Groundbreaking For $22 Million Energy Center, Comments On EPA Targets

Mar 24, 2015

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaking at ribbon cutting for MISO.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

West Little Rock is now the home of a $22 million electric-grid operations center for parts of Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The new building for Midcontinent Independent System Operator – or MISO – is linked to others as far north as Manitoba.

MISO President John Bear told nearly 200 onlookers that the city met the company’s needs.

“We found what we wanted here in Little Rock. We found a place where we could hire high-caliber employees, very talented folks. The programs that the governor’s talking about are going to ensure that we can continue to do that,” said Bear.

Bear referred to a newly-signed law by Governor Asa Hutchinson that requires computer coding to be taught in school. Hutchinson also spoke at the ribbon cutting.

“Arkansas’s window to reliable energy is through MISO,” said Hutchinson. “What they bring here is not just an amazing investment in this facility. It is not just the 42 employees that will be high-wage, high-tech jobs but it will also be the opportunity for expanding Arkansas in manufacturing and in the energy sector.”

The facility ceremonially opened as Arkansas’s Attorney General Leslie Rutledge testified in Washington D.C. for the second time this month about what she characterizes as the economic perils of EPA regulations. MISO's President, Bear, said transitioning to different power sources to meet goals outlined in the EPA's Clean Power Plan will be a tremendous task.

“When you think about what’s facing us as an industry, I think the depth and the breadth of the change, and the pace at which it’s going to take place is probably different than we’ve every seen before. We’re integrating an unbelievable amount of renewable…assets to our portfolio. We’re going to have a large transformation from coal-based facilities to gas-based facilities."

But Bear said it’s do-able.

“I think the great thing for Little Rock, for the South region, and for our region as a whole is that MISO is uniquely positioned to handle these and to handle them very well.” Bear said the cost of energy should also remain affordable, “I think as we handle those we’ll be able to increase reliability, continue to deliver very low cost power to our end-users and deliver value to our membership.”

After remarks, Governor Hutchinson spoke to reporters about what Arkansas might do if the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon emissions moves forward despite the state's objections.

“There’s a debate going on as to whether we need to do any planning in the event that the ruling does not go our direction. I want to look at that more closely. I need to meet with our ADEQ [Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality], PSC [Public Service Commission] and make a determination as to what Arkansas should be doing,” said Hutchinson.

“That determination has not been made yet. Our first priority was to communicate our disagreement, our hope for change on that.”

Under proposed rules Arkansas would need to cut carbon emissions 45 percent by 2030. Emissions from Arkansas’s power plants rose 35 percent between 2005 and 2012.