Oklahoma Attorney General intervenes in clean-air case

A federal judge in Denver has granted Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s request to intervene in the settlement of a lawsuit between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and an environmental group over emission standards in Oklahoma and other states.

Oklahoma had not been given a chance to intervene in the settlement proceedings between Wild Earth Guardians and the EPA even though the agreement would have significant impact on Oklahoma consumers and businesses, Pruitt said in a Feb. 12 statement. The judge’s decision means the Attorney General now can represent the interests of the state as a settlement is negotiated.

“This is good news for the State of Oklahoma. In many cases, these kinds of ‘sue and settle’ lawsuits on environmental regulations are settled without input from the states and industries affected by the agreements,” Pruitt said. “In this case, the lawsuit appears to be another example of a ‘friendly lawsuit’ between the EPA and an environmental group with the goal of imposing an anti-fossil fuel agenda. We’re thankful the court granted our request to intervene so that we can protect the best interests of the citizens and State of Oklahoma.”

The WildEarth Guardians lawsuit asks the federal court to order the EPA to take action on Oklahoma and other states to enforce emission standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Wild Earth Guardians claims Oklahoma and other states have failed to submit state implementation plans to address air quality standards relating to NO2 emissions. The environmental group is asking the court to force the EPA declare that the states are out of compliance and allow the EPA to implement federal implementation plans.

In January 2011, Oklahoma handed over monitoring data to the EPA that showed all areas of the state were in compliance with the federal NO2 standard. Since 2011, Oklahoma has been preparing its state implementation plan, which demonstrates how the state will continue to maintain compliance with the NO2 standard, Pruitt noted. The Oklahoma plan was made available for public comment in January.

“The Clean Air Act gives states the primary authority to design and implement plans to deal with these issues,” Pruitt said. “For an out-of-state environmental group and the EPA to use the courts to regulate through litigation is wrong and undermines the rule of law. The Attorney General’s Office will continue to challenge the EPA and other federal agencies that seek to impose an agenda or policies beyond what’s provided under the law.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.