Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Associated Press reports that motives of state commissioner questioned by opponents of coal-fired power plant

Critics Question Vote on Arkansas Coal-fired Plant 
By The Associated Press - 1/16/2009 11:40:01 AM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Opponents of a $1.5 billion project to build a coal-fired power plant in southwest Arkansas say a state commissioner who pushed a vote for construction to resume last month heads a company that is doing business with the plant's contractors.

In filings with the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, opponents say Lexicon Inc. or one of its arms has at least six projects with Shaw Group LLC and at least two with ABB Alstom Power. Shaw Group is the main contractor for Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s plant project near Fulton. Alstom is producing and installing the plant's generator turbines.

The filings Monday noted that Lexicon chairman Thomas Schueck is also a PC&E commissioner. Lexicon has several steel construction and fabrication subsidiaries.

Last month, Schueck proposed - and the commission approved - allowing plant construction to resume after an appeal by environmental opponents of the plant's air permit halted the work. Hundreds were put back to work while the appeal is pending before an administrative judge with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

"Schueck's participation and vote at the Dec. 5 hearing may not have been totally motivated by current and potential business opportunities available to the Lexicon family of companies," said Rick Addison, a Dallas lawyer for the opponents. "The fact remains, however, that (the decision) was exceedingly favorable to, and financially lucrative for, Shaw Group and Alstom. That Commissioner Schueck could in turn benefit (even if only indirectly) from Shaw's and Alstom's prosperity also cannot be doubted."

Opponents asked that the financial ties of each commissioner be reviewed.

Administrative judge Michael O'Malley said he would treat the filings as he would any others in the appeal.

"And at some point I'll issue some type of order," he said.

Schueck did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

(Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Copyright © 2009, Arkansas Business Limited Partnership. All Rights Reserved.

UPDATED: Arkansas House Members Delay Global Warming Hearing 
By The Associated Press - 1/13/2009 2:17:01 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Leaders of a joint energy panel agreed to delay until next week a hearing featuring critics of the governor's Commission on Global Warming after House members initially planned on skipping the Wednesday meeting.

The Joint Energy Committee rescheduled a hearing for next week featuring a member of the Governor's Commission on Global Warming along with other critics of the commission's recommendations. Richard Ford, an economics professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said Tuesday that he doesn't believe the group properly studied whether global warming is a threat.

Ford and other critics of the commission had planned on presenting a "minority report" challenging the group's recommendations on ways to reduce global warming in the state.

Rep. Lance Reynolds and Sen. Kim Hendren told reporters Tuesday they agreed to hold the hearing next week, hours after Reynolds announced that House members wouldn't attend the meeting originally scheduled for Wednesday. Reynolds, who said he consulted with House Speaker Robbie Wills, said he didn't see the point of the hearing since no legislation has been filed on the global warming panel.

Hendren backtracked from comments he made earlier Tuesday accusing Wills of abusing his authority and said the spat over whether to hold the hearing was a miscommunication between both chambers.

"We should have communicated before we canceled meetings like that," said Hendren, R-Gravette.

The commission released a set of 54 recommendations last year, and Commission Co-chair Kathy Webb said she plans on introducing several bills based on the commission's report.

Ford said he doesn't believe the panel properly studied whether global warming is a threat.

"I do not believe the commission followed the law and reviewed the scientific literature as the law told us we had to to do our job," Ford said.

The decision means the energy panel will hear from the commission's critics before hearing from the commission itself. Reynolds, D-Quitman, said he would welcome a meeting with the commission.

Webb, D-Little Rock, said she disagreed with Ford's argument that the commission didn't follow the law.

"I think there are some folks who don't want to see us accomplish anything, but I think those folks are in the minority," Webb said.

Webb has said the legislation will include "lead by example" measures that will promote energy-efficient state government buildings and more hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles in the state fleet.

(Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Copyright © 2009, Arkansas Business Limited Partnership. All Rights Reserved.

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