Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a petition Wednesday with the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that went against the state and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. on a plan for controlling haze-causing emissions from electric generating plants.
The lawsuit challenges the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to partially reject a state plan for regional haze that would enhance visibility on federal lands in Oklahoma by 2064.
In a statement, Pruitt said the Clean Air Act gives states the primary authority to design and implement plans for visibility.
“The EPA exceeded its authority when it dismissed Oklahoma's plan in favor of a federal plan that will lead to utility rate increases of as much as 20 percent,” Pruitt said. “Our state developed a commonsense plan to address regional haze, but because it continued the use of fossil fuels, the EPA rejected it to further its anti-fossil fuel agenda.
“We are hopeful the Supreme Court will agree to review our lawsuit so that we can continue the fight to protect the ability of states like Oklahoma to craft state-based solutions as provided by the law.”
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled 2-1 against Oklahoma, OG&E and Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers in July. The full appellate court declined a rehearing in October.
Oklahoma's implementation plan for regional haze would have let affected utilities continue to burn low-sulfur coal and install basic pollution controls at generating plants. In partially rejecting the plan in 2011, EPA presented its own plan for utilities to install expensive emissions-control technology called scrubbers.
OG&E spokeswoman Kathleen O'Shea said the utility continues to plan for possible implementation of the EPA plan, but was pleased to see the petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. OG&E estimates it may have to spend between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion to comply with the federal plan for regional haze.
“We want to make sure we exhaust all of our options because meeting the regional haze requirement is going to be a significant amount of investment that will affect our customers,” O'Shea said.
OG&E's implementation costs could include installing scrubbers on coal units or retrofitting the units to use natural gas. The regional haze rules cover OG&E's four coal units at its Red Rock and Muskogee plants. The Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge is the only federal area in Oklahoma affected by the visibility rules.
Earlier this month, OG&E received an extension of a stay blocking implementation of the EPA's haze rule until the final disposition of the case. If the stay is lifted, the utility would have between 52 and 55 months to comply.
Tulsa's Public Service Co. of Oklahoma reached a settlement with the EPA and other groups in 2012 to retire the last of its coal units in Oklahoma by 2026 to meet regional haze and other environmental rules.
PSO estimates its compliance plan could cost more than $350 million.