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Op-Ed: State, not EPA, should address regional haze power costs

By Sen. James M. Inhofe

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Link to Op-Ed

The Environmental Protection Agency will conduct public hearings in Tulsa and Oklahoma City this week, and Oklahomans concerned about higher electricity bills should attend.

Those higher costs stand right with EPA. That's because the agency has rejected Oklahoma's reasonable and affordable air quality plan for regional haze. EPA has now imposed a more stringent and less flexible federal plan. That plan will cost Oklahomans more on their monthly electric bills, without any additional environmental benefits.

I believe the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality did the right thing: State officials worked with state utilities to construct a plan for regional haze that balances environmental protection with the need for affordable, reliable energy for consumers.

Unfortunately, the EPA rejected ODEQ's solution and usurped control of Oklahoma's regional haze planning and implementation. This could cost state utilities $2 billion, and Oklahoma families, farmers and manufacturers would undoubtedly foot the bill. We can have affordable energy while continuing the state's progress in reducing emissions - and we can do it without an EPA takeover.

Oklahomans should know that their elected officials are taking action. I appreciate the leadership of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has announced that the state will sue the agency. As he put it, "plans to address regional haze should be made by the state, not by EPA."

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission also held a hearing in March, in which a growing coalition of Oklahomans had the opportunity to unite in opposition to EPA's takeover.

I was pleased that EPA agreed to my request to hold a second hearing in Tulsa. This will give Oklahomans a chance to have their say. I stand with them.

Through my leadership position on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has oversight over the EPA, I have pledged to do everything I can to work with Oklahoma officials to protect consumers from EPA's attack on affordable electricity.

Now is the time for Oklahomans to speak up: These hearings are open to all and there will be a sign-up sheet for those who wish to testify. Those interested in having a chance to speak should know that it will be first come, first served, and there will also be an opportunity to submit written comments to the EPA.

When the EPA publishes its final action, it will provide written responses to all the oral and written comments posed at the hearing. There will also be an open house before the hearings where Oklahomans will be able to ask questions of EPA staff.

On a matter of this importance, the EPA needs to hear directly from the people of this great state, and I encourage everyone to attend.

The Tulsa hearing will be Thursday in the Alliance Conference Center auditorium at the Tulsa Tech-Riverside Campus, 801 East 91st St. There will be an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. and the public hearing is from 4 to 6 p.m. and again from 7 to 9 p.m.