Saturday, March 29, 2008

Information on renewable energy in Arkansas

Arkansas Energy Offiice

The ADEQ director's position described below and the Arkansas Energy Office's efforts (click on link above) to educate the public illustrate how badly Arkansas needs an umbrella agency to include all environmental issues and see that we do the right thing!

A single wildlife biologist writing a basic report on the destruction of habitat for a coal plant should prevent its creation.
A single water-quality expert or air-quality expert writing a simple report on the project should prevent it.

A single county agent writing a soil-erosion and quality reduction report on the project should prevent it.

As our state operates now, nothing — nor everything — written or spoken by such state-paid experts will stop it. This is an issue the governor and legislature should be addressing along with the severance tax at the legislative session that begins Monday.

Friday, March 28, 2008

DEQ steers clear of Coal Debate

State Agency Steers Clear Of Coal DebateBy John LyonArkansas News Bureau •
LITTLE ROCK — The debate over the pros and cons of coal power will have no bearing on the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s decision on whether to permit a coal-fired power plant in southwest Arkansas, an ADEQ official said Monday.The agency’s decision on whether to grant air, water and solid waste permits to Southwestern Electric Power Co. for a proposed 600-megawatt plant in Hempstead County will not take into account the question of whether coal power is good or bad for Arkansas in the long run, said Mike Bates, chief of ADEQ’s Air Division.Bates made the remarks while taking part in a public forum on coal power at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The university’s Biology Club sponsored the forum.“Our job simply boils down to, does it pass the regulatory, statutory requirements?” Bates said. “We can’t factor into our determination whether it (coal power) is the best thing or not so good. We have a body of regulation requirements we have to follow, and unfortunately — in some people’s eyes, anyway — deciding whether it is best or not, it simply is not part of our jurisdiction.”If ADEQ were to base its decision on matters outside its scope, that decision likely would be overturned on appeal, Bates said in an interview after the forum.The Arkansas Public Service Commission voted 2-1 in November to give its approval to the proposed plant, but SWEPCO still needs ADEQ approval. Local landowners are appealing the PSC’s ruling.Earlier this month the Arkansas Coalition for Clean Energy, a group that includes the Sierra Club, the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and several other organizations, called on Gov. Mike Beebe to issue a moratorium on new coal-fired plants. The coalition said building new coal plants would contribute to global warming and negate the efforts of the newly created Governor’s Commission on Global Warming.Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Monday the governor has no plans for a moratorium, but the ADEQ’s permitting process for the plant is “one that we’re going to keep an eye on.”The fact that the PSC has approved the SWEPCO plant does not necessarily mean ADEQ will do the same, Bates said.“The PSC ... does touch on some of the environmental aspects, but not to the degree that our agency has to,” he said.L. Van Warren of Little Rock, a specialist in renewable energy who represented the Sierra Club at the forum, expressed skepticism about the permitting process.“Like a magician, the trick ... is already in by the time you find out what the trick is. The misdirection is already in,” he said.Bates took exception to Warren’s comments. The permitting process is “an open process all the way through,” requiring public notices and public hearings before any permit is granted, he said.“The intimation that the fix was in on a DEQ permit for this facility, I don’t want to leave the wrong impression that that was actually in place, because it is certainly far from the situation in this case,” he said.Brian Bond, vice president of external affairs for SWEPCO, said during the forum that the plant proposed for Hemsptead County will be “probably one of the cleanest plants that’s ever been constructed in the United States, and it will be probably the first new power plant that’s controlled for mercury emissions.”Bond said coal power is less costly than alternatives such as wind power. Environmental protection has to be balanced with what people are willing and able to pay for that protection, he said.“One of the things we have to keep in mind, and I think everyone here should understand too, is the fact that low-income citizens are disproportionately impacted when you end up building higher-priced generating facilities,” he said.A family earning less than $10,000 a year pays 46 percent of its income on energy, whereas a family earning more than $50,000 pays 7 percent of its income on energy, Bond said.Warren compared America’s reliance on coal power to drug addiction.“We can look at the economics of crack cocaine,” he said. “There’s a short-term, sell the kids for food and then we get some crack cocaine and we do the crack cocaine. But then after that is gone, then we have to go repeat that negative behavior. And I would say as a nation, we’ve become addicted to oil.”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Upper White River Basin Foundation cancels watershed conference in Rogers

