Topeka Attorney General-elect Derek Schmidt said Tuesday his office would increase scrutiny of any environmental regulations the federal government proposes that might exceed federal authority.
Schmidt, a Republican who takes office in January, told The Associated Press that his administration would take a close look at any rules from the Environmental Protection Agency that might be harmful to Kansas.
“I think we’re in a period of time here where it’s going to be important for the states’ legal representatives to keep an eye on the federal administrative process related to a whole range of environmental energy regulations and raise concerns when it’s warranted,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to be paying very close attention.”
While not saying specifically what action he might take, Schmidt didn’t rule out joining a lawsuit a dozen states filed, challenging the EPA’s findings on greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, constituted pollution and could be regulated by the EPA.
Schmidt and other critics fear new rules set to take effect Jan. 2 will require farmers and others in agriculture to make significant modifications to their operations to reduce emissions. They worry the cost of that may force some producers out of business and further drag on a struggling economy.
But Sierra Club spokeswoman Stephanie Cole said the rules apply only to the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, not small farmers in western Kansas.
“The claims are inflated and there is a lot of misinformation. New rules aren’t going to apply to them,” Cole said. “We’re hearing it on a daily basis.”
Schmidt said members of Congress should set the rules, based on what’s best for constituents, not the EPA.
The new rules require new power plants to use the best available technology for controlling greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
They have prompted Sunflower Electric Power Corp., which serves western Kansas, to try to get an air-quality permit by year’s end to build a new power coal-fired plant near Holcomb. If it gets the permit this year, Sunflower has promised to use the best available technology to make the plant clean, but under existing state and federal rules.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected an industry challenge to the new rules on Friday, clearing the way for them to take effect next month.
Schmidt said the Kansas economy was “energy intensive” and the new federal regulations could cost the state.
“We want to make sure as the federal government moves in whatever direction it chooses to move it does so with the consent of the people’s elected representatives in Congress and not beyond that,” he said.
But Cole and other environmentalists say the EPA has a 40-year record of balancing air quality with business interests without destroying the economy.
“We know we can do both. These claims that the sky is falling are not true,” she said.
Schmidt said the challenge was similar to action filed by states in opposition to the new federal health care law, which includes an individual mandate for insurance. Schmidt intends to join other states in the health care litigation shortly after he takes office.
Joining him in his concern about federal intrusion is Republican Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, who has vowed to do only the minimum required to implement the new health care law and push back when possible.