Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a petition last month with the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court decision on the regional haze rule, which went against Oklahoma and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. (OG&E).
In a press release from last year, Pruitt stated the rule is about visibility and not health.
“At stake is the ability of Oklahoma and other states to develop and implement state-based solutions. The EPA exceeded its authority when it denied the state’s plan to address regional haze. Oklahomans need to understand the regional haze rule is not about health, it is about visibility in a state wildlife area that Oklahoma leaders want to protect.”
The regional haze rule is aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from coal power plants. While the rule is meant to help improve visibility on federal lands, sulfur dioxide is a major air pollutant and a precursor to acid rain.
There is scientific evidence linking short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide, ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours, with an array of respiratory risks. These risk particularly impact asthmatics.
Sulfur dioxide can also react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form small particles. These particles can penetrate sensitive parts of the lungs and worsen and even cause respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and emphysema. This can aggravate existing heart disease and lead to hospitalization and even premature death.
Coal burning plants are the largest source of sulfur dioxide pollution in the nation. OG&E’s Muskogee and Sooner plants are the largest coal plants in Oklahoma. The plants lake modern pollution safeguards called scrubbers. The scrubbers can help control pollution including sulfur dioxide. However, they can’t eliminate all of the pollution.
Tulsa’s Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) reached a settlement with the EPA in 2012 to retire its last coal units in Oklahoma by 2026 to meet regional haze and other environmental rules.
Photo Credit- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service