Arkansas Panel Resolution Opposes EPA Rule

Published 08/12 2014 10:19PM

Updated 08/13 2014 09:02AM

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A legislative joint committee Tuesday passed a resolution opposing a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Arkansas.

The House and Senate Committee on Insurance and Commerce supported the resolution in a voice vote after hearing two hours of testimony from regulators and utility executives on the potential effects of cutting carbon emissions by 44-percent by 2030.

Senate chair Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said now is the time to act.

"If you flip on a light switch to turn on a light in your house, this rule means your rates are going to go up," Rapert says.

Duane Highley, president and CEO of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, said the proposed rule creates a "new war between the states" and could result in the closure of two existing coal plants, including White Bluff in Jefferson County with 1237 employees.

"I can't speak for my board of directors, but I can't imagine my board voting to keep White Bluff if this rule as written becomes final," Highley says.

Venita McCellon-Allen, president and CEO of Southwestern Electric Power Company said coal accounts for 60-percent of it's current electric generation capacity.

"This is all-pain, no gain," McCellon-Allen says.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is coordinating meetings with stakeholders including electric companies, regulators, and environmental groups to craft a state response to the proposed rule.

ADEQ director Teresa Marks says emissions reductions would be better for the environment, but the new rule should not accomplish that goal if it means harming Arkansas' economy.

"It's going to be difficult to determine in my opinion what kind of economic impact you're going to have until we see what the final rule is going to look like and until we see what it's going to look like in Arkansas specifically," Marks says. "That's the deal."

Rapert says he wants Arkansas to join a dozen other states who are beginning a court challenge, even with the rule not yet final.

"I am disappointed that some of the agencies here have not taken a stronger stand against what we believe is bad public policy for the state of Arkansas."

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