NEWS: Pruitt seen as boon for utilities hit by EPA haze rule

E&E News
Published by Sean Reilly
February 14, 2017


Scott Pruitt hadn’t long been Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2011 when he sallied into his first public clash with U.S. EPA. The target: a proposed clampdown on power plant pollution clouding views at wilderness areas in three states.

It turned into a testy legal showdown that fizzled three years later when the Supreme Court refused to hear Oklahoma’s appeal of a lower-court ruling in EPA’s favor. But with Pruitt, a Republican, now poised to lead the agency he has often sued, his views on what’s known as the regional haze program remain unchanged, recent statements suggest.

As EPA administrator, he could offer relief to power companies that cumulatively face billions of dollars in cleanups for older coal-fired plants.

“We’re very concerned,” said Michael Shea, senior policy associate at HEAL Utah, an environmental group backing EPA’s plan to require two 1970s-era plants in the state to install new curbs on nitrogen oxides (NOx). The plants’ owner, PacifiCorp, pegs the price tag at $700 million; together with Utah state officials, the firm is suing to void the federal plan in favor of a less stringent state alternative. Should Pruitt win confirmation to head EPA, he could pull the agency out of the lawsuit or roll back enforcement of the plan, Shea said.

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