Okla. AG wants full Tenth Circuit to rehear regional haze case

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Aug 22, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) -- Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Wednesday the state will ask for a rehearing before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in its case against the Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Haze Rule.

Last month, a three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favor of the federal agency.

"We strongly disagree with the judges' decision and the basis for their findings. As Judge (Paul) Kelly said in his dissenting opinion, the EPA misrepresented the facts, made assumptions and provided no factual support for its conclusions," Pruitt said in a statement.

"Regional haze is about aesthetics, not health, and states have a say in how the regulations are implemented. Part of that role is considering the cost to our consumers."

The EPA's Regional Haze Rule requires agencies to work together to improve visibility at national parks and wilderness areas by 2064.

In March 2011, the EPA's then-Administrator Lisa Jackson informed the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality that the federal government planned to implement its own regional haze plan in the state's Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Pruitt, in response, said he planned to appeal the EPA's decision.

The Republican attorney general argues the federal government's move goes against Oklahoma's right to implement a state plan that accomplishes the same haze requirements by 2026, but allows for a more gradual transition and spares state utility consumers substantial rate increases.

Utility officials have estimated that the federal plan will increase utility rates for Oklahomans by 13 percent to 20 percent over three years.

The Tenth Circuit stayed implementation of the federal plan last June.

The three-judge panel issued its 51-page ruling July 19.

Click here to read the panel's full opinion.

"We want our wildlife areas to continue to be places where Oklahomans can enjoy the outdoors with their families and friends. Oklahoma stakeholders created a common sense plan that would accomplish that goal and improve our environment without forcing Oklahomans to pay unnecessary costs," Pruitt said.

"The EPA exceeded its authority under the law by imposing their federal plan in Oklahoma."

The state has until Sept. 3 to file its request for rehearing.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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