by David Ramsey
The Cherokees registered their opposition with the DOE during its environmental impact review of the Clean Line project that ended in April. So did seven counties in Arkansas: Crawford, Cleburne, Conway, Franklin, Johnson, Pope and White. Crawford's Quorum Court's resolution asked the DOE to not approve the project unless it determined "clear and substantial benefits" to the state that would negate its detrimental impacts. Alma, Cedarville, Dyer, Mulberry, Ozark, Quitman and Vian also weighed in with resolutions in opposition, according to Millsaps.All six members of the Arkansas congressional delegation oppose the project. Sen. John Boozman and Sen. Tom Cotton filed a bill in Congress that would give the states veto power over electric lines; U.S. Reps Steve Womack, French Hill, Bruce Westerman, and Rick Crawford sponsored a House version. Of course ... they support the Keystone XL pipeline. Given the healthy donations they receive from the fossil fuel industry, perhaps a general opposition to wind power may be as much of a factor as all the shouting about local control and land rights.
The Clean Line project also drew opposition from the state Department of Parks and Tourism, which said the project's "Applicant Proposed Route" presents "several apparent, immediate, and dire conflicts with public outdoor recreation in Arkansas." In particular, the APR would take the power lines over the Mulberry and Big Piney rivers, which the state has designated as Extraordinary Resource Waters.
Republicans and business groups in our neighborly states of Oklahoma and Tennessee seem wildly excited about the benefits coming their way from the Clean Line transmission network that will send clean, renewable power from the windy Panhandle to hundreds of thousands of homes in Arkansas and across the Mississippi.For years, Arkansas Republicans have said the Clean Line project was a federal power grab and an assault on local control and land rights under the tyranny of Obama. What will they say under Trump?
In Arkansas, however, their counterparts — every member of the congressional delegation and Republican state lawmakers — are terribly vexed about the project because they say it is another power grab by President Obama and an environmental threat to landowners on the route.
But it is hard not to see the lamentations as crocodile tears. Remember when all six members of the Washington delegation demanded that the president authorize Canada's giant Keystone XL pipeline, although it posed dangers to people in the Great Plains and offered little benefit to Arkansas? The state already is crisscrossed by pipelines and by transmission lines that distribute power from hydroelectric and gas-, coal- and oil-burning plants.
That, see, is the difference. Clean Line will send wind power from turbines on the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles to markets in Arkansas, Tennessee and beyond. The carbon industry, from the Koch brothers to natural gas companies, are stressed by competition from wind and solar power, now that it is national policy to reduce carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases and mercury poisoning from power plants, for the health benefits and to slow climate change.
If it is Arkansas investment and jobs you want, the Clean Line project will yield them, at least according to the Walton business school at the University of Arkansas, which projected that it would create 855 jobs in Arkansas and that the Clean Line people, electric utilities or the regional transmission authority would spend $660 million in Arkansas building the line and a station to convert the wind turbines' direct current to alternating current and making conductors and insulators.
But here is the big selling point for the project — unless you believe, like the Koch brothers, the coal industry and Exxon Mobil, that climate change is phony and that greenhouse gases are tolerable threats to public health: Arkansas would get 500 megawatts of wind power, which would go a long way toward putting it into early compliance with national greenhouse gas rules, which require a 44 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, and the regional haze rule, which forces Entergy Arkansas to do something about its dirty Independence Station at Newark. All the prevailing powers in Arkansas — the congressional delegation, the governor, the attorney general, the state Chamber of Commerce — have condemned both rules.