Boozman, Crawford tour Newark plant threatened by the EPA

Published: May. 28, 2015 at 12:11 AM CDT|Updated: May. 28, 2015 at 1:10 AM CDT
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NEWARK, AR (KAIT) - Senator John Boozman and Congressman Rick Crawford toured the Independence Steam Electric Station in Newark Wednesday.

The coal-fired plant is one of five in Arkansas that could close because of the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon dioxide emissions mandate.

The other Region 8 plant the EPA regulation could affect is the White Bluff Electric Power Plant in Jefferson County.

This regulation targets Arkansas for cuts stricter than 44 other states. 

If the Independence Steam Electric Station closes it would create a domino effect, starting at the local level. 

Newark Mayor Jim Cunningham told Region 8 News about 1,200 plant employees could be out of a job.

Cunningham said the plant's closure would also result in an economic impact of about $600 million year.

"I'm very concerned about job loss at the plant," said Senator Boozman. "And equally concerned about electricity rates that go up 20, 40 percent. What does that do for heavy manufacturing jobs? What does it do to people on fixed incomes, single moms?"

"Low energy costs are one of the things Arkansas really has to offer as far as attracting new businesses, particularly manufacturing," Congressman Crawford said. "If we see that change, it's going to make it more difficult to attract new jobs. And job retention is equally important."

Then at the state level, all Arkansas Entergy customers would see higher utility bills, which Congressman Crawford said would extend to the regional level. 

"Higher rates would go from the state of Arkansas to Mississippi to other parts of the mid south," Crawford said. "There's really been no consideration of the effects downstream, how this effects people who rely on those low rates."

Boozman said the effects of the EPA regulation extend to the national and even international level.

He said if the U.S. stops burning coal, countries like China and India say they will still continue to burn it.

"They burn it without the protections we have," Boozman said. "So what will happen is, if we go along with the EPA, it's all pain and no gain on the part of the U.S. You'll actually have a dirtier climate as a result of these other countries burning our coal."

The EPA's mandates are an attempt to protect the environment.

Boozman and Crawford said a clean environment is important but it needs to be approached with common sense and sound science, something they say the EPA ruling is not doing.

"There's a cost to that but is there really a sufficient benefit for it?," Crawford asked. "We don't think there is. We don't think the science bears that out. All we're really talking about is increasing costs to these providers and ultimately the rate payers pick up the tab."

Independence County Judge Robert Griffin was on the tour with the congressman and senator and agrees with them. 

"I live to the north of the plant so the southern wind carries the plant my way," Judge Griffin said. "And I honestly have no health concerns nor do I believe it's harming the environment I live in. I have pastures, cattle and I've never seen any kind of effect that I thought was directly related to the coal burning."

Judge Griffin said he is thankful and proud Senator Boozman and Congressman Crawford came to Newark to address this issue on a local level.

On a national level, both Boozman and Crawford are pushing back against the EPA's mandates through legislative efforts. Boozman recently co-sponsored the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act.

They said like the Arkansas legislature, Congress overwhelmingly opposes the proposed regulations.   

The EPA's public comment period regarding the carbon dioxide emissions mandate is now over, during which Boozman and Crawford said the public expressed its strong negativity toward the ruling.

Both said Congress is currently poised to enact more legislation once the EPA implements its ruling. 

"We're pulling out all the tools in our toolbox to protect rate payers and jobs," Boozman said. 

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