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Eat Arkansas

The pizza fit for a queen

Margherita pizza has a royal pedigree and the great taste to prove it.

Pizza or calzone — the Layla's conundrum

Layla's Gyros and Pizza is serving up some of the best calzones and pies in town.

At U.S. Pizza, Judy's Favorite is ours, too

U.S. Pizza owner Judy Waller has one pizza she calls her favorite — and we are inclined to agree.

Dining Review

Viva Tommy's Famous!

August 28, 2014
Viva Tommy's Famous!
Mountain View pizzeria lives up to its rep. /more/

Dining Search

To-Do List

Anais Mitchell comes to South on Main

August 28, 2014
Anais Mitchell comes to South on Main
Also, Ben Kweller at Stickyz, Ben Nichols at Ron Robinson, Big Smo at Juanita's, The Kinfolks Soul Food Festival at the First Security Amphitheater, the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Sonny Burgess at Stickyz. /more/


Max Brantley

Political lowlights (lifes?)

DEADBEAT: Mark Darr left office as lieutenant governor Feb. 1 owing the state more than /more/

Ernest Dumas

Bombing our friends

Barack Obama, the first president who seemed to have learned the historical lessons of the /more/

Gene Lyons

Clinton, Obama beef fake

I'm assuming that Hillary Clinton's running because of how ostentatiously she's not made up her mind. By sitting tight, she basically freezes potential Democratic rivals in place, passively using her lead in opinion polls to prevent others from raising money. /more/

Movie Reviews

Dead dialogue

August 28, 2014
Dead dialogue
'Sin City' 2 looks good, but its darkness grows dull. /more/

Pearls About Swine

A path for victory for the Hogs versus Auburn

August 28, 2014
If Arkansas wants to convince a state and country full of doubters that it's pecking slowly back from beneath the weight of the rest of the SEC, a rare gift avails itself right at the start: a meaningful opener in late August, on the road, against a fashionable and traditional darling that just happens to have been in the Hogs' position merely a year ago. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Eat Arkansas

For food lovers

Eye Candy

On art in Arkansas

Street Jazz

A view from Northwest Arkansas

Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 17:20:00

Will the EPA carbon rule destroy jobs or create them? Probably both.

click to enlarge DIRTY POWER: The location of the five coal-burning power plants in Arkansas, juxtaposed with unemployment rates. - ARKANSAS ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES
  • Arkansas Electric Cooperatives
  • DIRTY POWER: The location of the five coal-burning power plants in Arkansas, juxtaposed with unemployment rates.
On Thursday, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) held a stakeholder meeting to discuss the economic impact of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, the major new proposed rule that aims to curtail carbon dioxide emissions by imposing higher standards on existing power plants over the next 15 years. The first in the series of stakeholder meetings —  which bring together regulators, power industry executives and environmental groups — was held in June; the public comment period on the proposed rule ends on October 16th.

Today, power companies and the Chamber of Commerce made the case that the EPA carbon rule is a job killer. Cutting back on carbon emissions means burning less coal in lieu of cleaner fuels (ie, natural gas and renewables), which translates to higher electric rates and therefore a hit to the potential hit to the manufacturing sector. Dan Byers, from the US Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, said that higher power costs will encourage manufacturers to move overseas.

"Because U.S. businesses compete on a global scale, the electricity and related price increases resulting from EPA’s rule will severely disadvantage energy intensive, trade-exposed industries such as chemicals, manufacturing, steel, and pulp and paper," said Byers in his presentation. (That powerpoint, along with the other presentations both pro and con, are available on the ADEQ website.)

When asked a pointed question from Glen Hooks of the Sierra Club about opposition to the rule, Byers responded that "it's not necessarily so much a binary thing of support or oppose" but a matter of making it more amenable to business. Indeed — the rule is still malleable and the point of stakeholder meetings like these is to solicit input about how to shape it. But Byers' statement in pretty stark contrast to Randy Zook, head of the state chamber, who earlier this summer told a legislative committee that the flexibility afforded by EPA is akin to "giving you four knives to choose from to slit your wrists." He told me today that he stood by such sentiments.

"I'm not going to be polite about stating its effects on the economy of Arkansas," he said. "It's an incredible disruption, a historic disruption."

Such bomb-throwing from Zook — and from elected officials of both parties eager to lambaste the EPA, however impotently — is standard issue rhetoric. But it's at odds with the more reasoned and nuanced perspective of energy industry experts who are now focused more on negotiating the details of the carbon reduction plan rather than stonewalling it entirely.

Duane Highley of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives said that EPA's implementation timeline was way too fast. "It's not a glide path, but a crash landing," said Highley.

