LITTLE ROCK —Environmentalists presented comments gathered from a series of town hall meetings on clean energy across the state to Gov. Mike Beebe’s office Thursday and urged the governor to support their efforts.
Beebe is expected to release a clean energy plan this fall and present it to the Legislature next year.
"As Gov. Beebe and his staff develop the first-ever energy plan for Arkansas, we ask that they hear the voices of hundreds of Arkansans who are calling for clean energy jobs for the Natural State," Sierra Club spokesman Lev Guter said during a news conference at the state Capitol.
Guter said about 300 people attended meetings sponsored by the Sierra Club hosted in Conway, Fayetteville, Little Rock and Pine Bluff. The group presented a report on the meetings and comments from more than 100 people to the governor’s office, along with pictures depicting clean energy and the environment that children drew during a meeting at the Boys and Girls Club in Pine Bluff.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample declined to discuss specifics of the energy plan the administration is developing.
"We’re trying to still gather a lot of information, but from your stake holders … but also we’ve got (Department of Finance and Administration) running some numbers and we want some input from the (Public Service Commission) as well," DeCample said. "We’ve got a lot of stuff in motion, we don’t have a specific date when it will be ready."
The governor wants to "find a balance between having some innovations but also being pragmatic, because … he doesn’t want to just put a lot of ideas out there that we would never be able to do from a financial standpoint," DeCample said.
Guter said major themes voiced by those attending the town hall meetings included promoting energy efficiency at home and in business, encouraging renewable energy resources and moving the state beyond its use of fossil fuels, such as coal.
Mikel Lolley of Fayetteville, an architect and promoter of sustainable energy through his nonprofit Treadwell Institute, said technology for renewable energy has been available for more than 40 years but policy has kept those ideas from developing and expanding.
"The largest gains over the past 10 years for energy efficiency and renewable energy have been in policy, not technology," Lolley said. "Those states that have identified the systemic barriers, adopted new policies and systematically removed old politics have allowed for the once thwarted sectors to flourish."
Lolley said he sees "the emerging sectors for energy efficiency and renewable energy as our greatest opportunity to put Arkansas back to work, re-energize our out-sourced manufacturing sector, and re-employ our under-cut middle class, to restore a dignified living wage and strengthen democracy."
Guter praised Beebe for promoting alternative energy, specifically wind energy. A number of wind energy companies have established operations in the state in recent years.