Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has issued an executive order barring state officials from developing a plan for how to comply with EPA carbon reduction targets, as a US congressional committee voted to delay and weaken the rules.
Oklahoma this week become the first to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for governors to “just say no” to complying with the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut emissions from US power plants by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The state’s target is a 35.5% cut, and under EPA rules Oklahoma should submit a state implementation plan (SIP) to the EPA by mid-2016.
“I hereby prohibit the Department of Environmental Quality from beginning efforts to develop a SIP related to carbon dioxide emissions from power generation sources under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act in response to the finalization of the Clean Power Plant rules,” Fallin’s executive order said.
Oklahoma is one of 15 states that have challenged the EPA plan legally, claiming the federal government has no legal right to impose state emission limits.
But the move gives the EPA right, under its ‘model rule’, to develop a plan on Oklahoma’s behalf. That has caused some concerns among green groups.
“(Fallin) becomes the first governor to pass up the opportunity to tailor a plan to her own state’s needs and opportunities, and the first to turn over implementation to the federal government”, David Doniger at the National Resources Defense Council said.
“Most states are actively engaging in the planning process, even before the final EPA standards come out. That’s because most power companies and political leaders prefer to have their states in the lead, making the choices involved in writing implementation plans, rather than leaving it to the EPA,” he added.
The governor issued the order even though experts say Oklahoma is among the US’ leading wind power generators and is in a good position to meet the EPA target.
“While some elected officials in Oklahoma may not support the efforts of the EPA, the state is already on its way to meeting proposed carbon reduction goals,” said Johnson Bridgwater, Oklahoma director for the Sierra Club.
Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved by a 28-23 vote a bill to allow states to opt out of the CPP, sending the measure that could delay and weaken the initiative to a full floor vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The Ratepayer Protection Act, authored by Kentucky Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield, lets governors opt out of the EPA’s emissions requirements if they can show the rules will raise power costs for families and businesses or impact electricity reliability.
It also delays state compliance with the CPP until all lawsuits challenging the plan have been reviewed by courts.
The US coal industry, along with more than a dozen states, have sued the EPA over the regulations, but US Court of Appeals judges two weeks ago called the lawsuits premature as the agency has yet to finalise its rules.
US Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey tabled an amendment to the bill in committee requiring that a governor’s decision to opt out be ratified by the state legislature.
“The decision to opt out of initiatives that would help reduce carbon pollution, while supporting economic development, is one that should reflect the people of that state and not just one individual,” he said, but his amendment failed in a voice vote.
New Jersey’s state legislature has twice voted to rejoin RGGI – the north-eastern US’ regional carbon market – but both times Governor Chris Christie has vetoed the legislation.
The state senate has since voted to override the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s work to formally withdraw New Jersey from RGGI, and the senate’s measure now awaits a full assembly vote.
By Stian Reklev and Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org