OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) - Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin last week vetoed a bill that would have required the state to develop its own plan to comply with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules regarding carbon emissions.
Fallin vetoed Senate Bill 676 Friday. The legislation passed the House with a vote of 68-21 and the Senate with a vote of 38-7 last month.
The Republican governor said the bill -- described as an attempt to fight overbearing EPA regulations -- does the opposite, at “great expense” to the state.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt, also a Republican, pushed for the bill, which was designed as a counter to proposed EPA regulations that mandate a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in each state.
The agency has asked each state to develop a State Implementation Plan for compliance.
Under SB 676, the state Department of Environmental Quality most likely would’ve developed a SIP to comply with EPA rules. The attorney general would’ve been given a chance to reject that SIP if he found it to be unconstitutional -- which Pruitt has said he is likely to do.
“I stand with our Legislature and our attorney general in opposing the EPA’s unconstitutional and ill-conceived power-grab,” Fallin said. “However, we do not need to spend a lot of time and money to develop a plan that we have no intention of implementing and every intention of rejecting, which is what this bill requires.
“The executive order issued earlier this week offers the state the clearest path to fighting these EPA carbon mandates.”
Fallin issued an executive order April 28 prohibiting the state or its agencies from submitting a SIP.
In her order, the governor said the EPA’s proposed rules would have “disastrous consequences for families and businesses,” would replace Oklahoma’s authority with that of federal bureaucrats, and would be subject to legal challenge.
It also requested that Pruitt “take such action as is necessary to enforce the rights of the state of Oklahoma and its citizens from such federal actions as may impact the freedoms of its people.”
Fallin noted that under her order, the state remains “unambiguously opposed” to the development of a SIP and committed to fighting the EPA’s carbon emission mandates in court.
Pruitt told The Oklahoman that he was disappointed with Fallin’s veto.
“SB 676 would not have been a great expense to the state,” he said in a statement to the newspaper. “Rather, it ensured Oklahoma would not be forced to submit a compliance plan to the EPA that violated state or federal law.
“Nevertheless, my office will continue its aggressive challenge of the EPA’s unlawful and overreaching Clean Power Plan to protect the interests of Oklahoma.”
On Tuesday, Pruitt testified at a U.S. Senate hearing on the proposed plan.
He is among a bipartisan group of state attorneys general who have sued the EPA over a 2011 settlement agreement that was used as the basis for the plan.
The attorneys general contend the agency should void the 2011 settlement agreement, which committed the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.
The lawsuit contends the agreement is illegal because coal-fired power plants already are regulated under a separate section of the CAA. The law expressly prohibits the double regulation of these plants.
Under the EPA’s proposal, new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.
New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.
The agency expects to finalize the rules this summer.
“The EPA claims its so-called Clean Power Plan gives states flexibility to develop a plan to meet its emissions goal. In reality, it is nothing more than an attempt by the EPA to force states into shuttering coal-fired power plants and eventually other sources of fossil-fuel generated electricity,” Pruitt said ahead of the Senate hearing.
“The EPA doesn’t have the authority under the Clean Air Act to make decisions for states on what sources of power are used to generate electricity. Not only is the proposal unlawful, but the EPA’s plan threatens energy affordability and reliability for consumers and industry.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also testified at Tuesday’s hearing on the proposed plan.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.