New EPA rule could close Region 8 electric station

New EPA rule could close Region 8 electric station

NEWARK, AR (KAIT) - A proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on carbon dioxide emissions could shut down two Arkansas coal-fired power plants.

The White Bluff Electric Power Plant in Jefferson County and the Independence Steam Electric Station in Independence County could close because the new EPA rule would require Arkansas to reduce emissions by 44 percent by 2030.

State lawmakers adopted a resolution Tuesday opposing the proposal, and that opposition continues down to the local government level.

"It would be very difficult for us to overcome this if we did indeed lose the plant," Newark Mayor Jim Cunningham said.

Mayor Cunningham said the electric station's closure would cause a domino effect, starting with its employees, about 1,200 people.

"A lot of them would be transferred out of state to the other plants that they have, but a lot of folks would just be out of a job," Cunningham said.

The plant's closure would also result in an economic impact of about $600 million a year.

"That's going to take a lot of good income out of our town and county," Cunningham said. 

The domino effect then continues to the state level.

"The bottom line: the state's going to wind up with higher utility bills," Cunningham said. "It's that simple."

Mayor Cunningham said this is all for nothing. He said the plant's energy efficiency programs, regulations and codes are top in the state. And if that's not enough proof, he said to look at the factory's chimneys.

"They don't have soot, smoke," Cunningham said. 

He said what may look like smoke coming out of the chimney is actually steam, but the EPA still wants Arkansas to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 44 percent.

"They need to come back to reality," Cunningham said. "The figures they're throwing out here are not even in the ballpark. They've gone way out of line in my opinion. It's just like the speed limit out here on this highway. A 10 mph speed limit is not realistic and obviously we wouldn't want it to go 100 mph, but make a realistic target and we can live with that."

Cunningham said the electric station could meet a more realistic emission percentage.

"We certainly hope we get the chance to do that," Cunningham said. "I'm counting on our public officials to get in here and do the right thing."

"There's no reason to close those plants," said Sen. John Cooper, R-Jonesboro. "We're not contributing that much to the emissions if you look at it from a global scale."

Sen. Cooper said he and the rest of the state legislature oppose the proposed EPA regulations.

"These regulations are coming from people who no one's ever voted for," Cooper said. "They're going to have a tremendous economic impact in our state."

Cooper said this is a rare issue that has united the entire legislature. Now he said lawmakers are asking state agencies to rally against the EPA.

"The agencies in this state, especially the ADEQ, need to get off a neutral stance and get to defending our state and giving some push back against the EPA for these principles that are totally out of whack for our state," Cooper said. "If the EPA wants to push ahead with this, there's not much the legislature in this state can do about it."

Cooper said the attorney general is pursuing this issue through letters and possible negotiations to stop the EPA. However, twelve other states have taken it a step further by filing lawsuits.

"At this point if it continues, I hope our state will enter into some legal action to try to stop it," Cooper said.

The Independence Steam Electric Station is owned in part by Entergy. Julie Munsell with Entergy said the company is still studying the impact of the proposed EPA regulation, but she hopes Entergy will have a position by September or October.

To read more state lawmakers' opinions about the proposed EPA regulations, visit the Southwest Times Record website.

To view the EPA's Clean Power Plan by state, visit the EPA website.

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