According to a representative of the headquarters hotel in Rogers, the Upper White River Foundation has canceled its March 27-28 conference in Rogers.
For more about the group, please call 417-334-7644.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Back to 1988: 350 PPM co2

Back to 1988 (350 PPM) on CO2, Says NASA's Hansen. Andrew C. Revkin, NYTimes, March 19, 2008. "James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who has long had a habit of pushing past where many colleagues [have dared] go in describing the risks posed by global warming, has done it again. He and eight co-authors have drafted a fresh paper arguing that [20 years ago] the world... shot past a safe... [level] of carbon dioxide, which they say would be around 350 parts per million... (The atmosphere currently holds about 385 ppm of the greenhouse gas.) Looking at evidence from past climate swings and greenhouse-gas concentrations, he concludes that a sustained concentration of CO2 at double the 280 ppm that prevailed for hundreds of millenniums before the industrial revolution would -- after a host of slowly-responding feedbacks kicked in to amplify the temperature rise -- result in an enormous warming of some 11 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius). To avoid a centuries-long slide to conditions profoundly different than those that saw the rise and spread of modern civilization, the paper concludes, humans need to reverse course on emissions rapidly... This is [Hansen's] first detailed defense of the [350 parts per million] target. The paper's main conclusions are below. Some longtime champions of Dr. Hansen, including the Climate Progress blogger, Joe Romm, see some significant gaps in the paper (it is a draft still) and part ways with Dr. Hansen over whether such a goal is remotely feasible. The draft paper... 'Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?' [PDF, 38 pp] was posted Monday at Dr. Hansen's Columbia University Web page." Remember This: 359 Parts Per Million. Commentary by Bill McKibben, WashPost, December 28,2007. "The number every person needs to know."

Louisiana approves SWEPCO plant in SW Arkansas

Louisiana Approves Proposed SWEPCO Plant In Arkansas
Last updated Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:07 PM CDT in News
By John Lyon
The Morning News
Email this story
LITTLE ROCK — The Louisiana Public Service Commission has approved Southwestern Electric Power Company's proposed 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Southwest Arkansas, SWEPCO said Tuesday.
The $1.3 billion plant in Hempstead County would provide power to SWEPCO customers in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. The Arkansas Public Service Commission approved the plant in November; SWEPCO's application with Texas regulators is still pending.
SWEPCO's application for an air permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality also is pending.
"We are very pleased that the Louisiana commission has recognized the importance of this plant for meeting the future needs of our Louisiana customers," said Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO's president and chief operating officer, in a news release.
McCellon-Allen said SWEPCO hopes to get approval from Texas regulators so its customers in that state "can join Arkansas and Louisiana in the long-term benefits of reliable and affordable electricity from the proposed John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant."
Wendy Harvel, an administrative law judge in Texas, recommended in January that the state's Public Utilities Commission reject SWEPCO's application.
SWEPCO "has not met its burden to show that it has a need for additional generating," Harvel wrote to the commission.
A rejection from Texas regulators would mean that SWEPCO could not raise customers' rates in that state to help pay for the plant. The company has said it will build the plant with or without approval from Texas.

Task Force meeting at 1:30 p.m. Sunday

Hi Carbon Cappers...

Next Sunday is the next CCTF meeting. We meet at the Omni office at 1:30 pm.
Some Hot items you'll want to know about are plans for Springfest on April 26. It will be an exciting day and you are needed to make it happen. Come find out what's going on or email Kelly Mulhollan and Donna Stjerna to get details. (

The same day, Robert and Dava plan to travel to Little Rock to table at the big Arkansas Earthday being held at the Clinton Library. It's an exciting festival and could use another volunteer to work at it. Would you like to see the Clinton Library?

