No climate change at Capitol | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No climate change at Capitol

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2009 at 5:24 PM

The utility companies are still running things. Energy efficiency and conservation legislation got squashed today. Report on the jump from the devoted idealists of the Arkansas Citizens First Congress. (If they'd adopt a page from the polluters' book and their "Environmental Federation" and come up with a misleading name like Utilities First Congress, maybe they'd get somewhere.)

Gov. Beebe's office expressed "disappointment" at the rejection of Rep. Kathy Webb's sweeping conservation bill.

Also on the jump: Comment from Ken Smith of Audubon Arkansas (not Arkansas Audubon as originally written, a different group), who commented on the failure to ask for a roll call on Webb's bill: "I would have liked to hear how members of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee would respond to local voters on why they voted against weatherization of homes and businesses and reducing utility bills."

I'd like to know how many of the committee members have supped on the utility companies' credit cards and gone on their junkets.

There is a roll call on the weatherization bill. On the jump.


LITTLE ROCK - The House Insurance and Commerce Committee today failed to
pass two energy bills that would have provided more efficient and
environmentally friendly energy in Arkansas.  Both bills were opposed by
several utilities companies.

"Energy efficiency is the least expensive and cleanest way to meet our
energy needs; it saves consumers hundreds of millions of dollars and it
creates jobs," said Eddy Moore of the Arkansas Citizens First Congress.
"Renewable energy is simply the way of the future."

"Though these bills are a win-win for everyone, the utilities have argued
for guaranteed profits from increasing consumer bills, not lower energy
demand from conservation or competition from renewable energy.  We are
trying to protect consumers and create jobs, but the utilities are
shamefully costing Arkansans millions of dollars with their opposition,"
said Moore.

House Bill 1903 by state Rep. Joan Cash of Jonesboro was referred to an
interim study.  It would have given rebates and incentives to Arkansas
homeowners and businesses to make our homes and workplaces more energy
efficient. The program would have led to an estimated consumer savings of up
to $700 million over the next 10 years and created new jobs across the
state.  18 other states have similar programs.  The interim study will take
place before the next legislative session.

 "We will continue working for cheaper and cleaner energy at the Public
Service Commission and through the legislative interim studies to come,"
said Moore.  "We thank Governor Beebe, Attorney General McDaniel, and Public
Service Commission Chair Paul Suskie for their strong support."

The committee rejected House Bill 1851 by Rep. Kathy Webb of Little Rock
which would have helped consumers and businesses upgrade to renewable energy
and would have helped Arkansas become a leader in the rapidly growing field
of renewable energy - a benefit that is sorely needed in today's economy.

"Change is coming," said Moore.  "We hoped to change energy policy in a
positive way for everyone in Arkansas, but instead we'll go back to the
drawing table."


The Energy Efficiency Bill, HB 1903, sponsored by Representative Joan Cash was sent today to interim study or in other words died for lack of support.  Opposition from the Arkansas public utility monopoly and the state chamber of commerce was just too strong for the conservation community to overcome.  Representative Cash also was too kind by not insisting on a vote and a roll call.  I would have liked to hear how members of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee would respond to local voters on why they voted against weatherization of homes and businesses and reducing utility bills.  While it is true that Arkansas ratepayers would see a cost on their electric and gas bills to pay for energy efficiency programs, however with rebates and other energy efficiency programs made possible by the energy efficiency bill, Arkansas homeowners and businesses would consume less energy and thus have lower utility bills – more money in their pockets for the mortgage and groceries and new shoes for the kids.   A strong state energy efficiency program also creates jobs in every community in Arkansas.  Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, HVAC installers, and roofers are all needed to make homes and businesses more energy efficient.  These same professionals and their skills are needed for building renewable energy sources for homes and businesses -- solar hot water heaters, solar panels for electricity, or small wind turbines for home and business use.   
The Center for American Progress, a Washington D.C. think tank released a study last September, “Green Recovery – A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy,” in which it documented that with reasonable investments over ten years at the federal and state level in energy efficiency, renewable energy, mass transportation, and smart grid that Arkansas, for example, could realize almost 20,000 jobs.  The new wind turbine blade companies in Little Rock and Jonesboro give us some idea of what could come if the Public Utilities and Chamber of Commerce would start by supporting cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy programs – then our Arkansas Legislators would feel more emboldened to support government and citizen-led initiatives like HB 1903

ROLL CALL ON HB1851 -- Renewable Energy Refit


8 NO

2 Did Not Vote

4 Absent


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