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Report: Regional haze programs usurp state authority

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overtaking state’s regional haze programs to manage visibility in parks, but will end up costing the states additional money with little visible benefits.

The Chamber says it commissioned this report, authored by William Yeatman, to illustrate how a regulatory tool known as “sue and settle rulemaking” is being used by the EPA to “force states to relinquish their authority and accept EPA’s plans that are much costlier to implement and increase utility costs for consumers.” Sue and settle is when an organization sues a federal agency in a court not located in the affected state to initiate the rulemaking, then both parties settle behind closed doors, with no notice given to the public about the settlement until the agreement is filed with the court. Only after the settlement is filed do the states have the chance to give their input, the report says.

“Sue and settle agreements allow EPA to convert a state Regional Haze program into a major new set of federal mandates, with no recourse for those affected until it’s too late,” said Bill Kovacs, the Chamber’s senior vice president for Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs.  “The report outlines the potentially disastrous effects of this regulatory tool being used by the EPA to disregard states sovereignty and take over what Congress clearly determined to be a state environmental responsibility. These federal haze requirements offer only high costs for states, utilities and consumers, with no benefit.”

The study examines the implementation of the regional haze program in eight states: Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota and Nebraska.

The report makes the following claims:

  • In Arizona, EPA’s Regional Haze regulation threatens to increase the cost of water would force the state to spend an additional $90.2 million per year to implement the federal regulation.
  • In Montana, EPA’s proposed Regional Haze controls are almost 250 percent more expensive than what the agency’s standing rules presume to be “cost effective” for Regional Haze compliance.
  • In 2011, the EPA disregarded New Mexico’s submitted Regional Haze plan and imposed a federal plan that requires nearly $840 million more in capital costs.  According to the operators of the San Juan Generating Station, EPA’s plan would raise utility bills for each household in New Mexico by $120 annually.
  • Although North Dakota is one of only 12 states that achieves all of EPA’s air quality standards for public health, it would not be able to achieve EPA’s Regional Haze goals for visibility improvement even if all industry in the state shut down. In addition, EPA’s proposed plan would cost North Dakota nearly $13 million per year.
  • Refusing to approve Oklahoma’s Regional Haze plan, the EPA’s plan would cost the state $282 million per year.
  • In Wyoming, the EPA proposed a federal implementation plan that would cost almost $96 million more per year than the state’s plan.
  • Minnesota is subject to back-to-back Regional Haze regulations, where EPA is claiming authority to regulate regional haze twice in succession at the Sherburne County Generating Plant.
  • EPA’s proposed plan would cost Nebraska almost $24 million per year.

The entire report is available here.

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