Further Thoughts on Supreme Court’s Refusal to Review Oklahoma v. EPA

by William Yeatman on May 27, 2014

This morning, I bemoaned the Supreme Court’s refusal to review Oklahoma, et al. v. EPA, et al., 723 F. 3d 1201 (2013), because the 10th Circuit’s ruling, if it becomes established precedent, would sound the death knell for cooperative federalism under the Clean Air Act. To be sure, that’s a big deal. However, in my rush to give the big picture, I neglected to mention the local impact, which is also a big deal.

In fact, Oklahoma Gas & Electric ratepayers will be forced to pay $1.2 billion, for no purpose other than the furtherance of a political ‘war on coal.’ That’s no hyperbole. At issue in Oklahoma were visibility-improvement regulations, known as Regional Haze, for 4 coal-fired power plants. Oklahoma wanted one set of controls; EPA wanted a different set of controls that cost $1.2 billion more. The problem is that the agency had no justification for its choice, as its preferred controls didn’t actually engender an improvement in visibility. Using modeling software, it’s possible to recreate the visibility “benefits” wrought by EPA’s Regional Haze regulation in Oklahoma, and, immediately below, I’ve posted the side-by-side images of the same skyline, one depicting visibility using Oklahoma’s controls and the other showing the impact of EPA’s controls. As is plainly evident, there is no difference. For this–NOTHING–OG&E ratepayers are on the hook for more than a billion dollars.

Do you think OG&E ratepayers think this is a good deal?

Can you tell the difference?

Why would EPA impose this outrageous regulation? The answer has to do with the revolving door between the agency and environmental special interests. Oklahoma falls within EPA Region 6, which was headed by Al “Crucify” Armendariz when the agency acted in Oklahoma on Regional Haze. Immediately before he was Region 6 Administrator, Armendariz was a “technical adviser” to WildEarth Guardians, the green litigation group whose “sue and settle” lawsuit led to…EPA’s Regional Haze controls for Oklahoma! After Armendariz resigned in disgrace, for having compared his enforcement style to a “crucifixion,” he gained employment at Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign. Given Armendariz’s zealotry and connection to green special interests, EPA’s Regional Haze in the Sooner State shenanigans at least makes a modicum of sense. That doesn’t make the situation any easier for OG&E ratepayers, alas. Below, I’ve posted video of testimony I gave to a House Oversight & Government Reform about the Regional Haze controls that EPA imposed on Oklahoma.

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