Democratic state attorneys general scored two wins in D.C. Circuit Court in 24 hours allowing them to defend Obama-era health care and environment policies under threat from Republicans and the Trump administration.
The federal appeals court approved a motion Wednesday from a coalition led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to intervene in a case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to defend rules limiting ozone pollution levels. The same court Tuesday night allowed a group of 18 attorneys general to intervene in a case challenging payments to insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act.
“We are pleased that the court has granted, over the objections of the Trump administration, our request to participate in the case as a party to defend the health protections provided by the 2015 ozone standard,” a spokesman for Becerra said of the decision Wednesday in an email. “California and other states will not stand idly by and allow EPA to abandon its core mission to protect clean air and public health.”
Becerra’s office was not immediately available for comment on the EPA case.
The intervenors in the EPA case include California, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state, the District of Columbia and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The health care case includes New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and the District of Columbia.
Democratic AGs, largely united against the new administration, have turned to intervention in lawsuits as a strategy to defend Obama-era policies they fear President Donald Trump and Republicans will not. Democratic AGs, including Becerra, New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts’ Maura Healey have also sought to intervene in a case over protections for student loan borrowers, and filed their own lawsuit on the subject against the U.S. Department of Education last month. States also moved to intervene on emission standards in March, though that case was dismissed.
While the court did not elaborate in its one-page order in the EPA case, the panel in the health care case noted that the AGs identified concrete injuries: An increase in insurance prices and a decrease in the number of insured individuals in their states. Those AGs will now face off with the majority-Republican U.S. House of Representatives in a case they filed against the government in 2014 over the Affordable Care Act’s subsidy payments to insurers. Trump has threatened to end the payments.
In the EPA case, coal mining company Murray Energy Corp. and several Republican states sued the agency in 2016 over the rules. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wrote a letter in June saying his agency would no longer defend the rules, though the case has been held in abeyance since April. The agency argued against allowing the states to intervene in court on the grounds that they could not intervene while the case was stalled, and because they do not have standing.