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Monday, August 4, 2014

It's unanimous: All leading Ark. politicians oppose a reduction of air pollution in the state

Posted By on Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Asa Hutchinson, the Republican candidate for governor, called a news conference today to say he'd fight proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would require anti-pollution improvements to Arkansas's coal-burning power plants.

He argues, as other Republicans are arguing, that the rules will cost money, raise electric rates and cost jobs.

Before the afternoon was over, he had plenty of company in the fight for air pollution.

For the other side of this coin, check Ernie Dumas on the subject. As Bill Clinton has noted, every advancement in environmental projects has proven to be a net gain, not loss, economically as well as environmentally. For one thing, smart minds get to work on smart alternatives, often with economic development implications.

Hutchinson can blame Obama, but not Arkansas Democrats on this one. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel just today put out a news release saying he'd been lobbying the EPA on the rules. He called on the EPA for rule changes to lessen impact. McDaniel, of course, rolled over for SWEPCO, owned by the biggest coal-burner in the country, American Electric Power, to support a new coal-burning plant in Hempstead County. No other state, including Texas, wanted it. (And now some of the same Republicans who've never met a coal burner they didn't like have discovered those smoke-belching behemoths have to SHIP that power somewhere, often with gosh-awful giant power lines across pristine Ozarks scenery.)

Hutchinson said he'd join with a group of states, generally coal-producing and coal-burning, to fight a reduction in air pollution that the EPA rules would require. It's a job killer, he contends. He relies on a manufacturers' estimate of job losses. No doubt a change in reliance on coal would cost jobs. But would transferred attention to clean energy create different jobs? And be healthier? That's the rest of the argument.

UPDATE: From the Mike Ross campaign:

"It's about time Congressman Hutchinson finally took notice of this issue — while Congressman Hutchinson was lobbying for special interests in Washington, I spent years fighting against EPA overreach, standing up for working families, working to defeat legislation like Cap-and-Trade in Congress, and bringing the Turk coal power plant to my home district. In fact, just hours before Congressman Hutchinson's press conference, I spoke to the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas and once again pledged to do everything in my power to stop the overreaching EPA.

"The EPA's recent attempts to go after electric generating facilities disrupts the balance between protecting our state's beautiful natural resources and the energy needs that support our way of life and keep energy costs low for working families in Arkansas."

It hardly matters but both the Democratic and Republican candidates for attorney general, Nate Steel and Leslie Rutledge, are also both terribly alarmed about the idea of reducing air pollution in Arkansas. Rutledge is more red hot to sue the feds, as ever.

Said Glen Hooks, chapter director of the Sierra Club (who is not running for office):

"It might be good politics to beat up on the EPA, but ignoring the need for carbon pollution reductions is not good policy.

Whoever our next Governor is, he should make the health of Arkansans a priority. The new carbon dioxide protections are a real opportunity for our state. If Arkansas drafts its carbon protection plan in a smart and effective way, we can improve our public health, our economy, and our state's environment all at the same time.

Sierra Club calls on our state's leaders to recognize the economic and environmental potential of getting our state off of dirty fuels, investing in clean energy, and aggressively pursuing energy efficiency improvements. Doing all of these things will clean up our air and also create thousands of good-paying jobs right here in Arkansas. We will work closely to craft a plan that is economically smart, and also good for our environment."

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