Attorney General Scott Pruitt: The ruling "prevents the EPA from enforcing a federal plan that will raise utility rates," he said
DENVER - An appeals court on Friday temporarily blocked an Environmental Protection Agency rule aimed at reducing air pollution emissions from three northeastern Oklahoma power plants.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay requested by Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
The stay had been opposed by the EPA and the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, which contended that a delay of the rule would cause premature deaths from pollutants.
The coal-fired plants are operated by OG&E, near Pawnee and Muskogee, and by American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, near Oologah.
Pruitt and OG&E earlier this year began an appeal to overturn the EPA rule that was issued in December. It requires the plants to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions.
The plants are responsible for more than one-third of the sulfur-dioxide pollution from all industrial and utility sources in the state, according to the EPA.
The Denver-based appeals court is not likely to decide until months from now whether to overturn the rule. A stay keeps the EPA's requirement from taking effect until the court issues its decision.
The requirement would cost OG&E and its customers more than $1.2 billion, Pruitt and OG&E told the appellate judges in April.
The attorney general's staff said the EPA rule "is not health-related."
The appellate judges, in a two-sentence ruling, did not elaborate on why the stay was granted.
In a statement, OG&E officials said they were "pleased with the court's decision and believe it's the right approach. It prevents us from having to make costly investments and ensures that an economic burden isn't placed on our customers before the 10th Circuit rules on the merits of the case."
The Sierra Club viewed the delay as "only a temporary setback," saying the group is optimistic that the rule is well-supported by scientific and medical evidence and will be upheld this fall after the court has the opportunity to review the merits of the case.
The environmental group said OG&E should "follow the lead set by Public Service Company of Oklahoma to stop spending money on legal challenges and instead invest in clean air and home-grown energy sources."
AEP-PSO and the EPA have agreed in principle on a plan that would eliminate the company's coal-fired generation plants in Oologah within 15 years, state and utility officials announced earlier this year.
The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
Pruitt called the stay "a significant victory for the state of Oklahoma, and it temporarily prevents the EPA from enforcing a federal plan that will raise utility rates for Oklahoma consumers. The EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act, and we will continue to challenge that decision to preserve the ability of Oklahoma stakeholders to create an Oklahoma solution."
Original Print Headline: OG&E, state win EPA-rule delay
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