The latest lawsuit against the federal government filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt shows the state remains the epicenter of anti-environmentalism ideology.
If there’s any place in the world where it’s socially acceptable and even personally beneficial to place neoliberalism, or free market radicalism, above both nature and basic human welfare, it’s Oklahoma, the home of global warming denier, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.
Pruitt, pictured right, who has also filed suit against the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, filed a suit this week in federal court in Oklahoma that essentially claims the federal government is favoring environmental groups when it comes to new regulations under a system that has been derogatorily described as “sue and settle.”
Eleven other states have joined Pruitt in this latest protest again the federal government, but his press release on the issue failed to show how Oklahoma has been specifically hurt by the alleged “sue and settle” system.
Here’s what he did say:
The EPA is picking winners and losers, exhibiting favoritism, at the expense of due process and transparency. They are manipulating our legal system to achieve what they cannot through our representative democracy. The outcomes of their actions affect every one of us by sticking states with the bill and unnecessarily raising utility rates by as much as 20 percent.
Note that there’s no specific information about Oklahoma. Note, too, that the 20 percent figure is not attributed. My point is that Pruitt, again, is wasting state resources on an issue that will not be determined by Oklahoma and should not be determined by Oklahoma.
The other 11 states that have joined the lawsuit include Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming, hardly a diverse or eclectic group showing broad support. All these states have Republican attorneys general. In essence, it’s a Republican rearguard action against the federal government, which is led, of course, by a Democratic president.
The specific complaint is that government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, often settle with environmental groups, who file suit against the federal government when it fails to institute a new rule on time or doesn’t implement it appropriately. In other words, environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, are simply trying to make the federal government do what it has promised to do.
So are these “do what you promised to do” lawsuits or “sue and settle” lawsuits? The language here is important along with the idea that the federal government should live up to its own requirements or standards.
While there’s a lot of heated rhetoric on the side of the Republican attorneys general, the actual cases of “do what you promised to do” lawsuits are difficult to come by. A recent article on the site of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce refers to a case involving the Navajo Generating Station. That station serves electric customers in Arizona, California and Nevada. Some type of consent agreement that apparently resulted from a lawsuit will supposedly raise electric rates by 20 percent to those customers, but that number comes from Ben Quayle, a former U.S. Representative from Arizona, who had sponsored legislation related to the issue. How reliable is that number? Why didn’t California or Nevada join the lawsuit?
Pruitt’s press release makes the point that the federal circumvents “state involvement” when it comes to new environmental regulations, but don’t the states elect Representatives and Senators to protect their interests?
According to Pruitt’s press release, “The agreements between the EPA and environmental groups have led to new rules and regulations for states without allowing attorneys general to enter the process to defend the interest of states, businesses and consumers.” But that concept could apply to any new federal regulation, which in some manner will affect states. Pruitt’s argument is generic and drips with “states’ rights” dogma. How can you ensure clean water or air with individual states in control of the process? What if the polluted air or contaminated water from one state causes illness in other states? Is that just a state right?
In the end, all we have here are environmental groups holding the government accountable to its own commitments and another dubious Republican-manufactured controversy.
Oklahoma is home to a lot of anti-President Barack Obama hysteria, and it remains known as a place where religious extremism wages war against scientific reality on a consistent basis. Even given that, this lawsuit is a waste of Oklahoma taxpayers’ money. Useless, visceral political thrills don’t come cheap when lawsuits are involved.