The Sierra Club vows to fight to the last full Senate vote on the legislation to make it far more difficult to get court review of Public Service Commission rulings in power plant cases. The bill also is meant to send a strong signal to the Arkansas Supreme Court to give ex post facto approval to the SWEPCO coal-burner approved after an inadequately advertised and wholly incomplete review of the need and environmental impact.
It's, in short, an outrage. But you need only listen to a few days of legislative hearings on TV to understand how wholly captive this legislature is to power companies (and gas drillers and bankers and insurance companies and so on). More than once, I've heard questioning meant to establish, yes, absolutely, that a bill has prior approval of a power company or another corporate interest. Questions about public welfare are unheard of. In the term-limited Arkansas legislature of today, the corporate interest is the only interest.
A two-thirds vote is necessary in the Senate to adopt the emergency clause for this trampling of the public interest. Are there 12 senators not beholden to SWEPCO, the Electric Co-op and corporate Arkansas? The record to date gives you the answer. We'll pay any handout, bear any pollution burden, suffer any infringement of personal workplace protection or individual freedom in service of the wealthy.
SIERRA CLUB NEWS RELEASE
Today, HB 1895 cleared the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee. The bill, which had passed the House on March 11, would change existing utility law and interfere with issues currently under litigation.
Lev Guter, associate field organizer stated, “Today, the Senate Committee passed a bill that infringes on the rights of landowners to fully participate in having a say on whether coal plants will be built in their own neighborhoods. We advocate that the full Senate oppose this bill in order to protect landowners’ rights to clean air and water.”
The Sierra Club will continue to oppose the bill, and will encourage senators to vote against the bill on the Senate floor. The bill changes the current law to the disadvantage of landowners. For instance, the bill creates a separate proceeding where the Public Service Commission determines the need for more electricity production without linking how or where that electricity would ultimately be generated. Thus, such a “declaration of need” would be granted before landowners were even made aware of a specific plant proposal. HB 1895 would decrease governmental transparency, hinder public comment, and roll back protections for public health.