State officials are considering the comments of environmentalists and representatives of utility companies for what steps to take to lower Arkansas’s carbon emission rates as directed under new federal rules. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Arkansas Public Service Commission Wednesday held its first in a series of meetings looking at how to meet Environmental Protection Agency goals.
The EPA is allowing individual states to create and submit plans for lowering emissions in lieu of changes mandated by the federal regulatory agency. ADEQ Director Teresa Marks said Arkansas faces emission reduction targets higher than the national average.
“The 44 percent, the number for Arkansas emissions reductions is pretty high. In the nation I think there are only five other states that have a higher percentage reduction that EPA has assigned,” said Marks.
ADEQ's presentation showed Arkansas has increased CO2 emissions by 35 percent since 2005 while every other southern state is lowered emissions with the exception of Louisiana. The state has also increased carbon emission intensity by 6 percent while every other southern state but Kentucky has decreased carbon emission intensity since 2005.
But Marks said before exploring how to reduce CO2 rates by 2030 there needs to be agreement on what levels any changes would be based on. She said utility groups expressed skepticism about EPA numbers.
“One of the first things we’re looking at and the stakeholder group will be looking at also is how the numbers were actually arrived at by EPA. How they actually arrived at the numbers…the different variables that they plugged into their formula to get those numbers and whether or not we feel like the background data that they used is accurate,” said Marks.
She said one major concern from energy producers is displacing the amount of coal produced energy with an increase in natural gas. The tension among most groups continues to be balancing emission reductions with costs to energy producers and consumers. But Marks said some at the meeting found additional costs to include positives like job creation for improving existing power plants and promoting development in alternative energy sources. Proponents also argue cleaner power plants will lead to less long-term health consequences.
The public comment period ends in mid October. The state must submit its plan to reduce carbon emission rates by over 44 percent by 2016.