Cooperative Federalism? We Don’t Need No Stinkin Cooperative Federalism

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Last Friday, the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Oklahoma v. EPA, affirmed EPA’s rejection of Oklahoma’s state implementation plan setting forth its determination of the Best Available Retrofit Technology, or BART, to address regional haze.  The Court also affirmed EPA’s promulgation of a federal implementation plan in place of the Oklahoma SIP.  While rehearsing the Clean Air Act’s “cooperative federalism” approach, the Court seemed more focused on deference to EPA’s technical assessment of the SIP than on any obligation by EPA to cooperate with states.

Given that the statute mandates that the EPA must ensure SIPs comply with the statute, we fail to see how the EPA would be without the authority to review BART determinations for compliance with the guidelines.

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While the legislative history may evidence an intent to prevent the EPA from directly making those BART decisions, it does not necessarily evidence an intent to deprive the EPA of any authority to ensure that these BART decisions comply with the statute.

Judge Kelly dissented.  As he noted, while the courts normally grant deference to EPA’s decisions, such deference is appropriately limited where “EPA rejected Oklahoma’s evidentiary support with no clear evidence of its own to support its contrary conclusion.”  Judge Kelly also noted that, even in a statute relying substantially on state implementation, the amount of power given to the states to implement the regional haze program is particularly evident.

I don’t know whether Oklahoma will seeking rehearing en banc.  (It’s difficult to imagine that the Supreme Court would be interested in hearing this case.)  I do know that cooperation is in the eye of the beholder.

Click here to view video.

 

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Foley Hoag LLP - Environmental Law on:

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