WASHINGTON — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is already suing the Environmental Protection Agency in a dispute over regional haze, warned Thursday in Washington that the EPA could face more lawsuits from states over proposed regulations to reduce carbon emissions at power plants.
Testifying before a House subcommittee, Pruitt said the agency continued to stretch its authority beyond the boundaries of the Clean Air Act and was dictating an “anti-fossil fuel agenda” to states.
“The EPA seems to have the view that the states are merely a vessel to implement whatever policies and regulations the administration sees fit, regardless of the wisdom, cost or efficiency of such measures,” Pruitt told the subcommittee.
The attorney general's testimony came at a hearing about the EPA's proposed regulations for new power plants and its plan to formulate rules for existing power plants. The Obama administration wants to reduce carbon emissions as part of its plan to slow global warming.
Republicans on the subcommittee said the agency had developed regulations that would preclude any new coal-fired plants because meeting the standards would require technology to capture and store carbon that isn't commercially viable.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said utilities have a long history complaining about antipollution standards. However, he said, dire warnings about massive job losses, higher rates and power shortages have never come to pass.
EPA official Janet McCabe said carbon capture and storage technology is commercially available and would be widely used.
“We're not saying you can't build a new coal plant in America,” she said. “We're in fact providing a path.”
Pruitt said after the hearing that no new coal plants are being proposed anyway because natural gas is cheap and new natural gas plants don't face the same regulatory hurdles.
However, he said, the EPA is planning to propose new standards for existing power plants. The draft regulations are expected next summer and a final rule a year later.
“It's all about existing power,” Pruitt said in an interview after the hearing. “This is a meaningful concern for states. This is not just about coal. This isn't coal versus natural gas. This is just anti-fossil fuel.”
Pruitt said the EPA violated the Clean Air Act when rejecting the state's proposal to control power plant emissions to reduce “regional haze” and improve visibility at national parks.
The state and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. sued the EPA but lost a crucial decision at a federal appeals court. Pruitt said the U.S. Supreme Court might review the case.
Should Oklahoma lose the case, he said, state utilities could be forced to spend $2 billion over three years on modifications, passing the cost on to customers.