On Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed nine lawsuits against the Trump Administration, less than 24 hours before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The filings on Tuesday bring the total number of lawsuits by Becerra, who is President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to 122 since both Donald Trump and Becerra came into power in early 2017.
While many of the past lawsuits have been over matters such as transportation and health care, the nine filings on Tuesday all had to do with the most contentious subject between the Trump administration and California: the environment. Since 2017, Attorney General Becerra, on behalf of California, has sued and countersued the Trump administration dozens of times. But with a flurry or environmental policy rollbacks at the federal level happening in the last few months, Becerra increased the number of lawsuits to counter them and to halt them from coming into effect until the Biden administration moved in.
“We have held the Trump Administration accountable time and again for their failure to follow the rules or respect our nation’s environmental laws,” said Becerra on Tuesday. “It will take time to unwind the havoc the Trump Administration has wrought. That’s why the nine lawsuits we filed today are so important.”
Among the filings was a summary motion off of a 2019 lawsuit challenging the rollback of the Endangered Species Act. Filed along with the Attorney Generals of Massachusetts and Maryland, the suit argued that industry groups had asked the administration for certain changes to the Act in 2019 and is unlawful because the final rules violate the purpose of the Act, that the changes fail to meet the basic standards of the Administrative Procedure Act, that there was not adequate notice of the changes, and that it failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement of the final rules.
“From the California condor to the humpback whale, California is home to more than 300 endangered and threatened species,” Becerra said. “These precious fish and wildlife deserve our protection. That’s why we’re filing a motion today asking the court to set aside the Trump Administration’s disastrous attempt to weaken federal protections for endangered species.”
Other suits filed Tuesday, from halting the rollback of protections for migratory birds to exempting some appliances from energy efficiency standards, generally follow Becerra’s environmental targeting of the last four years.
The final 9 Becerra lawsuits against the Trump Administration
The final flurry of cases before the administration shift is being called an indication of what both California and the federal government will do under the Biden administration. Biden himself has said that a number of environmental protections would be reinstated under his administration, including more land protections and rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.
“This is, in a sense, Becerra’s last hurrah as the AG of California,” lawyer Rafael Colon, who had previously been involved with cases around AG Becerra, told the Globe. “But it’s also showing what California will be doing with a more California-friendly administration going in. California has led the way on many environmental fronts and has defended them in court. Biden and his administration is likely going to follow them.”
“This isn’t going to be like when Nixon signed a lot of environmental protections in the 70’s and everyone just sort of followed it though. This is undoing years of rollbacks and then looking where to go. With Becerra, Harris, and a lot of other Californians in his administration, with Biden himself approving of a lot of Californian environmental rules, what Becerra filed today is a sneak peak of where things will be going.”
Becerra’s lawsuits are expected to be heard later this year under a new Attorney General in California. Federal environmental law changes are expected to be announced in the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency.