Thursday, September 1, 2016

EPA completes haze reduction plan; Sierra Club hails win for Arkansas

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 2:27 PM

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has completed a plan to reduce haze in the Caney Creek and Upper Buffalo Wilderness Areas caused by emissions from coal-burning power plants.

The rules should also improve air quality in Missouri.

The rules will require reduction of pollution by the White Bluff and Independence power plants. Entergy, which operates the plants, has said it would stop burning coal at White Bluff in the 2020s as an alternate to installing new pollution-control equipment. The Sierra Club says it hopes the EPA will "lock in" a phase out of coal at White Bluff and also that Entergy will develop a plan to phase out coal at Independence.

The plan grew from a Sierra Club lawsuit against the EPA. When the state failed to come up with a plan of its own, the EPA was required to step in. It didn't and the Sierra Club sued, prompting the chain of events that led to  today's plans.

The business lobby has fought efforts to produce cleaner air saying they would be costly. Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has also been a stout foe of cleaning up the air and has pitched in legal efforts in other states.

The Sierra Club sees things differently.  Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas Sierra Club, issued a statement:

"The EPA's strong haze reduction plan is fantastic for Arkansas. The plan not only increases visibility for Arkansans who enjoy our parks, but specifically does it by cleaning up our state's dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Entergy now has a big decision to make—charge billions of dollars to Arkansas ratepayers to prop up its aging power plants, or transition these dirty plants toward retirement. The Sierra Club urges Entergy to immediately begin planning for retiring White Bluff and Independence while working toward continuing to build clean, renewable energy jobs in Arkansas.”
More developments are likely, particularly as Entergy decides its course of action on the Independence plant. But for now, no challenges exist to the EPA plan for Arkansas.

UPDATE: Rutledge continued griping about cleaner air today and seemed to vow legal action.

“The EPA refuses to acknowledge the visibility improvements by the State of Arkansas and has chosen to blatantly discount my comments on this proposal and those of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Rather than approving Arkansas’s State Implementation Plan, the EPA has chosen to force on Arkansans a plan that will costs millions and bring about little environmental benefit. Arkansas submitted a plan that fully complied with the Regional Haze Rule, but the EPA wanted to impose another federal directive that goes well beyond the rule requirements and ignores what is in the best interest of our State. I am fully prepared to take legal action against this unnecessary proposal to prevent it from harming Arkansans.”

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