Also, Dava has designed a television PSA that will be filmed with actors in the next couple of weeks. Dava will edit-in cool photos and graphics that make it an appeal to Arkansans to keep Arkansas beautiful - don't let global warming destroy the state we love. More details are coming later.

We're also planning to attend the Living It Green Expo in Rogers April 4-5. Plan to talk about global warming, sustainable living, and the Planetwork list. We need volunteer tablers for that too.

There are other plans afoot. Come to the meeting Sunday to find out more.

Majority of gas wells qualify for exemption under Beebe's tax plan

Last Update: 3/25 8:29 am

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - The vast majority of the Arkansas' natural gas wells qualify for exemptions reducing their tax rates under a severance tax proposal to be considered at a special session later this month, according to state data.
Only 5 percent of the state's wells are classified as wells that would pay the full tax rate that has been proposed by Gov. Mike Beebe as a way to fund additional highway improvements, according to numbers provided by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration and the state Oil and Gas Commission.
Beebe last week announced that he would call a special session beginning March 31 to consider raising the tax for the first time since 1957, saying he has more than enough votes necessary in both chambers to pass the tax hike. Beebe's proposal would place a 5 percent base tax on gas-sale proceeds received by producers with lowered rates for some wells. Passing the tax hike requires 27 votes in the Senate and 75 in the House.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Climate Awareness Campaign from Al Gore

Gore's Group to Launch Massive Climate Campaign. By Marilyn Elias, USA Today, March 24, 2008. "'The missing ingredient is the force of public opinion.' That's the line Cathy Zoi recalls from... Al Gore when he urged her to become CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection. Americans are aware of global warming, 'but they don't get the urgency of it and that this is solvable,' says Zoi, who took the job last year. The new group is about to launch the most ambitious U.S. marketing campaign ever on climate change, at a cost of more than $100 million a year for three years... 'We've come up against a brick wall with Americans,' says Lee Bodner... of ecoAmerica... Despite Americans' widespread familiarity with global warming, 'only a small group are changing their behavior'... The Alliance for Climate Protection will buy ads and partner with grass-roots groups to spread the word on how to cut greenhouse gases. It also is seeking partnerships with consumer product makers 'to amplify the message'... through their packaging, websites or ads... The website [is] scheduled to launch in the next week."

350 PPM: "red line for human beings!"

A Letter From Bill McKibben
Dear friends,
350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.
We’re planning an international campaign to unite the world around the number 350, and we need your help. We need to make sure that the solutions the world proposes to climate change are to scale with the level of crisis that this number represents. Everyone on earth, from the smallest village to the cushiest corner office needs to know what 350 means. The movement to spread that number needs to be beautiful, creative, and unstoppable.
What we need most right now are your ideas for how to take the number 350 and drive it home: in art, in music, in political demonstrations, in any other way you can imagine. We will connect actions all around the world and make them add up to more than the sum of their parts–but we don’t have all the ideas and all the inspiration. We need yours.
We could also use your help spreading 350. Can you contact anyone you think might be interested and willing to help–in every country on earth–and send them our way?
Many thanks,
Bill McKibben and the crew.
P.S.—We’ve raised some money to get this campaign up and running, but to execute a successful international campaign will require more than we’ve got. If you’re in a position to help, please get in touch.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tiffany to address Sierra Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas

OMNI president to speak to Sierra Club on Wednesday
I hope to see all of you this Wednesday at Smiling Jack's for the Sierra Club's March meeting! Gladys Tiffany from the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology will be with us to discuss their Carbon Caps Task Force. Please call with questions and pass invite everyone.
Molly Rawn, Intern, Sierra Club, Ozark Headwaters Group (479) 879-1620

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Beebe calls special session on Severance Tax, reports The Morning News

For the complete story, click on the following link or

Beebe calls special session on severance tax, by The Morning News
see your morning newspaper.

