Thursday, September 25, 2008

Governor's commission on global warming tentatively says NO to new coal-fired power plants

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Panel Tentatively Endorses Ban On New Plants

By Peggy Harris
LITTLE ROCK -- An Arkansas commission studying ways to reduce global warming tentatively endorsed a ban Thursday on new coal-fired power plants, saying a proposed $1.5 billion facility in Hempstead County shouldn't open until at least 2020.

The preliminary proposal would allow the John W. Turk Jr. plant near Fulton to open eight years later than planned, when new "sequestration" technology presumably would be available to capture harmful carbon dioxide emissions and store them in the ground. The plant could open sooner if the technology becomes available.

Under the proposal, the $1.3 billion Plum Point plant being built near Osceola could open as planned in 2010 but operators would have to retrofit the plant with the new anti-pollution technology once it becomes available.

Any other new coal-fired power plants in Arkansas would have to have the new technology when they open.

Currently, sequestration is not in use at any commercial power plant in the country. But the new technology is among the many innovations being discussed nationally and worldwide to reverse global warming.

State Rep. Kathy Webb, who chairs the Governor's Commission on Global Warming, said the draft proposal was one of about 50 the group has analyzed over the last several months with the help of consultants. The panel expects to have its final recommendations in a report to Gov. Mike Beebe by Oct. 31. Legislators could consider the measures when they meet in regular session next year.

Webb, D-Little Rock, said the proposed ban has been among the most controversial of the draft recommendations.

Coal-fired power plants and automobiles are the leading producers of carbon dioxide, the chief culprit of global warming. They also are a primary generator of electricity in the U.S. and considered essential to economic growth.

Commission members from the energy industry Thursday voiced opposition to the proposed ban.

Gary Voight, chief executive of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, said scrapping plans for new plants would mean using "dirtier" inefficient plants that produce more pollution and fail to meet consumer demand.

He said a ban would effectively make it more difficult for utilities to produce electricity economically and free up more money to invest in energy-efficient technology. In addition, Voight said, the Arkansas Public Service Commission has already imposed conditions on Southwestern Electric Power Co. to address pollution at the planned 600-megawatt plant in Hempstead County.

"This is a bad plan. It's retroactive regulation," said Voight, whose cooperative plans partly own the SWEPCO plant. "The commission has already ruled that SWEPCO must evaluate all carbon sequestration and capture technologies as available in the future so this (proposal) is pointless. It's a waste of time, and we should all vote against it and get it off the table."

Other commissioners spoke of the seriousness of global warming and the need to take strong action.

"This is what Congress is talking about. This is what a lot, a lot of scientists are concerned about. New coal plants, we're talking about moratorium until sequestration," said Art Hobson, a physics professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Commissioner Kevin Smith, the former state senator from Stuttgart, said without a moratorium Arkansas could become "the new Pittsburgh -- not the Natural State." And commissioner Rob Fisher, executive director of The Ecological Conservation Organization, said the proposal was the most important recommendation the panel could make.

"If we don't pass this option, everything else we do is pointless," he said.

The commission endorsed the recommendation by a vote of 11-10.

Kacee Kirschvink, a spokeswoman for SWEPCO, said the Turk plant would be one of the cleanest coal plants in North America. She said it would use "ultra-supercritical" technology that requires less fuel and produces less carbon dioxide. In addition, she said, the plant could be retrofitted for newer technology once it becomes available.

"It would not be good public policy to change the rules now after much planning and investment has been done to meet the energy needs of SWEPCO's customers," she said.

Shreveport, La.-based SWEPCO wants to open the plant in 2012 and has begun site work, while awaiting an air-quality permit from state environmental regulators. SWEPCO is a part of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co.

David Byford, a spokesman for Plum Point developers Dynegy Inc., said the commission proposal was in the early stages and Dynegy might comment later after further study.

Web Watch:

Arkansas Governors Commission on Global Warming

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Big, blue hose takes water beyond nasty construction site

Please click on image to ENLARGE photo of view northeast from W. Center Street where Sweetser crew members are rapidly replacing an old rock-walled storm drain with a new concrete culvert. The big, blue plastic hose is designed to collect water flowing from the Dickson Street area to be pumped across the street to reenter Tanglewood Branch downstream. This reduces the load of mud from the construction site and thus the load of silt flowing toward Beaver Lake.

Clear water pumped from upstream of the construction site enters Tanglewood Branch to thin out the silt-laden yellow water that escaped the site on Monday and Tuesday. The 70- or 80-year-old rock-lined tunnel recently collapsed under the north lane of West Center Street, creating an emergency repair need on a busy street near the University of Arkansas.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Epa stops the destruction of wetland in the Yazoo River watershed of Mississippi

