Contra Environmentalists’ Request, Court Extends Arkansas Haze Negotiations Deadline

Published December 1, 2017

Rejecting claims made by some environmental organizations Arkansas environmental regulators are acting in bad faith by delaying implementation of federal haze requirements for the state, without comment the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to maintain a hold on a lawsuit challenging Arkansas’ delayed action.

The court acted on November 1 to stay the lawsuit until at least December 15, when all parties to the lawsuit are required to submit updated status reports.

The Court’s decision was a victory for the U.S. EPA, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and Entergy Corp. which were, as they requested, given additional time to settle the regional haze litigation.

Changed President, Altered Standards

The regional haze program aims to restore natural views to 156 national parks and wilderness areas by 2064. Arkansas’ haze plan is a decade overdue. When the Obama administration delivered its Arkansas haze program in 2016, EPA claimed the new pollution controls being required on coal-fired power plants in the state would cut emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by about 68,500 tons and 15,100 tons, respectively annually.

Under President Trump, EPA officials have retreated from the Obama administration’s approach and instead are supporting alternative approach developed by Arkansas’ Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). In requesting the continued stay of the litigation, EPA and ADEQ said the revisions are taking longer than expected.

Attorneys for Entergy, who’s coal-fired power plants would be required to make billions of dollars in upgrades to meet the haze targets under the Obama administration’s plan, joined EPA and ADEQ in requesting the stay.

“With approximately $2 billion at stake … Entergy has the greatest incentive of the parties to ensure that the abeyance period is used efficiently to determine if a negotiated resolution is possible,” Entergy’s attorneys told the court in their brief supporting the stay.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.