Okla. Attorney General Challenges Legality of EPA’s Regional Haze Rule

Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt last week filed a motion with a federal appeals court on behalf of the state, Oklahoma’s largest generator Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), and Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) regional haze rule.

The motion filed at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver challenges the legality of the EPA’s federal implementation plan (FIP) promulgated last December after it found deficiencies in and partially disapproved Oklahoma’s submitted State Implementation Plan (SIP). The FIP imposes stricter sulfur dioxide limits on six Oklahoma emission sources, including three coal-fired plants: two owned by OG&E and one, by American Electric Power (AEP).

The OG&E affected units are Units 4 and 5, each 500 MW, at the Muskogee plant, near Muskogee, Okla., and Units 1 and 2, each 500 MW, at the Sooner Generating Station, near Red Rock, Okla. The AEP plant is near Oologah.

The FIP would require OG&E to spend more than $1.2 billion to install dry flue gas desulfurization scrubbers on four generating units in the next five years, the motion contends. “The [EPA] eviscerated the authority and discretion given to the State of Oklahoma by the Clean Air Act. The only way that EPA could achieve this predetermined outcome was to ignore the Act and its own guidance and violate the Administrative Procedures Act by raising and relying on new rules and methodologies for the first time in its final rule adopting the FIP,” it says.

"The EPA’s decision to implement new guidelines under the Regional Haze Rule, which is not health related, goes against Oklahoma’s right under the Clean Air Act to enact a state solution that not only would exceed federal environmental standards, but would spare Oklahoma utility consumers from substantial utility rate increases at a time when families are struggling,” Diane Clay, a spokesperson from the Oklahoma’s Office of the Attorney General told POWERnews.

The Sierra Club intervened in the federal suit. Whitney Pearson, a Sierra Club spokeswoman, criticized Pruitt’s move in a media release Thursday, saying the attorney general “seems to have forgotten who he represents.”

In related news, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 30 approved a consent decree that requires the EPA to approve state plans or issue federal plans to reduce regional haze in 37 states—including Oklahoma—the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. The deadlines approved in the consent decree vary by state, but the latest is November 15, 2012. The agreement resulted from a lawsuit filed by the National Parks Conservation Association and eight other groups in August 2011 after the EPA missed deadlines in the Clean Air Act for finalizing the regional haze plans.

Sources: POWERnews, Oklahoma Office of the Attorney, Sierra Club

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