Of the revenue generated, 95 percent would go to road improvements. Of that, 70 percent would go to state highways, and counties and cities would receive 15 percent each.

The remaining 5 percent would go to general revenue to replace the current tax, which amounted to less than $700,000 last year, and to fund environmental and conservation needs, Beebe said.
For the full story, click on the following link

Beebe calls special session on severance tax, by The Morning News or see your morning newspaper.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Upper White River Basin Foundation to meet successful watershed organizations

NOT TOO LATE. Rooms and conference seats remain available as of March 18, 2008.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Biofuel: The fake solution to climate change

Dear friends,

EU and US demand for biofuels is pushing up world food prices and increasing climate emissions. We should feed people, not cars--so join the call for global standards to clean up the biofuels industry:
Click here now
Each day, 820 million people in the developing world do not have enough food to eat1. Food prices around the world are shooting up, sparking food riots from Mexico2 to Morocco3. And the World Food Program warned last week that rapidly rising costs are endangering emergency food supplies for the world's worst-off4.

How are the wealthiest countries responding? They're burning food.

Specifically, they're using more and more biofuels--alcohol made from plant products, used in place of petrol to fuel cars. Biofuels are billed as a way to slow down climate change. But in reality, because so much land is being cleared to grow them, most biofuels today are causing more global warming emissions than they prevent5, even as they push the price of corn, wheat, and other foods out of reach for millions of people6.

Not all biofuels are bad--but without tough global standards, the biofuels boom will further undermine food security and worsen global warming. Click here to use our simple tool to send a message to your head of state before this weekend's global summit on climate change in Chiba, Japan, and help build a global call for biofuels regulation:

Sometimes the trade-off is stark: filling the tank of an SUV with ethanol requires enough corn to feed a person for a year7. But not all biofuels are bad; making ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane is vastly more efficient than US-grown corn, for example, and green technology for making fuel from waste is improving rapidly.

The problem is that the EU and the US have set targets for increasing the use of biofuels without sorting the good from the bad. As a result, rainforests are being cleared in Indonesia to grow palm oil for European biodiesel refineries, and global grain reserves are running dangerously low. Meanwhile, rich-country politicians can look "green" without asking their citizens to conserve energy, and agribusiness giants are cashing in. And if nothing changes, the situation will only get worse.

What's needed are strong global standards that encourage better biofuels and shut down the trade in bad ones. Such standards are under development by a number of coalitions8, but they will only become mandatory if there's a big enough public outcry. It's time to move: this Friday through Saturday, the twenty countries with the biggest economies, responsible for more than 75% of the world's carbon emissions9, will meet in Chiba, Japan to begin the G8's climate change discussions. Before the summit, let's raise a global cry for change on biofuels:

A call for change before this week's summit won't end the food crisis, or stop global warming. But it's a critical first step. By confronting false solutions and demanding real ones, we can show our leaders that we want to do the right thing, not the easy thing.

As Kate, an Avaaz member in Colorado, wrote about biofuels, "Turning food into oil when people are already starving? My car isn't more important than someone's hungry child."

It's time to put the life of our fellow people, and our planet, above the politics and profits that too often drive international decision-making. This will be a long fight. But it's one that we join eagerly--because the stakes are too high to do anything else.

With hope,

Ben, Ricken, Iain, Galit, Paul, Graziela, Pascal, Esra'a, Milena -- the team


[1] World Food Programme. "Hunger Facts." Accessed 10 March 2008.

[2] The Sunday Herald (Scotland). "2008: The year of global food crisis." 9 March 2008.

[3] The Australian: "Biofuels threaten 'billions of lives'" 28 February, 2008.,25197,23336840-11949,00.html

[4] AFP: "WFP chief warns EU about biofuels." 7 March 2008.

