by Max Brantley
We do know this. McDaniel's office did nothing on the SWEPCO coal-burner down in Hempstead County, which isn't needed to serve Arkansas customers and which is an environmental disaster. Private interests carried the ball in the sweeping court victories that are now causing the polluting industry headaches. McDaniel — though all over the non-existent problem of sports agents and smokable bath salts and working assiduously to trash the FOI to protect the Razorback ticket industry — is nowhere to be found in the utility-favoring workout of legislation that originally was intended to stop court review of utility-friendly PSC decisions altogether. It is still unbelievable to me that the PSC worked in concert with SWEPCO and the co-ops on this bill. (UPDATE: John Bethel, the director at the PSC, talked to me about this this morning. He said the PSC had offered suggestions on the legislation at the request of sponsors because it concerned PSC process and that it has customarily done so. He said some suggestions were made that were not incorporated, including the PSC's objection to removal of judicial review, and that the PSC had relayed its continued objections after the bill was filed with that provision.)
A consumer advocate suggests another op-ed topic for McDaniel:
Dustin McDaniel has an op-ed in today's DG about how he protects ratepayers. Maybe he can answer how separating the determination of need for power from the approval of ways to meet those needs would protect ratepayers. As HB 1895 is currently written, it weakens ratepayer protection by restricting their ability to discuss all alternatives to meet the need for power, i.e., energy efficiency, already existing power plants. It also doesn't close but affirm the merchant plant loophole that SWEPCO used to jam Turk, which wastes taxpayer money by going through PSC proceedings only to have utility turn the plant into merchant in the midst of proceedings.
Maybe Dustin "I protect rayepayers" McDaniel can explain why he didn't stick up for Arkansas' ratepayers until the courts had to do the job for him. And he isn't protecting them now by letting HB 1895 pass.