Highley also warned that the carbon reduction targets EPA sets for Arkansas would mean shuttering coal-burning power plants. "Given these [projected] reductions, it is very likely we would have to close something," he said in his presentation, "and White Bluff and Independence are prime targets." Those are the oldest and dirtiest two of Arkansas' five coal-burning plants. Closing White Bluff alone would lose 1,237 jobs. Highley also warned that rates would shoot up for customers, residential and industrial alike. 

Those rate hikes could be offset, suggested Ken Smith of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA). Arkansas Electric Cooperatives and others already provide assistance (some public, some not) to low-income ratepayers struggling to keep their lights on. There's no reason why assistance couldn't be adjusted to help the poor cope with this change.

Contra the power industry, the AAEA also said the carbon rule would create jobs on net by increasing investment in energy efficiency, which is now a $1.5 billion industry in Arkansas. It results in more than 12,500 jobs, said the AAEA presentation. A major component of the proposed EPA rule is upping efficiency significantly — which includes everything from insulating homes to improving industrial electricity consumption — and AAEA says that increase would create thousands more jobs, more than offsetting power plant closures. 

There's no doubt that closure of the White Bluff and Independence coal plants would be economically devastating for the communities they're located in. But then, there's also no doubt among the vast majority of scientists that cutting back carbon emissions is a necessity; the proposed EPA rule doesn't go far enough, but it makes a good start. Also, said Hooks of the Sierra Club, those plants are nearing the end of their lifespan anyway in the coming years — this rule will merely hasten their demise. 

Finally, aside from climate change, there are other good public health arguments for shutting down the dirtiest of coal plants. Dr. James Phillips of the Arkansas Department of Health described the multiple threats posed by fine particulate matter released into the atmosphere from burning coal, including asthma, COPD and cognitive decline. Health risks are especially great in a 30 mile radius of the plants. Burning coal also sends mercury into the air, a health risk whose gravity is only now being fully understood.

"Mercury is the new lead," said Phillips. Aside from its well-known toxicity, it's also been linked to lower cognitive ability in children at alarmingly low concentrations. Recent water testing has demonstrated mercury is present in potentially unsafe concentrations in a number of Arkansas rivers and lakes. In 20 counties, he said, public advisories have been issued to limit the consumption of some fish caught wild, especially for pregnant women.


Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 17:12:00

Report: Colette Honorable nominated to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

click to enlarge COLETTE HONORABLE: To FERC.

Amy Harder, who covers energy policy for the Wall Street Journals, says President Obama will nominate Colette Honorable, chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The possibility of that appointment has been circulating for some  time.

Honorable was reappointed to a six-year PSC term and designated chairman in 2011 by Gov. Mike Beebe. She'd worked on his staff when he was attorney general.

The White House reportedly has made the announcement now. She'll have to face Senate confirmation hearings.

The defeat of an earlier appointment — Ron Binz, another Little Rock native — paved the way for Honorable's appointment. Binz, a Colorado regulator, was seen by some in the industry as too friendly to renewable energy. He insisted he wasn't opposed to use of coal to generate electricity. Honorable has presided over the expansion of coal generation in Arkansas.

Sen. Mark Pryor commented:

There is no one more qualified for this position than Colette Honorable, and I strongly support her nomination. Colette is a long-time advocate for clean energy and an avid supporter of consumer protection. When I served as Arkansas’s Attorney General, I brought her on as a leading assistant attorney general because of her strong commitment to protecting Arkansans. She has built on this experience with notable leadership at the Arkansas Public Service Commission, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and National Petroleum Council. As a FERC Commissioner, these qualities will serve our nation well as demand for efficient, reliable and affordable energy services continues to rise.


Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 15:24:00

Open line and video report; plus a Democrat in Alabama and grain case developments

Here's Thursday's open line and the video roundup of news today — Obamacare expansion; new polling; Republican vote suppression; Uber comes to Fayetteville, and a fight about the best dessert.


click to enlarge lester.PNG

* ARKANSAS NATIVE'S UPHILL CONGRESSIONAL RUN: Here's a good profile on Mark Lester, the Little Rock native and college professor and lawyer who's gotten the Democratic nomination for a strongly Republican House district around Birmingham now open thanks to retirement. He says he's not naive about his chances. But he has a case to make about partisan gridlock, working across party lines and gerrymandered congressional districts. An appeal to reason in Alabama. That's the pitch.

