Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Environmentalists not allowed to participate in coal conference in Hope, Arkansas

Comment from Stephens media blog on unfairness of coal conference in Hope
Different panel: Same dirty coal

Relying on information in the Hope newspaper yesterday, I mentioned that PSC Chairman Colette Honorable would be moderating a panel at a coming conference in Hope on "Making Clean Coal Technology a Reality." I commented that that seemed sort of a political statement by a member of a state panel that is hearing objections to coal-fired power generation by "clean coal" -- a public relations term -- or any other coal.

She asks a correction. She says, despite what a Hope newspaper account erroneously said, she's actually moderating a panel "What to do about Greenhouse Gases."

Noted. Answer to her panel's question: Don't burn coal in power plants.

Honorable is honorable, I hasten to add. I've known her several years and think a great deal of her. But I'll repeat what I told her. I'm not sure it's a good idea for PSC commissioners to lend their high status and neutral position to elevate a public relations stunt put on by the electric power industry and the coal lobby, as this one is. If you need any more information about how balanced this session will be, see Stephens Media today for its story about how the Sierra Club was barred from participation.

Torture the timber, strip the land, dig the coal. Just don't expect me to call it perfume.

I also meant to say initially that this "conference" is a byproduct of SWEPCO's recent purchase of the UA community college branch at Hope for $1 million. No reason the Hope branch shouldn't have a corporate owner, like the UA's Walton-Tyson branch.

PS -- I'm told Ken Smith of Audubon Arkansas will be on hand to be available to anyone who might appreciate a fuller picture of coal's impact on the environment. I hope the power company lobby, which is putting on this dog-and-pony show, doesn't arrest him or move him, a la the Bush jackboots, to a Free Speech Zone over around Lake Greeson.
posted by aubunique at 10:03 pm 0 comments
Environmentalists not allowed to participate in coal conference in Hope, Arkansas
Environmentalists excluded from conference on coal power
Thursday, Jul 17, 2008

By John Lyon
Arkansas News Bureau
LITTLE ROCK - Environmentalists have been barred from participating in an industry-sponsored conference that will examine Arkansas' role in the development and use of clean coal technologies, a spokesman for the Sierra Club said Wednesday.

Former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and U.S. Rep Mike Ross, D-Prescott, are the scheduled keynote speakers for the Arkansas Clean Coal Technology Conference, set for today and Friday at the University of Arkansas Community College in Hope.

A news release from one of the conference's sponsors, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, says the conference will focus on "Arkansas' role in the development and deployment of advanced clean coal technologies as well as the associated environmental, economic and public policy concerns."

Glen Hooks, regional representative of the Sierra Club, said the Sierra Club and Audubon Arkansas asked to participate in the conference and provide alternative viewpoints but were told they could not.
"They said that's not what this is about, they've already got the panel set up," Hooks said. "So we were invited to attend but not necessarily to participate in the official part of the program."
There is "not really any environmental representative on the panels at all," Hooks said.
Ken Smith, executive director of Audubon Arkansas, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Leah Arnold, spokeswoman for American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said she was not aware that the Sierra Club or Audubon Arkansas had asked to participate, but she said the conference is not a forum on whether coal power should be abandoned.
"We don't think that coal should be taken out. We believe that coal is going to continue - it's going to have to continue - to be a part of Arkansas' energy mix. You can't just do away with 47 percent of (the state's) electricity like that," she said.
The conference will be held about 12 miles from the site of a planned $1.52 billion, 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant Southwestern Electric Power Co. hopes to build near Fulton. The state Public Service Commission has approved SWEPCO's plans, but the state Department of Environmental Quality is still considering whether to grant an air permit for the proposed plant.
Arnold said the conference will include discussion of technology that would allow carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants to be stored permanently underground. The technology is 10 to 15 years away from being a reality, she said.
"Clean coal" technology would not be available when the SWEPCO plant near Fulton goes into operation, but the technology could be added to it and all other power plants when it does become available, Arnold said.
Hooks said America cannot afford to produce additional millions of tons of carbon dioxide every year while waiting for clean coal technology to be developed.
"By all accounts, we're at or near the tipping point when it comes to global warming," he said.
The conference also is sponsored by the Center for Legislative Energy and Environmental Research and the Southern States Energy Board.

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