Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Energy companies advocate state rules to keep pollution legal

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Group to advocate for energy, environment policies

By Jason Wiest
LITTLE ROCK -- A new group comprised largely of energy companies announced Tuesday it will advocate for energy, environmental and economic development policies in the state, some of which could be contrary to those of the state's global warming panel.
Bob Lamb, chairman of the newly formed group Progress Arkansas, said recommendations made by the Governor's Commission on Global Warming would provide fodder for analysis and that the group will lobby its positions on the recommendations.
"I would think there would probably be some issues that would come out of this report that this group will support. There may be other issues that they may not support," Lamb said, declining to be more specific.
While the group has not yet discussed the commission's recent report to be submitted to the governor and Legislature, it is not likely to take a position on Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s proposed $1.5 billion coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County, Lamb said.
By an 11-10 vote, the commission recommended a moratorium on coal-fired plants until technology to capture and store carbon emissions is fully developed.
"This group does not have any position on the SWEPCO coal plant at all, and I would not think they would take one," Lamb said. "They've already gone through a lot of process. This group's just getting started. We're not in a position to join the discussion."
Lamb formerly served as executive vice president of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas, as well as an officer, director and vice president of community development for the Arkansas Western Gas Co. He also is a former lobbyist for Southwestern Energy Co. and its subsidiaries. Southwestern is the largest natural gas developer in the Fayetteville Shale play.
Lamb said Tuesday he is not currently acting as a lobbyist for Progress Arkansas but that he may serve in that capacity as the group lobbies the Arkansas Legislature and the U.S. Congress.
He said the group likely will advocate its position on a number of recently opened dockets at the state Public Service Commission regarding rule-making, rate-making and energy efficiency.
"Perhaps out of those dockets we'll develop some legislative initiatives that we might could support," he said.
The group will also work to create jobs in Arkansas, specifically service and manufacturing jobs to replace recent losses in those areas, he said.
Scooter Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the group would provide welcome assistance.
"As a state agency, we're certainly supportive of organizations such as Progress Arkansas and the goal that this organization is working toward," he said. "We'll cooperate and work with Progress Arkansas."
Lamb said that while the group will seek to assist economic growth and increase the quality of life in Arkansas, there are also many challenges in the energy field.
"We want to be supportive of ensuring that Arkansas continues to have a reliable source of energy, both electricity and natural gas at the retail level," he said.

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