In lawsuits and amicus briefs, OK AG Pruitt pushes back at Obama Administration
Published: November 19th, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY — Although the nation’s High Court has rebuffed the Sooner State on regulation of abortion rights in recent weeks, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s litigation (or threats to file lawsuits) against President Obama’s agenda includes issues where there’s at a chance he will prevail.
That includes Oklahoma’s efforts to roll back or temper the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze standards, and the state’s legal attacks on the IRS’ exercise of regulatory powers to enforce the Affordable Care Act.
As for the merger between American Airlines and United Airlines, Oklahoma’s sympathetic view of the proposed joint operations has more or less prevailed. Further, EPA has backed away from an ethanal use standard the state opposed in legal arguments.
Pruitt points to the regional haze standards as one of several examples of the EPA’s “attitude that ignores the proper role of the states as the agency attempts to expand its authority.” States like Oklahoma have a long history of energy industry regulation that deserves respect, even deference in such cases under the Clean Air Act, Pruitt argues.
Pruitt has often joined other attorneys general to press against federal overreach. A total of 16 AGs are opposing EPA “greenhouse gas” regulations.
Oklahoma’s own lawsuit against the regional haze standards affirms a state plan submitted in 2010 to ameliorate pollutants by 2064, without price spikes. Although state analysts found the region including Oklahoma would actually reach the prior standards early (by 2026) under the state approach, the EPA rebuffed that and, so far, has prevailed in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Last week, Pruitt’s office announced he would seek U.S. Supreme Court review of the states lawsuit against the EPA mandate. Oklahoma legal analysts pin their hopes on one dissenting judicial opinion at the Circuit, which characterized Oklahoma’s position — to use scrubbers to clean coal emissions — as a “reasoned, detailed technical conclusion.”
Beyond legality, Pruitt told Oklahoma Watchdog U.S. mandates on regional haze would “weaken Oklahoma’s economy.” Utility analyses project implementation costs of $2 billion, and rate hikes of perhaps 20 percent a year, under the EPA’s plan.
Pruitt says the feds “threaten the competitive edge Oklahoma has enjoyed for years with low-cost and reliable electric generation. This low-cost energy not only benefits Oklahoma manufacturers, but gives our state a considerable edge in recruiting new jobs.”
In another joust, Pruitt in March filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief to oppose an EPA mandate for ethanal use. Friday, he hailed the agency’s announcement it would lower the national fuel supply mandate for ethanol use from 18.15 billion gallons a year to 15 billion. Presently, 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop is pulled into ethanol production, although use of the bio-fuel is a risk to many cars, and “could even void certain manufacturer’s warranties,” Pruitt says.
The American/United merger was opposed by the Obama Administration, which brought a lawsuit joined by Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
Pruitt’s team, however, said the proposed merger did not violate anti-trust provisions and was valid under state law.
In October, said he would support, in a brief, the airlines’ approach to form joint operations. Last Friday, he celebrated Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement, with the airlines, of a settlement. Pruitt said the accord protects thousands of jobs in the American maintenance facility in Tulsa.
Pruitt and his legal team have drawn national attention for challenging Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules promulgated under the Affordable Care Act. That lawsuit, still pending in the Eastern District of Oklahoma federal court, is a “live round” that could rewrite the history of President Obama’s landmark legislation .
“We are pleased thus far with the progress of our Affordable Care Act lawsuit. We anticipate the parties will soon file motions for summary judgment, and given the importance of the case, we are hopeful that the court will rule on those motions expeditiously,” Pruitt told Oklahoma Watchdog.
“When we first filed, many experts predicted Oklahoma would go it alone in challenging the IRS implementation of the law. The state of Indiana, as well as a group of business owners and individuals in Virginia, each have followed our lead and filed similar lawsuits. And much like Oklahoma has, they are finding success,” Pruitt concluded.
In Pruitt v. Sebelius, Pruitt and his top lawyer, solicitor Patrick Wyrick, argue against the Internal Revenue Service rule punishing “large employers” — including governments (state and local) with penalties if health-care exchanges are not created within a state.
The trouble for the IRS, if Pruitt’s right, is that 34 states have not created such exchanges. Oklahoma’s argument in the case is that the option to not create exchanges is protected both in the language of ACA itself and the reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court in last year’s decision upholding “ObamaCare.”
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