[5] New York Times: "Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat." 8 February 2008.

[6] The Times: "Rush for biofuels threatens starvation on a global scale." 7 March 2008. ... also see BBC: "In graphics: World warned on food price spiral." 10 March 2008.

[7] The Economist: "The end of cheap food." 6 December 2007.

[8] See,, and

[9] Government of Japan. "Percentage of global carbon dioxide emissions (FY 2003) contributed by G20 nations."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eco Video series runs each 5th Sunday at OMNI Center

The Carbon Caps Task Force is beginning an "Eco Video" series of free film screenings on the topics of the environment and global warming every 5th Sunday of the month at 7 pm on the main floor of the United Campus Ministry.
Check the Omni Center event calendar at
for upcoming dates in this series.

ENERGY SHIFT concert in Little Rock on Saturday to speak out against coal-powered power plants


Please mark your calendar for what’s shaping up to be a great night of music and activism. Join us on Saturday, March 15th, for the first Sierra Club “ENERGY SHIFT” concert in Little Rock. It’s an all-ages show, full of great music and great opportunities to make YOUR voice heard against dirty coal-fired power plants. Four of the acts were semifinalists in this year’s Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, and one will be in the finals next weekend.
Come hear some of Little Rock’s hottest rock and hip-hop acts, while you learn more about the dangers of the coal-fired power plants being proposed for Arkansas and what YOU can do to stop them.
Glen Hooks, Regional Representative
Sierra Club
1308 West 2nd Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 301-8280
(501) 744-2674 (cell)
Tune into SIERRA CLUB RADIO Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m.
88.3 FM in Central Arkansas, or listen live online at

Monday, March 10, 2008

Agenda for Thursday March 13, 2008, meeting of Carbon Caps Task Force

Omni Carbon caps Task Force – Agenda
Universalist Unitarian, 901 W. Cleveland*1, Fayetteville, AR 13 Mar 2008 @2:00PM

Approval of Minutes of 2008 Feb 20
Approval of Agenda of 2008 Mar 13
Governor's Commission/TWG – from Robert, Edward, or other TWG participants
Arkansas Coal Plants – from Robert
Caring for Creation – from Maya
Environmental awareness caucus, from ???
Planetwork – from Maya, Gladys, and Matt
Reaching out to the Democratic Party and Northeast Arkansas
Carbon Caps Fund – from Gladys
GW lobbyist with APP – from Gladys
O.L.L.I. collaboration opportunities – from Matt
Old Business
Springfest/Dickson St Music Festival – from Kelly or Donna or Matt
Arkansas Earth Day – from Robert / volunteer-gathering info from Matt
PSA's – from Dava / Gladys was finding student newspapers / will KUAF help us record audio versions?
Living It Green Expo
Buttons and hats – more detailed price structures from Edward and another design from Matt
Global Warming Videos – from Gladys
Scheduling the Commissioners for a CCTF fundraiser and a high school education event
New Business
Using Boozman's recent appointment as an opportunity for reaching out
Using the Internet more effectively – need more than a blog
Approval of Summary
*1 From Maple Street turn north onto Storer, continue to Cleveland, turn left, take the second driveway.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Government stops financing coal-fired power plants

Government stops funding coal-powered generators


Posted on Thursday, March 6, 2008


BILLINGS, Mont. — The federal government is suspending a major loan program for coal-fired power plants in rural communities, saying the uncertainties of climate change and rising construction costs make the loans too risky. After issuing $ 1. 3 billion in loans for new plants since 2001, none will be issued this year and likely none in 2009, said James Newby, assistant administrator for the Rural

ties Service, a branch of the Department of Agriculture. The program’s suspension marks a dramatic reversal of a once-reliable source of new coal plant financing. It follows the announcement last month that several major banks will require plant developers to factor in climate change when seeking private funding.

