by Max Brantley
“Instead of adopting the plan that Arkansas submitted to reasonably combat regional haze, the EPA chose to cater to the interest of liberal special interest groups, forcing on Arkansans a proposal that will cost millions and bring little positive impact. This plan will lead to unreasonable and unnecessary utility rate increases, something no Arkansan can afford, and I will not stand for it.”
Rutledge submitted comments to the EPA in July 2015. In the letter, she wrote, “The proposed Federal Implementation Plan has no basis in law or science and is a prime example of overreaching federal regulation in response to ‘sue and settle’ litigation brought by the Sierra Club. As such, the EPA should withdraw the proposed plan and consult with the State in developing an approvable State Implementation Plan.”
What AG Rutledge failed to say was that the State of Arkansas had every opportunity to write its own regional haze plan, yet, after years of delay, failed to do so. The State missed the 2007 deadline to submit a plan to the EPA, and when it ultimately submitted a plan, EPA was forced to disapprove it for failing to meet Clean Air Act requirements. EPA was therefore required by law to write a plan for Arkansas.He continued:
When EPA failed to do so on time, the Sierra Club sued EPA in federal court. That Arkansas court required EPA to publish a draft plan, hold a public hearing in Arkansas and accept comments on the draft plan, and then issue a final plan by August 31, 2016. EPA has now issued its plan.
"Given Attorney General Rutledge's frequent knee-jerk attacks against clean air protections, today's filing is not a surprise. It has become all too common for our state's chief lawyer to use her office to battle common-sense protections that will improve our health, our environment and—in this case—air quality in our state's parks.
"The State of Arkansas had every opportunity to write and submit its own Regional Haze plan, but failed to do so. When a state fails to write its own plan, the EPA is required by law to write a plan for them. For our Attorney General to now claim that EPA is 'forcing' this plan on Arkansas, when Arkansas completely and utterly failed to submit an effective plan, is ludicrous.
"Federal law requires that the state of Arkansas work to reduce haze pollution in our parks. When neither the state nor the EPA followed the law to write a haze reduction plan, the Sierra Club sued the EPA and the court mandated a process that ultimately resulted in a solid plan for Arkansas. The Sierra Club will continue to defend this regional haze plan because—despite AG Rutledge's stance to the contrary—our parks, our air, and the health of Arkansas citizens are worth fighting for.
"It is important to emphasize that the same pollutants that impair visibility also harm public health. So this EPA plan is a big win for Arkansas parks and Arkansas people."