This morning the Joint Performance Review Committee beat Rep. Betty Pickett's interim resolution on the Fayetteville Shale like a piñata. The resolution would have coordinated the numerous state agencies responsible for environmental oversight of gas drilling. It also would have facilitated an assessment of the drilling's environmental impact. The committee was having none of it. They voted to halt debate in the middle of the session, which cancelled scheduled testimony from ADEQ Director Teresa Marks and natural gas spokesmen.
The committee's attitude to the resolution was almost uniformly hostile. There also seemed to be quite a bit of misunderstanding among committee members as to what the resolution -- which would not have been binding and would have had to pass in the legislature -- would actually do. Pickett's case was probably not helped when a fiscal impact statement was handed out listing the resolution's cost to the Game and Fish Commission as "indeterminable." (At least one legislator could be heard fending off a bout of hyperventilation.)
Rep. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) moved to vote about 45 minutes in. Although it was obvious that any vote at that point of the hearing would crush the resolution, Chesterfield said she wasn't against Pickett's proposal -- she was "ambiguous." Not ambiguous enough to hear ADEQ's testimony, apparently.
Pickett accepted the defeat graciously and said she was happy to at least get the issues on the table. Though the resolution is dead for now, she said she might lobby Governor Beebe to present it before the legislature if there's a special session.