Sierra Club says Attorney General attempting to block its intervention in Entergy rate case | Arkansas Blog

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sierra Club says Attorney General attempting to block its intervention in Entergy rate case

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 6:03 PM

The Sierra Club of Arkansas has said that Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is attempting to stop the environmental group from participating in a case before the Arkansas Public Service Commission concerning Entergy Arkansas's proposed rate increase on electric bills in the state.

In a press release, the Sierra Club says the AG has declined to oppose similar intervention requests from seven other entities concerned about the potential rate increase: Wal-Mart Stores Arkansas, LLC; Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers, Inc.; Evergreen Packaging, Inc.; Federal Executive Agencies; Hospital & Higher Education Group; Kroger Company; and, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. All of those groups but the last one have won approval to intervene in the case.

According to the Sierra Club, Rutledge formally opposed its request by arguing" that the AG's office would adequately represent the interests of [the] Sierra Club."

Glenn Hooks, the organization's director locally, said this in a statement:

The Arkansas Sierra Club has every right to represent our Arkansas members in this case, and we intend to do so. Attorney General Rutledge's attempt to selectively stifle public participation in this important matter is exactly the wrong approach for a public official to take. Out of numerous intervenors, she has chosen only to oppose the Sierra Club's participation. I'm not sure what she's afraid of, unless it's our proven ability to intelligently represent the positions of our Arkansas members.

Sierra Club regularly participates in utility proceedings around the country and brings a level of expertise that will be very helpful. Further, our members have an interest in ensuring that Entergy's rate increase request is handled in a way that promotes clean energy, does not unnecessarily prolong our reliance on dirty coal power, and responsibly deals with pending transmission issues. These are critical issues for our Arkansas members and for our state's energy future.

In her six months in office, Attorney General Rutledge has aggressively opposed several progressive environmental protections in Arkansas and Washington, D.C. Accordingly, despite her statement that she can adequately represent the views of Sierra Club, we'll plan to be at the table representing our own members. 

UPDATE, 11:30 p.m.:
 In response to my question about why the Attorney General is opposing Sierra Club's bid to intervene, I received a statement from a spokesperson at the AG's office this evening. In full:

The Arkansas Public Service Commission’s rules require that parties meet certain tests to intervene in a rate case. As the Attorney General, Entergy Arkansas, the Public Service Commission General Staff, Arkansas Electric Energy Consumers and Evergreen Packaging asserted in their own respective filings, the Sierra Club’s Arkansas members unlike the other parties who have intervened in this case have not articulated an interest that will be directly affected by the Commission’s order that is not already represented by the current parties before the Commission. The Arkansas Attorney General has a statutory responsibility to protect the interest of all Arkansas rate payers, especially the residential and small business rate payers.

Here's the Sierra Club's petition to intervene in the case, submitted on June 10:

The proposed annual increase of $167 million would fund improvements to Entergy's power generation and transmission systems but translate to higher bills for ratepayers. The Sierra Club argues in its petition that it should be allowed to intervene in part because the nature of the improvements proposed by Entergy have big implications for pollution. From page 3 of the request:

The Commission’s ruling in this proceeding may, for example, impact the pace of the shift in Arkansas away from heavily polluting forms of energy generation (above all, coal) and toward cleaner resources, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Commission’s decision on the prudence of retrofitting the Independence and White Bluff coal-fired plants to comply with the MATS rule may have the effect of extending the useful life of those plants, to the detriment of Sierra Club’s and its members’ interests. The Commission’s decision on Entergy Arkansas’s requests to recover costs for investments in certain wind and solar projects may set an important precedent in Arkansas that could catalyze (or deter) further investments in these clean sources of energy. Finally, the Commission’s ruling in this proceeding may directly impact the economic interests of Sierra Club’s Arkansas members who are residential ratepayers in Entergy Arkansas’s service area.

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