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November 22, 2019

Politics

Attorney General William Tong
Attorney General William Tong on CBS' 60 Minutes program, discussing a multi-state lawsuit led by Connecticut against the nation's leading manufacturers of generic drugs, alleging price-fixing on hundreds of drugs.
A five-year trend showing increased public concern about climate change, broken down by political affiliation -- from liberal Democrats (top line) to conservative Republicans (bottom line).

Here's Why Taking On Trump Is Sound Strategy

Attorney General William Tong has put the environment at the top of his agenda as Connecticut's chief law enforcement officer. 

It's a popular stance given that a solid majority of Americans believe in global warming, according to recent public-opinion polls and this five-year survey co-sponsored by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. 

Rising public concern -- in sharp contrast to President Trump's position -- coupled with an increasing trend to combat pollution, has fueled Tong and other Attorneys General efforts to preserve decades-old Clean Air and Clean Water standards.

Elected in November, the former state lawmaker, has taken on Trump by joining numerous least multi-state lawsuits. Some of them are carryovers from George Jepsen's tenure as state AG. Tong, a Democrat, previously represented Stamford and New Canaan in the Connecticut House of Representatives for 12 years.

"We are involved in a large number of multi-state lawsuits across a number of different issues," said Elizabeth Benton, Tong's spokeswoman.

On Sunday, May 12, Tong appeared on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" to talk about Connecticut's latest multi-state lawsuit: A five-year-old investigation of alleged price-fixing involving hundreds of generic drugs by pharmaceutical companies. Tong's office, joined by 43 other states, filed a lawsuit against Teva Pharmaceuticals and 19 other leading generic drug manufacturers, accusing them of a massive, systematic conspiring to fix prices. 

In March, Tong joined six states and New York City in filing a lawsuit aimed at forcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to comply with federal law by requiring further controls on smog pollution that blows into Connecticut and other states.

The coalition is challenging the Trump EPA’s 2018 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule “Close-Out” for failing to require any further control of smog pollution in states upwind of Connecticut – even though smog’s serious, ongoing health threat in Connecticut is largely due to the interstate flow of ozone pollution.

"Connecticut sits at the end of the tailpipe of the nation's exhaust fumes, with severe consequences for public health," Tong said in a press statement. "States like Connecticut who are downwind of some of our country's heaviest polluters need the protection of strong interstate ozone pollution regulation."

"The Trump EPA's failure to comply with the Clean Air Act violates federal law and endangers the health of Connecticut families," Tong said.

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, more than 90 percent of ozone levels in southwest Connecticut and more than 80 percent of ozone levels in some remaining parts of the state result from pollution that originates in areas located outside of Connecticut’s jurisdiction and control. Readings at Connecticut air monitoring stations consistently show that that air entering Connecticut already exceeds ozone standards on days when quality here fails to meet federal standards, subjecting several million Connecticut residents to unhealthy levels of air pollution.

Connecticut is constantly challenged to meet air quality standards. Despite all of the state's  efforts to minimize pollution, out-of-state pollution significantly contributes to the poor air quality, according to Tong.

Joining Tong in the coalition led by New York's newly-elected Attorney General Letitia James are attorneys general from Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, which documents litigation filed by states, identified about 200 actions by AGs against the Trump Administration after his 2016 election.

In March, the center based at New York University School of Law released a report that detailed the impact of Trump policy against six federal rules: The actions would increase climate-changing carbon emissions by more than 200 million metric tons a year by 2025, according to the study.

The NYU center cited these 54 legal actions by Connecticut, most initiated in 2017-18 by Jepsen, primarily targeting Clean Air Act rules. Other high-profile lawsuits involve Trump's border wall proposal, offshore oil and gas drilling, asbestos and mercury pollution.

Tong also joined a 21-state lawsuit opposing a federal EPA plan to weaken greenhouse gas emission standards for coal-burning power plants, many of which are in the Midwest but spew pollutants into the Northeast.