Were it not for a few votes here and there at selected Ohio precincts, a red state attorney general might not have been in the purple state of Colorado on Wednesday to personally argue against an Environmental Protection Agency overreach.
But Ohio went blue in November. Barack Obama won another term. The EPA is being placed under a new administrator, one who may be more zealous than her predecessor.
So Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt made the trip to Denver to argue before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case pitting the EPA against the state of Oklahoma, the largest state electric utility and the people who pay the highest electric bills. This is the “regional haze” case stemming from a determination that visibility at wildlife refuges indicates the presence of pollution tied to coal-fired power plants.
The state and utilities offered a mitigation plan that would have gradually switched electricity generation to cleaner fuels. The EPA rejected the plan. It put the utilities on notice that they'd have to shutter the coal plants or install expensive scrubbers.
We had hoped for a reasonable resolution to the conflict, one that involved a more reasonable president and a more reasonable EPA. Instead we have the same unreasonable president appointing as EPA administrator an employee who's been focused primarily on clean air.
Pruitt is focused on the right of the state to regulate public utilities. OG&E is focused on using the assets in which ratepayers and shareholders are heavily invested. Large industrial users are focused on keeping their electric bills at an affordable level.
The latter won't happen if the EPA prevails. Customers will pay more for power. A lot more. A Sierra Club spokeswoman said OG&E is trying to get “a free pass to pollute.”
There are no free passes in this conflict. Customers certainly won't get one if the EPA gets its billion-dollar scrubbers.