WASHINGTON — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told a House panel on Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new regulations beyond its authority that would do harm to her state.
“The Obama Administration is intent on following an agenda that ignores the plain language of the laws passed by Congress and has created a perfect storm of federal regulations that will result in economic disaster for a state like Arkansas,” she said.
Rutledge testified at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Regulation’s subcommittee on the Interior that was focused on three proposed EPA rules that Republicans oppose: the Clean Power plan, more stringent ground-level ozone standards and changes to the definition of the Waters of the United States.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., challenged the claims of economic devastation made by Rutledge and other opponents of the EPA regulations.
“We’ve heard these sky-is-falling claims before,” she said.
Republicans on the panel were more sympathetic with Rutledge, expressing similar concerns that EPA was overreaching its authority at the expense of rural and low-income communities.
Rutledge offered specific complaints about the three proposed rules.
The Clean Power plan, she said, would require the state to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 45 percent by 2030 — the 6th highest rate of reduction in the nation on a state that ranks 46th in per capita income.
“These policy objectives will stifle job growth and limit Arkansas’s ability to compete across the country and the globe,” Rutledge said.
EPA is also proposing new limits on ground-level ozone from 75 parts per million to as low as 60 parts per million. The change, she said, would result in almost all of Arkansas’ having trouble attaining the more stringent standard, imposing penalties that would hurt the economy.
“Anyone who has ever visited Arkansas would be hard-pressed to believe that our beautiful mountains have a smog problem,” she said.
EPA is also attempting to clarify the definition of “waters of the United States” that fall under federal Clean Water Act regulation, but Rutledge said the proposal adds to the confusion.
The new definition “is so expansive that it would likely control land use activities over most of the United States,” she said.
Although EPA and the Corps of Engineers says the change would have no impact on farmers, Rutledge says the promises are of little comfort.
Farmers in Arkansas, she said, are worried because of the actions of the agencies, not their words. In 2014, the Corps took action against a Tennessee row crop farm and found part of the farm field to be “waters of the United States” because the area contained features such as a bed, bank and high water mark that made it a tributary to an adjacent water of the United States.
“Attorney General Rutledge seems to be more interested in playing politics than in helping Arkansans. One of her first official acts after being sworn in was to sue EPA to block new clean air protections. In her testimony today, she sounded more like a coal industry executive than a lawyer representing Arkansas.
The Arkansas Sierra Club issued a statement criticizing Rutledge for her testimony in opposition to the Clean Power plan.
Glen Hooks, chapter director, said the plan represents an opportunity to create good-paying jobs, improve air quality and public health by imposing more stringent pollution standards on the state’s coal-fired power plants.
“In her testimony today, she sounded more like a coal industry executive than a lawyer representing Arkansas,” he said in a statement.