KUAR’s Chris Hickey had an interesting report on Wednesday that seemed to indicate Arkansas’s regulatory agencies will keep moving forward with plans to scale back power utilities’ carbon emissions even though the U.S. Supreme Court this week blocked the federal regulation requiring such planning.
Hickey quoted John Bethel, executive director of the Public Service Commission, and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Becky Keogh:
“The stakeholder process will continue to evaluate what steps will be necessary to comply with the plan should it be upheld. Those activities might proceed on a modified time line once we understand more what that might be,” Bethel
This is surprising, given that Arkansas is a party in the very lawsuit before the Supreme Court that resulted in a temporary stay to the Clean Power Plan on Tuesday. The CPP is the Obama administration’s regulatory tool for controlling carbon emissions from power plants.
The stay didn’t necessarily halt the actual rollout of the plan everywhere. That’s because the CPP, like many federal regulations, is left up to the states to actually implement. Under the CPP schema, the federal Environmental Protection Agency sets targets for carbon emissions reductions (either on an actual or per capita basis), but states figure out how to get there. This entails a lengthy, long-term planning process in which state regulators work closely with utilities to come up with a workable emissions reduction blueprint.
Since the CPP was rolled out in 2014 — and especially since Republicans took control of the governorship and the attorney general’s office last year — Arkansas has approached the regulations somewhat schizophrenically. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has fought the CPP tooth and nail. Yet at the same time, the state’s regulatory agencies have held extensive planning meetings with power companies, environmental groups and other stakeholders even after the state joined a suit against the EPA last year.
In other words, even as the state has been fighting the CPP in court, it’s been quietly laying the groundwork for eventual compliance, just in case.
This is nothing but a good thing. Scaling back carbon emissions is necessary and inevitable, and the stakeholder meetings absolutely should move forward. But if you accept Leslie Rutledge’s argument that the CPP is “an unlawful, out-of-touch plan drafted by bureaucrats in Washington” that will hurt Arkansas households and destroy jobs, you’d think Arkansas would seize the chance to put the brakes on this ruinous, job-killing set of regulations now that the Supreme Court has said the regulations are on hold.
Point being: Compliance with the CPP is not nearly as much of a problem as Rutledge and Hutchinson are making it out to be.