by Arkansas Business Editors
In this issue, Arkansas Business’ Kyle Massey gives an excellent overview of plans by the Plains & Eastern Clean Line to build a transmission line across Arkansas to carry wind-generated electricity. The $2 billion-plus project is expected to inject $660 million into the state during its construction.
In addition, two companies with facilities in Arkansas will provide wire and insulators to the project, creating 135 jobs in Malvern and 99 direct and indirect jobs in West Memphis.
All good, right? Of course not.
Arkansas’ congressional delegation opposes the project, citing concerns about a lack of local control. At the same time, state officials have awarded $340,000 in taxpayer money to Sediver, one of the Clean Line suppliers, along with other incentives. And back in 2011, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission praised General Cable, the other supplier, and Clean Line for “partnering to stimulate the manufacturing industry in Arkansas through new opportunities for wind energy in the region.”
The AEDC now seeks to distance itself from this encouragement, emphasizing that it supported only the Clean Line suppliers, not Clean Line itself. And the opposition from Arkansas congressmen puzzles Mario Hurtado, Clean Line Energy’s EVP for development, who says, “It’s surprising in that all of them are Republicans, and usually Republicans are very pro-business. The position they’ve taken here is anti-business.”
What’s different? Well, the GOP now controls Arkansas. The Clean Line project was first broached during a Democratic administration. The Republican Party has generally been unsupportive of wind and solar power.
That may be changing. Wind-generation projects have surged in red states like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, complicating, as the Associated Press said in a story in May, the “political calculus” for Republicans. We suggest Arkansas’ public servants keep this political calculus — and only this political calculus — in mind: What’s best for Arkansans?