Rutledge Delivers Testimony before U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on the Interior

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February 26, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Subcommittee on the Interior to offer testimony on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and their impact on the states.

A copy of Rutledge’s testimony is available upon request by contacting Judd Deere at judd.deere@arkansasag.gov.

Rutledge’s remarks are below, as prepared for delivery:

Chairwoman Lummis, Ranking Member Lawrence, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak to this committee today. My name is Leslie Rutledge and I am the Attorney General of Arkansas. I am here today to give you a sense of how our state, one that has a rich natural heritage and is known across the nation as the Natural State for its rolling hills, dense woodlands, and miles of rivers and lakes, will be impacted by overreaching regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Specifically, the EPA exceeds its legal authority in three recently proposed rules – the Clean Power Plan, more stringent ground-level ozone standards and changes to the definition of the Waters of the United States.

Clean Power Plan

As Attorney General, I represent the interests of Arkansas’s utility ratepayers. These are hardworking Arkansans; some own their own small business, while others might maintain their multi-generational family farm. From Fayetteville to Warren, and Texarkana to Jonesboro, and all points in between, I have heard great concern about the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

The rule will require Arkansas to meet an almost 45% reduction in carbon emissions from electric generating units by 2030. This is the 6th highest rate of reduction in the nation, imposed upon a state that currently ranks 46th in per capita income. This is a rule that the EPA does not have the legal authority to issue.

The EPA regulates coal-fired power plants, such as the one in Independence County where I grew up, under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, not Section 111(d). In fact, the law cannot be any clearer - it specifically prohibits the EPA from invoking Section 111(d) where the “source category...is regulated under section [112]....”

The proposed rule mandates what each state must achieve, rather than providing guidelines and appropriate procedures for states to use in establishing standards of performance within their state. This is a serious overreach of the EPA’s authority and different from the implementation of any other limits set under the Clean Air Act. 

My opposition to this rule may beg the question as to whether I am for clean air. I certainly am, and I would say confidently that my fellow Arkansans are in favor of clean air.  But the rule goes beyond the EPA’s authority to regulate air pollution – it imposes a misguided national energy policy and seeks to control the states’ regulation of energy generation and usage.

Ozone Standards

Also under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has proposed unnecessarily stringent ground-level ozone standards. The proposed rule reduces the current standard of 75 parts per million to somewhere between 65 and 70 parts per million, perhaps even as low as 60 parts per million.  A decrease to 60 parts per million will have a devastating effect on Arkansas. At that level, all of Arkansas would likely be in non-attainment. Anyone who has visited Arkansas would be hard-pressed to believe that our beautiful mountains and the tourism industry they support have a smog problem. Years of nonattainment would directly impact permitted operations of our manufacturing sector and set back any economic recovery that we have achieved in the past few years. 

Waters of the United States

Likewise, the EPA’s attempt to “clarify” the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act is so expansive that it could likely control land use activities over most of the United States. As Arkansas’s Attorney General, this is a major concern for me, because this would drastically impact, among others, Arkansas’s farmers and ranchers. Rather than clarifying, the proposed rule is more complicated than current law. The process for determining jurisdiction becomes a maze for both regulators and the public to navigate.

As I have already mentioned, Arkansas’s agricultural community would be left with increased uncertainty over the Clean Water Act. Agriculture is essential to our economy. According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, agriculture provides $16 billion annually and one out of every six jobs in the state.

While the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have repeatedly offered verbal assurances that agriculture need not worry about the scope of the proposed definition of “waters of the United States,” farmers in Arkansas are worried because of the actions of the agencies, not their words. For example, in 2014, the Corps took action against a Tennessee row crop farm determining part of the field to be “waters of the United States.” Arkansas farmers worry that everyday activities like that of the farm in our neighboring state, such as plowing and the appropriate application of pesticides and fertilizer, will subject them to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.     

Conclusion

While each of these rules would cause great harm to Arkansas on its own, the cumulative effect cannot be overstated. The Obama Administration is intent on following an agenda that ignores the plain language of the laws passed by Congress and has created a perfect storm of federal regulations that will result in economic disaster for a state like Arkansas. Arkansans believe in protecting our environment and we take great pride in being the Natural State, and we also take pride in supplying the world with food and in growing jobs in our state.

I want to thank the Committee once again for inviting me today to speak to you and for your time and consideration of this issue that is very important to me. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.

 

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. Elected on November 4, 2014, she is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected to the office.

Rutledge, a native of Batesville, Arkansas, is a graduate of Southside High School, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock. She began her legal career as Clerk for Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Josephine Hart, now Associate Justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. She was appointed Deputy Counsel for Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and later served as Legal Counsel on the Mike Huckabee for President Campaign. She served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Lonoke County and in subsequent service as Attorney for the State of Arkansas’s Division of Children and Family Services. She also served as Deputy Counsel at the National Republican Congressional Committee before joining the Republican National Committee as Counsel. Prior to her election as Attorney General, she founded and practiced law at The Rutledge Firm, PLLC. Rutledge lives in Little Rock.

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