States Fight Back Against EPA’s ‘Coercive Federalism’

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Arkansas is fed up with how the Obama administration has gone about imposing sweeping environmental regulations in the state, and so it has become the 19th state to stop working on President Barack Obama’s signature global warming rule.

Arkansas’ Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) confirmed Wednesday it was halting the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) in the wake of the Supreme Court’s issuing of a stay against the rule in February.

Arkansas joins 18 other states that are also not working on the CPP, including Texas and West Virginia — the two states leading the legal battle against the CPP.

But that’s not Arkansas’ only beef with EPA. The head of the state’s DEQ argued before Congress Wednesday that EPA’s tactics to impose new rules represents a form of “coercive federalism” rather than the “cooperative-federalism” model the agency used to rely on with new rules.

“However, the cooperative-federalism model that has defined Arkansas’s relation with the EPA beginning in the 1970s has morphed into something that can be better described as coercive federalism,” Becky Keogh, director of the DEQ, wrote in a letter to Congress.

“We have seen a decrease in time and tolerance for State Implementation Programs (SIPs) and a dramatic increase in EPA takeovers, or Federal Implementation Programs (FlPs),” Keogh wrote in a letter published online the same day she testified before a Senate committee on EPA abuse of its authority.

Whether it’s the CPP, the embattled “waters of the United States” rule or new ozone regulations, Keogh said EPA had become more coercive in its enforcement and more inclined to impose federal plans that ignore states’ concerns.

Arkansas isn’t the only state to complain about EPA’s “coercive” tactics. Top environmental regulators from South Dakota and West Virginia also testified against EPA tactics Wednesday, expressing their concerns the agency is trampling states’ rights.

South Dakota’s regulator, for example, is worried about regulations threatening the viability of the state’s only coal-fired power plant — which produces a sizable amount of the state’s electricity.

“The bottom line is these new federal requirements will have a huge impact on our citizens and economy, but will produce little or no noticeable benefits in South Dakota,” Steven Pirner, secretary of the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told Congress.

South Dakota and West Virginia have also halted implementation of the CPP until federal courts rule on the regulation. All three states — Arkansas, South Dakota and West Virginia — are suing the EPA over the CPP.

Some 27 states are suing the EPA to get the courts to strike down the CPP, which is expected to double the number of coal-fired power plants being shut down in the coming years.

Republican lawmakers have sided with the states against the EPA, recently filing a brief against the CPP. Lawmakers argue the rule is illegal and won’t result in any measurable environmental benefits.

“EPA can point to no statement of congressional authorization for the [CPP’s] central features, precisely because there is none,” 205 lawmakers wrote in their legal filing. “Nor has Congress authorized EPA to make the policy choices that are reflected in the [CPP]—a rule that imposes enormous costs on States and the public without achieving meaningful climate benefits.”

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