OG&E, Oklahoma deliver arguments in air quality case

Oklahoma challenges federal government's plan to control haze by focusing on pollutants emitted by power plants.
BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ Published: March 7, 2013
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The judges typically issue decisions several months after hearing arguments.

Although attorneys general typically have their assistants argue cases, Pruitt personally presented the arguments for his office because the case “goes to the heart of the state's authority.” The case is the first he has argued at the court.

He said Congress intended for the states, rather than the EPA, “to have primary authority” to decide which plan OG&E will have to abide by. He agreed, however, state plans are subject to EPA regulations and oversight.

Pruitt contends the federal agency was arbitrary and capricious in not accepting the state's basis for its plan, a contention the EPA disputes.

An attorney representing the EPA told the judges the state can submit another plan, but hasn't.

In a statement after the court session, Pruitt said utility officials estimated the federal plan would increase Oklahomans' utility rates by 13 percent to 20 percent over three years.

“I hope the court's decision will reaffirm the right of Oklahoma stakeholders to make this decision for Oklahomans, and not allow a federal agency to overstep its authority,” he said.

Pruitt said Oklahoma's industry leaders, elected officials, utility companies, consumer protection advocates and energy producers spent months in multiple sites creating the state plan to address the federal haze requirements. He said the plan reduced the effect on utility consumers.

Whitney Pearson, with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said OG&E is trying to “keep Oklahoma tied to the past with 1970's-era coal plants.”

“While other utilities take real leadership, OG&E is working hard to get a free pass to pollute when we have cleaner, cheaper options to meet Oklahoma's energy needs,” Pearson said.

CONTRIBUTING: Paul Monies, Business Writer



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