The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it has scrapped limits on coal burning that the Obama administration imposed on Arkansas, which were expected to force power plants in that state to invest in costly upgrades or shut down, and instead said Arkansas was free to pursue its own plan to cut back pollution.
EPA chief Scott Pruitt said his agency was freeing Arkansas from limits that the Obama administration tried to impose on the state when it rejected Arkansas' plan. The Obama-era plan was aimed at reducing nitrogen dioxide under the EPA's regional haze rule, which coal-fired power plants saw as a threat.
Arkansas’ primary fuel source for electricity production is coal, although it is moving toward using more natural gas. Pruitt said Monday's actions were aimed at assisting the state's power plants.
The EPA said the action is the first step toward replacing the “embattled and one-size-fits-all” Federal Implementation Plan that dates back to 2012. EPA has the authority to impose federal plans on states if they are unable to meet pollution standards through their own programs. Most states seek to avoid being “FIPed,” as the process is often referred to by state regulators.
“Arkansas’ revised plan is yet another excellent example of the positive environmental outcomes we are achieving across the country from a cooperative federalism approach,” Pruitt said. “After working closely with Arkansas, this action returns power back to the rightful hands of the state and gives them the necessary flexibility to improve air quality."
More than 50 federal plans were imposed under the Obama administration’s EPA. Twenty of the FIPs were under the Regional Haze program, according to EPA.
Under the Trump administration, Pruitt’s EPA “has turned at least one FIP” back into a state-implemented plan every month, according to the agency.
EPA said it has approved more than 200 state implementation plans since March 1, 2017.
“States are best suited to run their clean-air programs and EPA will continue to work with our state partners to make sure Clean Air Act standards are met in Arkansas and across the country,” EPA said on Monday.