Okla. governor signs order in opposition to EPA carbon plan 

Source: Edward Klump, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 1, 2015

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) issued an executive order this week to prevent her state from submitting a plan to implement U.S. EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Fallin, in a Tuesday news release, said her order was intended to show that “Oklahoma has no intention of implementing new regulations that run directly contrary to the interests of our citizens and our state.” She said efforts against “bad policy” would be fought in court.

“President Obama and the EPA are fighting a politically charged war against utility consumers across the country,” Fallin said in a statement. “While the environmental benefits of these regulations will be minimal, the economic devastation of these overreaching and unrealistic regulations will be very real.”

The Clean Power Plan, which still is being finalized, seeks a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. Targets vary by state, and certain interim goals could begin in 2020.

EPA is following its mission in seeking to protect communities from harmful pollution, according to an emailed statement yesterday from Johnson Bridgwater, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club. He took aim at Fallin’s order, saying Oklahoma could seize its energy future and touting the potential of renewable options such as wind.

Yet, “without a state implementation plan, Governor Fallin will force the EPA to swoop in and create a federal solution for our state,” Bridgwater said. “And while Oklahoma and some other states are pushing back against the EPA, it is important to note that many states are fully backing what the EPA is doing at the state level.”

Oklahoma lawmakers also have advanced legislation — S.B. 676 — that would, among other items, require that the state’s attorney general review any proposed state plan to see whether it meets state and federal laws.

Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general, this week praised the state Senate’s passage of the bill, saying it would help ensure decisions about generating electricity are made by state officials. He said he looked forward to the governor’s signature on the legislation.

“With the passage of this bill, the state of Oklahoma is sending a clear signal that we will not comply with the EPA’s unlawful Clean Power Plan,” Pruitt said in a statement. “That proposed rule is an attempt by the federal government to take control over electric power systems in the states. States should not be forced to comply with this unlawful rule, which is already being challenged in court by Oklahoma and other states.”

In her executive order, Fallin said she previously directed the state to submit comments opposing EPA’s plan. She said attorneys general in multiple states have discussed potential legal defects that could invalidate the carbon proposal.

“If the Clean Power Plan is adopted in 2015, and Attorneys General are correct in their legal analysis, the EPA has exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide,” Fallin said in her order.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, speaking last week at IHS CERAWeek in Houston, defended the carbon plan and said the rule would be delivered this summer and have “no constitutional defect.” She also said EPA had been reviewing comments about the proposal, including on interim goals that some have said are too aggressive (EnergyWire, April 24).

In an emailed statement yesterday, EPA said the Clean Power Plan was built on a “state-federal partnership” set up by Congress decades ago, citing the Clean Air Act. EPA talked of giving “states important flexibility to design plans that meet their individual and unique needs.”

Fallin’s executive order indicated she prohibited the Department of Environmental Quality from starting efforts to develop a state implementation plan on carbon emissions in response to a finalization of the Clean Power Plan. Such a plan could take “untold” amounts of time and finances, she said in the order.

Developing a plan could happen only if it’s found to be necessary by the state’s attorney general or a “court of competent jurisdiction,” according to the document. Fallin said there would need to be written authority of the governor.

If EPA’s plan is finalized, Fallin said the attorney general is to review it and publish a white paper on the legal efficacy of the regulation. She also requested the attorney general take necessary action in enforcing the rights of Oklahoma in relation to federal action that may affect the “freedoms of its people.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation applauded Fallin’s order in an emailed statement yesterday, saying the carbon proposal could increase costs and hurt state economies.

“Oklahoma recognizes the EPA’s Clean Power Plan edict for what it is: a power grab,” said Doug Domenech, director of the Fueling Freedom Project at the foundation.