* TURNER GRAIN: Arkansas Business is reporting today on some court developments related to the troubled commodities dealer in Brinkley that has left many farmers holding the bag on unpaid crop sales. It includes testimony about the last contact one business associate had with Jason Coleman, who led one of the troubled companies and has been unavailable since the story broke. He said he was talking from a hospital and was apologetic. He offered to sign over a truck and four-wheeler as a gesture of good faith over the unpaid claims. He reportedly said he'd been on the "wrong side" of some business deals. A judge exempted the associate, Gerald Loyd and his Turner Commodiities, from an order freezing some assets of Turner Grain. He said it was not connected to claims against Turner Grain. Arkansas Business also has details from a second lawsuit in Lonoke County on claims by farmers.


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Rock Candy

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 10:45:00

Bonnie Montgomery, Deuce One, sfits, Rodney CoLe and the Jesse Kelly Band

click to enlarge gator.jpg

This week's singles round-up is a day late since I've been out of town for a week reporting on rare mushrooms in Star City, but I promise it represents the very best of the new Arkansas music you missed in the last several days, with country songs and weed raps and doom metal that doesn't sound anything like doom metal. 

1. Bonnie Montgomery - "Check For Your Time"

Here's an unreleased track from Bonnie Montgomery's new record, which we all really liked around here. I don't know why it didn't make the album — maybe something to do with balance or flow or symmetry or some other kind of ineffable musician logic. It's very good, anyway. 

2. Deuce One - "Deuce"

SVGP's Deuce One raps about himself (and how people are people are not fucking with him) over a beat by North Little Rock's Manic the 17th that sounds like a Bernard Herrmann score turned inside out. 

3. sfits - "Persistence of Memory"

Fayetteville's Trevor Bloomfield has released two records this month under the name sfits — one of them, "Meditations," is a mellow beat tape in the J Dilla tradition, with harps and unquantized drums, while the other, "The Birdcage Tape," (from which this song is taken) is something softer and spacier. On Facebook he says it documents "my times sneaking into the music building at the University of Arkansas to play their pianos."

4. Rodney CoLe & Dex Bleezy - "Back 2 Back"

A weed anthem from Little Rock's Rodney CoLE and Dex Bleezy. This one's dedicated to the New York Times

5. Jesse Kelly Band - "House In The Sand"

I don't who this is, but he or they are from Little Rock and describe their music as doom metal though it sounds more like Galaxie 500 — gorgeous dream pop with rudimentary lyrics about rain and mountains made genuinely poignant through reverb. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 09:39:00

Spend an evening with Oliver Stone

click to enlarge oliver.jpg

Filmmaker Oliver Stone will be in Little Rock September 20 at Central High School's Roosevelt L. Thompson Auditorium for a partial screening of his new documentary "The Untold History of the United States," followed by a moderated discussion and Q&A. 

Stone has made great movies ("Salvador"), unspeakably terrible movies ("World Trade Center," "Savages") and controversial movies ("JFK," "Natural Born Killers," everything else he's ever touched), but whatever you think of him he's kind of a towering figure, one of the last Hollywood directors capable of becoming a household name through sheer force of personality and iconoclastic sensibility. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the event is free and open to the public. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 12:31:00

Glen Campbell film to open Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in October

click to enlarge Glen Campbell
  • Glen Campbell
A documentary about country music legend Glen Campbell will kick off the 23rd annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival at the Arlington Hotel and Spa, running from Oct. 10 to 19. The film, titled “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me” and produced by James Keach and Trevor Albert, showcases Campbell’s life and Goodbye Tour, his last one in light of a 2011 Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Many know Campbell for the four country and pop Grammys he won in 1967. He released more than 70 albums between 1962 and 2004, 12 of which qualified as RIAA Gold albums, 4 as platinum, and 1 as double-platinum – “Wichita Lineman” (1968). Campbell sold more than 45 million records over the course of his career, and he played Ranger La Boeuf in the original “True Grit” (1969).

The film features interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Bill Clinton, The Edge, Paul McCartney, Jay Leno, Vince Gill, Steve Martin and Taylor Swift, according to a press release. The release also states that Keach and Albert, along with members of Campbell’s family – his wife Kim and children Ashley, Cal and Shannon – will answer questions after the screening. The bands Billstown and the Drew Henderson Band, both of which include Campbell family members, will play the after party.

The Hot Springs showing, however, is not the state premiere. The Arkansas Motion Picture Institute, launched by the Little Rock Film Festival in September 2012, hosted a preview showing of the film at the Ron Robinson Theater on July 10.


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Arkansas Reporter

Homicide Diary: Sgt. Willie Davis

August 28, 2014
Homicide Diary: Sgt. Willie Davis
'We're not talking, we're shooting' /more/

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