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Drummond sues EPA for rejecting Oklahoma's plan to reduce harmful emissions, calls new federal plan 'burdensome'

Marek Piwnicki

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a final Good Neighbor Plan this week to keep smog-causing emissions from hurting people in downwind states. But after the EPA rejected Oklahoma’s proposed plan to curb its emissions last month, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is suing the EPA, calling its federal plan “burdensome” and overreaching.

This Good Neighbor Plan aims to curb nitrous oxide, or NOx, emissions. These create low-lying ozone smog that causes and exacerbates lung problems like asthma. The EPA says reducing NOx emissions will save thousands of lives and improve health and quality of life for millions of people living downwind of industrial smog sources.

This plan aims to bring air quality standards set in 2015. It covers 23 states, including Oklahoma, that were found to be exporting significant amounts of smog to downwind neighbors.

In Oklahoma’s case, those NoX emissions are making their way to residents in Texas, especially the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The plan doesn’t identify any states with significant NoX emissions that reach air quality sensors in Oklahoma.

Last year, smog-exporting states proposed plans to reduce their NOx emissions. Last month, the EPA fully rejected proposed plans to cut NOx emissions from 19 states, including Oklahoma. It partially rejected proposals from another two states.

According to the EPA, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality’s proposal did not contain any permanent and enforceable emissions controls. Federal reviewers said there wasn’t sufficient evidence that the state had already implemented all cost-effective options like the proposal claimed. In lieu of an approved state proposal, the EPA said it would implement a federal implementation plan.

The EPA released that plan on Wednesday. On Thursday, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond announced that he had filed a lawsuit against the EPA for its rejection of Oklahoma’s implementation plan, calling the federal plan “overreach of the first order.”

“Rather than work with Oklahoma to make whatever modifications the EPA claims are necessary to comply with its burdensome regulations, the Biden Administration is seeking a one-size-fits-all federal plan with absolutely no input from Oklahoma or other affected states,” Drummond said in a press release.

Oklahoma and other states under the federal plan will be required to phase in emissions controls starting next year. The EPA will begin enforcing the plan’s limits in 2026.

The plan tasks Oklahoma with cutting its power plant NOx emissions by 58% and its NoX from other industries by 16%. By 2026, the state will need to emit nearly 10,000 tons less NoX each year.

2026 emissions requirements for other industries under the EPA's final Good Neighbor Plan.

“The EPA [Good Neighbor] plan places unnecessary and costly burdens on Oklahoma businesses and ignores the expertise of Oklahoma’s Department of Environmental Quality, all at the expense of state sovereignty,” Drummond said in the release.

Although Drummond’s announcement came in response to the federal implementation plan, the Attorney General’s office filed this lawsuit at the beginning of March.

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU.