EPA Signs Final Federal Plan for Regional Haze Rule in Arkansas

On August 31, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 issued its final federal plan for implementing the Regional Haze Rule in Arkansas. In 2008 ADEQ submitted a state implementation plan that EPA disapproved in 2012.

On April 8, 2015, EPA published a proposed federal implementation plan for the rule; during the required comment period, ADEQ and a number of Arkansas industries and facilities affected by the proposed plan submitted recommendations for changes.

ADEQ Director Becky Keogh said, “This federal plan mandates controls that are both unnecessary and costly and does not take into account the real progress Arkansas has made in visibility improvements. While we appreciate EPA’s willingness to consider certain comments, we feel EPA’s final federal plan does not adequately address many substantive issues that were raised during the comment period and closely resembles the proposed federal plan.”

Governor Asa Hutchinson said that he believes the final plan “represents unsupported federal overreach and goes beyond the authority provided by law.” He has directed Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge “to pursue all available legal remedies.”

The Regional Haze Rule, passed by Congress in 1999, calls for states “to establish goals and emission reduction strategies for improving visibility in all 156 mandatory Class I national parks and wilderness areas.” There are two Class I areas in Arkansas: Upper Buffalo and Caney Creek Wilderness areas.

ADEQ’s review of the final plan found that its required measures will not result in changes that can be seen with the naked eye and thus exceed the rule’s requirements to address the impairment of visibility.

The final plan mandates billion dollar controls on Entergy’s White Bluff and Independence plants. The controls specified for installation at the White Bluff plant are being ordered despite a likely curtailed remaining useful life of that facility due to current dispatch and market trends favoring natural gas plants. EPA is mandating controls at Entergy’s Independence plant simply because it is a similar facility to White Bluff, even though it is not required by regulation.

The fact that Arkansas is advancing in reduction of haze and increased visibility more rapidly than required under the Regional Haze Rule is not recognized in EPA’s final plan.