LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Two Arkansas legislative committees approved a non-binding resolution opposing a proposed federal rule to lessen carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Both the House and Senate Insurance and Commerce Committees passed the resolution with no members opposed, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1us8zo0 ) reported.
Witnesses told lawmakers the proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule would lead to increased energy bills, hurt the Arkansas economy and probably force a couple of the state's five coal-powered plants to close.
Democratic Rep. Joe Jett of Success said it's a bipartisan way of telling the agency that committee members think it has overreached its authority with the new rule.
Randy Zook, president and chief executive officer for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed rule "is a plan for economic disarmament." He told lawmakers that the agency offering four possible ways for states to reduce emissions is "like giving you four knives to choose from to slit your wrists. Take your pick. I'd pick the sharpest."
The four options are increasing efficiency in existing coal-fired power ;plants, increasing usage of natural gas ;at the natural gas-fired power plants, increasing use of energy sources that don't generate carbon dioxide and increasing energy efficiency programs or other methods that would offset emissions.
John Bethel, director of Arkansas Public Service Commission, said the Environmental Protection Agency hopes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26 percent in the next six years and by 30 percent in the next 16 years.
Teresa Marks, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the federal agency has made clear that the state can use any of the four available methods to reach a 44 percent reduction of emissions by 2030.
Marks said nearly 44 percent of the state's energy is generated by coal. She said the rest is provided by about 26 percent natural gas, 24 percent nuclear and 6 percent renewable energy.
"We need to know where we can get emissions reductions in a way that won't cause economic harm to the state," Marks said.
Glen Hooks, chapter director for the Arkansas Sierra Club, said the proposed rule would be a step in the right direction to improve the state's environmental, public and economic health.
"This rule is a good opportunity for us to start looking at ways to generate our energy more cleanly and in ways that can produce a lot of jobs for Arkansas," he said.
Officials in 12 states recently filed a lawsuit challenging the proposed rule.
Marks, an attorney, said she feels the lawsuit is premature because the final rule hasn't taken form.
Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, said his office would look into ways to address concerns about the proposed rule.
"We are considering appropriate action, which may include litigation, but at this time we are in discussions with the EPA in an attempt to influence the rulemaking process," he said.