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Federal appeals court stays EPA’s rejection of Arkansas ozone pollution plan

A federal appeals court on Thursday halted the Environmental Protection Agency’s rejection of Arkansas’ plan to comply with federal rules designed to assure that the state’s coal-fired power plants and industrial sites don’t pollute the air in other states.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of the EPA’s decision in a one-page order without elaboration. Arkansas in February sued over the EPA disapproving the state’s plan to meet “good neighbor” obligations under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA rejected plans from Arkansas and 18 other states. “The court’s order blocking the Biden administration’s disapproval prevents the administration from imposing a one-size-fits-all federal implementation plan (FIP) that would kill Arkansas jobs and threaten our power grid,” Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement.

A 2015 EPA rule blocks states from adding to ozone pollution outside their boundaries. Last year the agency announced its plan to limit downwind pollution from power plants. In cases where a state has not submitted a “good neighbor” proposal — or in cases where the EPA rejects one — a federal plan would take effect to protect downwind states.

The EPA did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment late Thursday afternoon. The agency had asked the court to not stay its rejection of Arkansas’ plan.

Griffin said when Arkansas filed its suit that the EPA rejected Arkansas’ proposal based on the impact its emissions would have on the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metropolitan areas. He said that was a different standard than the state was originally told it would be held to.

“Depriving EPA of authority to address Arkansas’s sources’ harmful emissions while this litigation proceeds would harm the health and welfare of millions of people who live in areas impacted by pollution from Arkansas,” attorneys for the EPA said in a filing last month.

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