Oklahoma Attorney General Ready to Fight EPA Proposal to Cut Carbon Emissions

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's Muskogee Power Plant was part of more than $80 million in renovations done at OG&E coal plants between 2003-2006.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's Muskogee Power Plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency on Monday announced an ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at existing coal-fired power plants across the country as part of President Barack Obama’s push to curb climate change.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt blasted the move, saying in a statement the plan “has no legal basis or the force of law.”

“It will undoubtedly lead to higher electricity rates, job losses and increased manufacturing costs as coal-fired power plants, which provide 40 percent of our baseload power, are taken offline,” Pruitt says.

But officials with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Oklahoma says keeping the current rules unchanged will be more costly because communities are already paying to deal with carbon pollution-fueled “climate disruption,” like flooding, wildfires and extreme heat.

“Cutting pollution that harms our communities  will also save billions of dollars in health costs, disaster cleanup, and disaster recovery costs,” the campaign’s Whitney Pearson said in a statement.

The proposed rule sets the goal of reducing U.S. CO2 emissions by 30 percent compared to the 2005 baseline by 2030.

From The Associated Press:

The proposal sets off a complex regulatory process, steeped in politics, in which the 50 states will each determine how to meet customized targets set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Options for states to meet the targets include making power plants more efficient, reducing the frequency at which coal-fired power plants supply power to the grid, and investing in more renewable, low-carbon sources of energy.

It will be up to states how, exactly, to reduce CO2 emissions, but one way would be to implement cap and trade policies like the ones in California and the northeastern U.S. Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a May 29 statement that was the ultimate goal of the EPA.

“The Clean Air Act clearly sets out a role for EPA to suggest guidelines, while granting states authority to develop and implement specific proposals to achieve the goals of the Clean Air Act,” says. “Should the EPA’s proposed regulation force states to adopt a ‘cap and trade’ scheme or any other specific proposal, it would violate the law and likely be challenged in court.”

He worries the Obama administration’s treatment of the coal industry is a precursor for a coming push against the oil and gas industry.

Monday’s announcement from the EPA is big news, but it’s important to note that it could be years before these proposed rules go into effect. They won’t be finalized until next year, after a public comment period that started today. After that, states will have a chance to implement their own plans for meeting their emissions reduction goal.

If a state’s plan isn’t adequate, or if the rules are challenged in court as violations of the Clean Air Act, the process could drag on even longer. And if that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. As StateImpact has reported, the EPA’s regional haze rule — also an offspring of the Clean Air Act — has been through a very similar process since it was first announced in 1999.


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Comments

  • http://batman-news.com Johnny Mansfield

    Isn’t it interesting that Attorney General Scott Pruitt has nothing to say about the surcharge utility companies want to charge customers who produce their own electricity via solar panels that is designed to kill jobs and increase costs in the solar industry? Since solar customers feed their excess electricity back into the power grid, thus lowering the need for coal and gas fired electricity production, the utility companies and big oil & gas see this as a threat to their business model and their profits. Since both Scott Pruitt, the utility companies, and big oil & gas, are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who together draft “model legislation” that favor corporations over people in exchange for campaign contributions from the favored corporations after the “model legislation” is passed, you cannot expect the attorney general to bite the hand that feeds him to save jobs in the solar industry.

  • Nathanael

    Why does Oklahoma have such a defensive stance against something like cutting CO2 emissions? I’ve been following StateImpact reporting since I moved to Southwest OK last year, and is it honestly appalling how OK’s lawmakers approach issues. It’s all about protecting and enabling the natural gas and oil industries while leaving citizens to deal with the side effects, like hydrofracking earthquakes, pollution and tax cuts for these industries. It’s very sad that industries are at the helm of the state, pulling the puppet strings and getting away with what they want.

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