Cotton Praises EPA Ending Obama-Era Coal Restrictions in Arkansas: ‘Slowly but Surely Rebuilding Trust’ Between Rural America, EPA

Sen. Tom Cotton
Sen. Tom Cotton / Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton (R, Ark.) praised the Environmental Protection Agency's announcement on Monday that it will remove limits on coal-burning, which the Obama administration imposed on Arkansas, to give the state freedom to create its own plan to curb pollution.

"It's decisions like this one that are slowly but surely rebuilding trust between rural America and the EPA," Cotton said in a statement. "I'm glad to see the EPA focus on concrete problems, like haze and other forms of pollution, and also show respect for our state officials' authority."

"It's a much-needed corrective to the heavy-handed ways of the previous administration, and I look forward to our state developing its own implementation plan, working in cooperation with—not under the thumb of—the EPA," he added.

The Washington Examiner flagged the EPA's announcement Monday that Administrator Scott Pruitt approved revisions to the Arkansas Regional Haze State Implementation Plan (SIP) "for nitrogen oxide at electric-generating units within the state." The revisions are meant to be the first step in changing the Obama administration's "one-size-fits-all" Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to empower states to run their clean-air programs.

"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 in a statement. "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 across the Natural State."

The Obama administration imposed more than 50 FIPs on states, including Arkansas in an effort to reduce nitrogen dioxide in the state under the EPA's regional haze rule. Coal-fired power plants saw the rule as a threat, in part because they would need to invest in costly upgrades or shut down.

"Arkansas' primary fuel source for electricity production is coal, although it is moving toward using more natural gas," the Examiner noted.

The EPA said in its announcement that the agency has turned at least one FIP into a SIP about every month and over 200 SIPs have been approved since March.

"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," the EPA news release said.

Under the Clean Air Act, states are required to create SIPs to contribute toward the national goal of "addressing visibility impairment in designated ‘class I areas' like national parks and wilderness areas." The EPA has imposed FIPs when it disapproves or only partially approves a SIP—as the Obama administration did with Arkansas—or when states could not or do not submit SIPs.

Beyond Cotton, several other Arkansas politicians and state officials praised the EPA's announcement as a positive step.