act. Along with other states, Massachusetts intervened to defend the Clean Power Plan against challenges by industry and allied states.
In December 2016, Massachusetts was part of a coalition of 19 states and local governments that sent a letter to then President-elect Trump urging him to continue the federal government’s defense of the Clean Power Plan. Massachusetts and other states are working on how to best protect the Clean Power Plan.
Click to review related press releases:
- Press release: Suspension of the Clean Power Plan Lawsuit (April 28, 2017).
- Press release: President Trump’s Executive Order Dismantling the Clean Power Plan (March 29, 2017).
- Press release: Multi-state letter sent to President-elect Trump to Support the Clean Power Plan (December 29, 2016).
- Press release: AG Healey pledges to defend EPA’s final Clean Power Plan (August 03, 2015)
Energy Efficiency Standards
The AGO promotes energy efficiency standards that protect both the environment and consumers. For instance, the office recently joined a coalition of state attorney’s general to defend federal light bulb regulations. These regulations would result in fewer greenhouse gas emission and lower energy bills for consumers. Massachusetts is also working with other states to defend energy efficiency rules for ceiling fans, industrial equipment, and more.
Click to review related press releases:
- Press Release: AG Healey sues Trump administration for blocking critical energy efficiency standards (June 13, 2017)
- Press Release: AG Healey joins lawsuit against Trump administration for blocking energy efficiency standards (April 04, 2017)
ENGIE Gas & LNG v. DPU; CLF v. DPU
In 2016, the Supreme Judicial Court released a decision on two companion cases, ENGIE Gas & LNG v. Department of Public Utilities and Conservation Law Foundation v. Department of Public Utilities. The decision confirmed the Attorney General’s position as an amicus curiae in the case that existing law bars electric distribution companies from using ratepayer money to foot the bill for natural gas pipelines.
Before the litigation, in 2015 the Attorney General’s Office commissioned a study regarding New England electric system reliability, which found that new natural gas infrastructure was not needed for electric system reliability and that there are cleaner, cheaper alternatives to meet potential future needs, such as energy efficiency and demand response.
Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS)
Attorney General Healey is leading a coalition of states to defend EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to reduce hazardous air pollution from power plants, including mercury and other harmful emissions, that endanger public health and the environment.
The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA)
Signed in August 2008, the Global Warming Solutions Acts (GWSA) gives Massachusetts a framework for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from each sector of the state economy. Compared to the 1990 emission baseline, the GWSA requires a 25% reduction in GHG by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050.
The Attorney General is working with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to implement the GWSA and defend MassDEP’s GWSA regulations.
Visit the EEA’s website to track the Commonwealth’s progress towards our 2020 goal.
Read the AGO’s comments to MassDEP about future regulatory efforts under the GWSA.
Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA
In Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, Massachusetts led a coalition of states and other stakeholders in challenging the federal Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to regulate greenhouse gases (GHG) under the Clean Air Act.
The Supreme Court ruled that EPA is authorized under the Clean Air Act to regulate GHG emissions from motor vehicles. The Court also ruled that the EPA would have to decide, based on applicable science, whether GHG emissions were posing dangers to public health or welfare. If so, the agency would have to set GHG emission standards from motor vehicles and other sources.
Click to review the Endangerment Findings Report.
Massachusetts et al. v. EPA paved the way for federal action to reduce GHG emissions and their contribution to climate change. In June 2017, Attorney General Healey promised legal action in the face of potential EPA rollbacks of vehicle emissions standards.
Visit the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website to learn more about what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is doing to address climate change, and what you can do to help.