“This is a big decision. It says new coal plants can’t go to the federal government for money at least for the next couple years, and these are critical times for companies to get these plants built,” said Abigail Dillen with the environmental law group Earthjustice. The group filed a federal lawsuit last year seeking to block the loan program.

At the time of its suspension, at least four utilities were lined up for loans totaling $ 1. 3 billion — for projects in Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri. A project in Montana was denied funding last month. Two more were recently withdrawn: last October in Wyoming and earlier this week in Missouri.

Newby said material and labor costs for new coal plants have been rising at 30 percent a year, even as utilities struggle to pinpoint future costs of controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The 2 billion tons of those gases produced annually by coal-fired plants in the United States exceed the emissions of any other source. Newby said those uncertainties prompted the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to ask that new loans be put on hold until risks can be better quantified.

Rural utilities provide power to about 40 million customers across the nation. More than 60 percent of that electricity comes from coal.

Whether the plants that were awaiting federal loans can find alternative financing remains to be seen.

Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. announced this week it was “delaying indefinitely” its proposed plant in Norborne, Mo., after receiving word of the loan program suspension.

At least one developer, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative, is hoping to wait out the suspension of the loan program rather than seek more expensive loans on the open market, said spokesman Nick Comer.

Two more projects — Southern Montana Electric’s Highwood Generating Station and Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork plant in Wyoming — already are seeking private funding.

Dynegy Inc. is constructing the 665-megawatt Plum Point coal-fired power plant near Osceola in Mississippi County. Dynegy, which owns 21 percent of the plant, began construction two years ago. The plant is almost 30 percent completed and is scheduled to begin operation in 2010.

Dynegy already has its funding in place for the construction, and will not be affected by the change in governmental financing, said David Byford, a company spokesman.

A representative of East Texas Electric Cooperative, which owns 7. 5 percent of the Plum Point plant, said his utility already has received alternative financing since governmental financing will not be available.

The new financing “will increase the interest expense, which will increase the electric bill for the consumers at the end of the line,” said the cooperative’s Ryan Thomas. Southwestern Electric Power Co., which has received partial approval to build a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County, also will not be affected by the government’s decision to suspend financing for the plants, said Scott McCloud, a spokesman for SWEPCO.

Three big investment banks recently announced that in deciding whether to make loans for new coal plants, they would take into account potential future costs related to carbon dioxide emissions.

Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley said they had negotiated this policy with seven big utility companies that are major coal burners, including American Electric Power, SWEPCO’s parent company. Two advocacy groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense, also participated. Newby, with the Rural Utilities Service, said his agency is considering imposing upfront fees on coal plant developers as a way to mitigate taxpayer exposure through the loan program. Initial discussions have centered on a 0. 2 percent fee — equivalent to $ 2 million on every $ 1 billion in loans.

Newby added he was confident the government would work through the concerns over risk and resume issuing loans possibly as soon as 2010.

The chief executive of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said the program’s suspension was a sign of “nervousness” among lenders anxious over the potential ramifications of climate-change legislation now before Congress.

Depending on what policies are adopted, retail electricity prices could increase sharply once the costs of reducing greenhouse gases are factored in, said the association’s Glenn English. Utilities that drop coal-fired power proposals will be forced to shop for more expensive electricity on the open market, he said.

“What you’re seeing (with the Rural Utilities Service ) is a general reflection of the attitude we find in the financial community, mainly this apprehension about what the future holds and what can be expected out of government,” English said. Information for this article was provided by David Smith of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Matthew L. Wald of The New York Times.
Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact:

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

National Wildlife Federation supports major environmental issues

National Wildlife Federation

Green Drinks tonight! And every first Wednesday at Smiling Jacks behind Dickson Street Bookstore

Wednesday, March 5, 2008
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
will be at Smiling Jack's Fresh Foods behind the Dickson Street Bookstore
Offering all natural, organic, and locally grown foods, wine, and beer in a cozy college-town restaurant atmosphere.