Although the wide-ranging state environmental regulations can be complex both scientifically and legally, as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, state attorneys general play an important role in the area of environmental policy. In some states, attorneys general have direct enforcement authority, but in all states the attorney general represents state environmental agencies. Sometimes this means enforcing existing statutes and regulations and at other times it means defending challenges to agency permitting decisions or rules brought by corporate or other entities or individuals. Attorneys general have also been known to assemble task forces, propose legislation, and launch other initiatives.
Over the last several years, the National State Attorneys General Program has made tremendous strides to build bridges between federal and state governments on important matters of environmental law. Beginning with its first conference on the Role of State Attorneys General in National Environmental Policy in 2004, the Program has continued to develop ways to stimulate the discussion, and develop action plans between national and state leaders. In the summer and fall of 2008, representatives of the Program conducted onsite visits with environmental leaders at selected state attorneys general offices, including Colorado, Delaware, Maryland and Massachusetts while also presenting at two major national conferences to various state and national environmental regulation leaders. With the purpose of providing the incoming administration in Washington the issues concerning state legal and environmental interests that require the most immediate attention, on December 15, 2008, the Program convened a bipartisan group of thirteen leading environmental lawyers from eleven state Attorneys General offices at Columbia Law School for two days of closed meetings and strategy discussions. In the report, State Attorneys General Environmental Leadership Agenda, the group outlined the states' top four priority issues. The agenda has paved the way for significant progress on these issues, and renewed state and federal partnerships.