I'm pretty bummed. We tried so hard to get a story for the Sierra Club's Energy Shift music show in your paper last weekend. (Editor's note: It was featured in our “to-do list.”) We had a great band lineup and we're working to protect our Natural State from dirty coal.

What better place to put an article than the Arkansas Times regarding the local fight against the two proposed coal-fired power plants in our Natural State? Your paper seems to be all about environmentalism. Perhaps I should be thankful that we even got in your paper. But the short and sparse paragraph about our concert highlighted more the artists than the actual cause.

Perhaps you all just don't care as much as I do if these coal plants are allowed into our state. I mean, 85 percent of the electricity that would be produced by the Hempstead county plant would go to Texas and Louisiana; only 15 percent would stay in Arkansas. Texas and Louisiana both didn't want these plants, which is why they are now knocking on our door. Not to mention it would be built right on the Red River, so all the nasty sludge and liquid waste would be released back in our rivers. The mercury content would be so high in the water and surrounding areas that it wouldn't be safe to eat the fish and game caught in this area. I guess to the Arkansas Times, that's not real news. I really hope you guys change your tune a little and do something to help us get the word out. Support our cause, show us a little love.

Amber Coffman

From the Internet

Severance tax

I read your Arkansas Times blog daily and find it an entertaining and useful source of local news. I have especially followed your expressed opinions about increasing the severance tax on natural gas since my wife and I hold royalty interests in gas wells.

I am not, as I suspect most Arkansas royalty owners are not, a member of the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO). I do appreciate that NARO works to protect the interests of royalty owners. However, my wife and I oppose the NARO stand against an increase in the natural gas severance tax. That brings me to why I am contacting you. In your blog March 10, you characterized royalty owners as greedy. I understand that you may have meant to refer to the NARO rather than to royalty owners. Nonetheless, words have considerable power and I resent that broad-brush accusation.

I doubt that many Arkansans are aware of the complexity of the severance tax issue and suspect that fewer care enough to learn more. I do think most Arkansans want the companies extracting natural gas to pay more in taxes on their profits. Many may want royalty owners to pay more as well. However, I think it worth noting that not all royalty owners are alike. For example, some (far too many, I suspect) were abused by the gas companies when they leased or sold their mineral rights and received only a minuscule fraction of the real worth of their mineral rights. The Arkansas legal minimum of one-eighth royalty interest on net income from sales was the only offer many received or knew was available. Very few understood the options available to them other than leasing or selling. Many were coerced to lease through forced integration of a drilling unit and others refused to respond and are being penalized for that choice. Those who even saw a copy of the lease prior to their transaction were understandably overwhelmed by the confusing legalese and many found it much easier to rely on a smooth talking “landman.” Applying a one-size-fits-all approach to royalty owners is not only an injustice to the owners, it helps excuse the greedy behavior of the gas companies.

Arkansans are right to seek an increase in payments to our government from gas company profits. As someone who lives where this “economic boom” is taking place, I am aware of both the positive and negative effects. In my opinion, the negative outweigh the positive at this time. An increase in the severance tax to 7 percent applied to the market price of extracted gas is not unreasonable and could help ameliorate some of the damage done by the companies. My personal preference would be that the tax apply to the companies extracting and selling the gas and not to the royalties paid to leasing royalty owners. Also, I think adding tax incentives and inducements for development and use of energy sources other than fossil fuels should be part of any tax increase.

I think that limiting the uses of severance tax income is short-sighted and inappropriate since Arkansas has so many unmet needs.

David Stedman


War parallels

As a veteran of Vietnam I am amazed by the parallels I see with the war in Iraq.

We continued the French debacle in Vietnam in an almost uncontrolled frenzy of anti-Communism. In Iraq the frenzy is a “war on terrorism.”

In Vietnam when we had more than half a million troops in-country the military and civilian leaders were saying more troops would assure “victory.” Victory was defined as establishing a stable country that would be anti-Communist. In Iraq, after several mission adjustments, a similar scenario is unfolding, except the country left behind will be anti-terrorist.

In Vietnam as near as we can tell about 4 million Vietnamese died along with 58,000 U.S. troops and the Communists took over when we left. In Iraq it looks like 89,000 of them and 4,000 of us so far and terrorists are increasing their numbers. In both cases the more we kill the more enemies are recruited.

In both wars we fought an indigenous irregular army that was fighting for an idea — that it had a right to run things as it saw fit. In both countries we installed and supported a generally corrupt and inept government that was not particularly well liked by the population. In Vietnam we brought the most modern and technologically capable armed force in the world up against ideas and we lost. I fear the same thing is occurring in Iraq. Could the lesson be that one cannot defeat an idea with an armed force? I propose that an idea can only be defeated with the articulation and implementation of a better idea.

Richard Picard




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