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Rutledge requests halt to haze plan

by Emily Walkenhorst | February 9, 2017 at 3:14 a.m.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to temporarily halt a federal implementation plan for the Regional Haze Rule in Arkansas.

"The Final Rule arbitrarily, capriciously, and unlawfully imposes substantially more than a billion dollars in costs without any visibility benefit, imposes post-planning period controls, threatens the reliability of Arkansas' electricity supply, and conflicts with federal law," the 32-page request states.

Rutledge had previously asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- which drafted and finalized the plan last year -- for a stay. A party must petition the agency before petitioning a court, Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said, and the state waited more than 70 days after submitting its request to the EPA before filing its request in court Tuesday.

Rutledge, on behalf of the state and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, petitioned the court for review in November, and industry groups filed subsequent petitions and motions to intervene in one another's cases. Those motions were approved in December.

The Regional Haze Rule is the result of requirements passed by Congress in the 1990s to implement parts of the Clean Air Act. It sets requirements for visibility at 156 national wildlife areas across the country and allows the EPA to require emissions reductions at industrial facilities -- often, coal-fired power plants -- that emit chemicals that contribute to haze, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

The state and industry groups have opposed the EPA's final plan for the Regional Haze Rule, arguing that parts of it were unnecessary given the state's progress on haze as well as the age of a major coal plant that was cited in the plan. Environmental and conservation groups have supported it, citing its potential to improve visibility in wildlife areas and the quality of the air that Arkansans breathe.

Arkansas Sierra Club Director Glen Hooks issued a news release Tuesday in which he criticized Rutledge's motion.

"This action threatens the implementation of a clean air protection that was years in the making and risks slowing progress on cleaning up the air in important Arkansas parks and wilderness areas," the release states.

The EPA issued a draft plan for implementing the Regional Haze Rule in 2015, nearly three years after partially disapproving of a plan submitted by the state's Environmental Quality Department. The department, then under the leadership of former Director Teresa Marks, never submitted a revised plan. Under federal law, a judge determined, the EPA had to submit a federal plan within two years of a disapproval.

State leaders, including current department Director Becky Keogh, have said they plan to write a state plan to replace the EPA plan, but the EPA's plan is now in effect.

Metro on 02/09/2017

Print Headline: Rutledge requests halt to haze plan

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