Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency today issued a weakened clean-air plan for Arkansas, promptly criticized by the Sierra Club which has worked for years to reduce haze over the state’s scenic areas.
The EPA described the weaker rules as good for the environment and Becky Keogh, the former energy company executive tapped by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to lead the states’ Department of ‘Environmental Quality,’ cheered the new rule. Keogh lauded “savings to ratepayers,” a reference to the plan’s weakening of requirements aimed at reducing pollution from coal-burning power plants through anti-pollution equipment.
The Sierra Club explains how we got here:
Today, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has finalized a “regional haze” plan for Arkansas. This plan replaces a much stronger plan approved by EPA in 2016 that would have resulted in much more effective air pollution protections for certain national parks and wilderness areas in Arkansas and Missouri.
Arkansas was required by federal law to draft a plan to reduce haze pollution and improve visibility in the Upper Buffalo River area and the Caney Creek Wilderness by 2007. The state did not even submit a complete plan until 2011, which was partially rejected, and then failed to submit an approvable follow-up plan. When EPA failed to meet its ensuing obligation to draft a federal plan for Arkansas, Sierra Club sued EPA in 2014, resulting in an Arkansas federal court ruling requiring EPA to draft a federal haze reduction plan for Arkansas. EPA’s subsequent draft plan went through a public comment period, was the subject of a public hearing in April 2015, and was eventually finalized in August 2016. The State of Arkansas and others sued EPA to block the plan.
After the 2016 presidential election, the new Trump Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Arkansas began drafting a new haze reduction plan to replace the previously-approved plan. Today’s much weaker haze reduction plan is the result.
In response to today’s news, Glen Hooks, Director of the Sierra Club’s Arkansas Chapter, released the following statement:
“We are disappointed that the Trump EPA has embraced a plan that will result in dirtier air for Arkansas. The previous plan was much stronger and would have led to clearer air in our parks and wilderness areas”, along with improved health for all Arkansans.” Sierra Club will consider all of our options, including a possible appeal of the weaker plan. Arkansans deserve our strongest efforts at reducing air pollution and we will never stop fighting to make this happen.”
In response to today’s news, Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, released the following statement:
“Nearly every single one of our national parks is suffering from serious air pollution problems, and Arkansas’ parks are no exception. But today’s action by the EPA only puts Arkansas’ public lands and communities at greater risk. EPA’s attempt to implement a plan that will do nothing to clean up the air in Arkansas is unacceptable, and NPCA will continue to stand up for the health of our parks and the millions of people who visit and live nearby.”