September 5, 2008
Outdoorsmen and environmentalists win a major battle. Now, how about some help with the equally bad project in Arkansas that would pump water from the lower White River basin to farms on the Grand Prairie. The late Wayne Hampton of Stuttgart, a former legislator, highway commissioner and Game and Fish Commissoner and a farmer who protected the environment by "keeping the water where it fell" and storing it for irrigation and to flood the hardwoods for waterfowl in tanks or ponds on his own 4,000-acre farm near Lodge Corner. He fought hard all the way to congress to stop that project and another environmentally destructive navigation lock and dam where the White River enters the Mississippi on the north side of Big Island.
For more on the Yazoo drainage project, please see
Wayne would have applauded this victory for the wild things and I hope it is now dropped from all planning.
Dear Aubrey,
I am thrilled to report that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Clean Water Act veto for the Yazoo Pumps, putting an end to this outrageously destructive project once and for all. This historic victory would not have been possible without your help in speaking out against this project.
I hope you will help us again and thank the EPA for its historic and environmentally responsible decision.
The EPA’s decision is a victory for clean water, natural flood protection and taxpayers and it proves that the actions of individuals like you make a difference. The EPA received more than 47,600 emails and comments and more than 99.9 percent urged the EPA to stop the Yazoo Pumps. This outpouring of public support was critical in the face of the tremendous pressure placed on the EPA to approve this wasteful project.
The Yazoo Pumps would have used $220 million of your federal tax dollars to drain and damage up to 200,000 acres of some of the richest wetlands in the nation, an area larger than all 5 boroughs of New York City, that have the capacity to store roughly 200 billion gallons of floodwaters.
Eliminating this free natural flood protection would have been unconscionable, especially when we know that climate change is causing more frequent and intense storms and floods.
Please let the EPA know that you support their decision and appreciate their leadership in protecting these wetlands.
Rebecca R. Wodder
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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Monarchs reproducing on World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on image to ENLARGE photo of caterpillar of a monarch butterfly on a tropical milkweed in the peace circle of the World Peace Wetland Prairie in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on September 1, 2008.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Making peace with local geese a problem for citified folk

The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Who is GeesePeace?
By Anna Fry
BELLA VISTA -- GeesePeace is a name bandied about in Bella Vista since June, but residents may be unfamiliar with the Virginia-based nonprofit.
The organization works with communities to promote nonlethal methods for controlling Canada geese, Director David Feld said.
The Bella Vista Property Owners Association planned a GeesePeace visit after residents complained about a board decision to use a federal permit to shoot 100 geese. The board recently revisited the issue and will pursue peaceful methods.
Many residents say geese feces foul the community's lakes, parks and golf courses.
Feld and possibly another expert will visit in October to suggest a plan for controlling the estimated 1,000 geese. Feld said he examined aerial photographs and will inspect sites where geese congregate.
Until he has done so, he can't give a specific recipe to solve Bella Vista's problem, he said. But the organization has some basic methods that he'll suggest.
It's up to communities GeesePeace helps to implement their own control methods.
The first component of GeesePeace's plan is stabilizing the population by oiling goose eggs from the end of March through April.
Eggs are dropped in water to test whether embryos developed lungs. If the eggs float, the embryos have lungs and are left alone.
"You want people to know it's humane and there are limits to the interruption of life," Feld said.
If the egg sinks, the embryo has no lungs. The egg is coated with corn oil to seal pores so oxygen can't get in and biological processes stop.
The second component is "site aversion," which means making areas inhospitable to geese. This should be done in May to mid-June because geese need a safe place when they molt in mid-June, Feld said. During molting, geese lose and replace feathers and cannot fly.
GeesePeace suggests using Border collies to chase geese both on land and water. Volunteers put the collies on boats, then the collies swim and chase geese in the water. The collies return to land to chase geese again. The process is repeated until the geese feel the area isn't safe, Feld said.
Site aversion should also be done in the winter and fall because Arkansas has mild weather, Feld said.
Darrell Bowman, the association's lake ecology and fisheries manager, said he doesn't advocate scare tactics, which he doesn't see as viable.
"It amounts to moving the problem around, and I think we're just going to chase geese around in our own areas," he said.
Bowman questions where geese will go because many Northwest Arkansas cities have the same problem, he said. Bella Vista's geese are considered resident geese because they no longer migrate.
Feld said geese can be moved to areas that don't bother people if communities coordinate their efforts.
"There's lots of places geese can go that nobody cares," he said. "They don't have to be at your favorite golf course."
The association's golf division tried methods such as chasing the geese with dogs, but nothing worked, said Christy Attlesey, communications manager.
Bowman said he's read GeesePeace's Web site, and it proposes methods that are already part of a goose management plan the association board approved in February. Obtaining the federal permit to shoot 100 geese was one of many strategies, he said.
"As a manager, you want to use every tool in your toolbox," Bowman said.
Two other possible aversion tactics won't work in Bella Vista because its grassy areas and lakes are too large, Feld said. Some communities use repellents to discourage geese from eating grass and plant tall grass around water bodies to give the impression predators could be hiding.
The final component of GeesePeace's plan is educating the public that feeding geese is bad because it keeps them in the area, Feld said. The City Council passed an ordinance in May prohibiting feeding any migratory waterfowl.
Oiling eggs requires registering online with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but GeesePeace's other methods don't require permits, Feld said.
The key to a community's success is good leadership and it seems Bella Vista has that, Feld said. GeesePeace's program was successful in numerous cities including Hempstead and Oyster Bay in New York and Stratford-Upon-Avon in England, he said.
Feld cofounded GeesePeace in the late 1990s when his hometown, Lake Barcroft, Va., experienced a similar situation. The Washington suburb had about 120 geese that stayed year-round.
George Waters, who was then president of Lake Barcroft's homeowners association, said feces fouled the community's five beaches and about 250 lakefront homes.
"Lawns and beaches were just completely covered with goose poop," he said. "You could literally go out there and slip on it. Who wants to go to a beach and be surrounded by goose poop?"
A fight arose in the community about whether to use lethal options to control the geese. At a community meeting, the decision was made combine harassment techniques with egg oiling.
Lake Barcroft whittled its resident goose population to about 20, Waters said. Volunteers still go out with Border collies to chase the geese.

What's Next

Public Meeting
David Feld, director and co-founder of GeesePeace, will speak at a public meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 22 in Riordan Hall.