The Edmond Sun

August 23, 2013

State leaders decry EPA haze regulations

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — The Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity Foundation hosted a community forum Thursday addressing the federal regulatory reach of the Environmental Protection Agency with regional haze.

The forum at Oklahoma City University focused on the EPA’s impact on billions of dollars of business investment that could be passed on to consumers.

The EPA has been hurting the coal industry since 2009 with senseless regulations, said William Yeatman, assistant director of the Center for Energy & Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

The regional haze issue alone would result in a 15 percent increase in utility cost within three years, said state Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The cost for eight states, including Oklahoma, would be more than $2 billion, Yeatman said.

In 2011, Pruitt sent notice of intent to file suit to then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for EPA’s plan to deprive the state’s authority to propose its regulatory plan to reduce regional haze in Oklahoma.

“We instructed her that we believe Oklahoma has performed its responsibility under the Clean Air Act as it should,” Pruitt said.

The EPA had disapproved part of the Oklahoma State Implementation Plan to reduce regional haze, which deals with aesthetics and not the health impact of air quality, Pruitt said.

The EPA also issued its maximum achievable technology rules, which require certain power plants to install controls to reduce mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. The EPA’s regional haze rule includes a sulphur dioxide limit of 0.15 per million BTUs.

A lawsuit was filed by Pruitt’s office after Jackson discounted his letter. There was a 2-1 decision that the EPA acted properly within the law, Pruitt said.

An appeal to the 10th Circuit Court Court of Appeals will be filed before Sept. 3, Pruitt said. Pruitt’s office is joined by 12 other states to learn if the EPA is in collusion with environmental groups with an agenda to penalize companies, he said.

Facilities addressed by the EPA include OG&E’s coal plants at Red Rock and Muskogee, and the Public Service Company of Oklahoma plant (PSO) in Oologah. The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority is a part owner of the Red Rock plant, and is a source of purchased power for Edmond Electric.

“Under the statute, the state of Oklahoma is required to reach natural visibility by the year 2064,” Pruitt said. “Our plan met that deadline — beat it by 15-plus years.”

The statute requires reasonable progress, Pruitt said. The EPA’s rejection of the state plan is based on its anti-fossil fuel mentality, Pruitt said.

“We need to make sure that as these laws are passed by Congress, that the role of the states in implementing those laws, and being engaged with EPA in a cooperative federalism manner, that we protect our interests, because our citizens ultimately will be the ones paying the freight.”

Congressman James Lankford said the judicial process is a difficult battle to restrain EPA actions outside of statutes while the Obama administration claims it has statutory authority.

“We’re not anti-environmental. I have a child with asthma. I get all these issues,” said Lankford, R-Edmond. “But they have to be done in a rational way and the states should take the lead.”

The Bureau of Land Management should not be putting a halt to fracking on federal lands before the EPA has concluded a two-year study, Lankford said.

Congress needs to ensure that presidential consent decrees are used properly, Lankford said. Simple solutions could clarify the use of a consent decree, he said.

“No. 1 is they cannot change a discretionary authority in the law to a mandatory authority,” Lankford said.

A consent decree should not allow the movement of budget funds, he added. Lastly, a future administration should not be compelled to keep what the previous administration decided in a consent decree, Lankford said.

“Of the 29 environmental decisions that have been made by consent decree, all 29 of them would have failed those three simple tests if those tests were in place,” Lankford said.