LITTLE ROCK — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Asa Hutchinson on Monday said he'd push for Arkansas to join a lawsuit challenging the federal government's proposed new rules for power-plant pollution, limits that he says threaten the state's ability to create new jobs.
Hutchinson said if elected he'd ask the attorney general to join 12 other states in challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, with 2005 levels as the starting point. The rules are intended to curb global warming. The plan would require Arkansas to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 45 percent by 2030.
"As governor, I will cause Arkansas to join the 12 other states ... in challenging the new burdensome EPA rules as being a federal overreach, as hurting Arkansas ratepayers, hurting our industrial growth and I will fight for Arkansas in opposing these new EPA rules," Hutchinson said in a news conference at his campaign headquarters.
Hutchinson said he expected the cost of joining the suit to be minimal, and said he would also seek a resolution from the Legislature before joining the challenge. He also left open the possibility of hiring outside counsel if the AG doesn't agree to join the suit.
The proposed rules have been well-received by the state's environmental groups, but businesses and utilities foresee problems on the horizon if the federal EPA puts the regulations in place. Hutchinson cited a study from the National Association of Manufacturers that estimated the cost to Arkansas to be more than 10,000 lost jobs and $240 million in compliance costs.
Hutchinson is running against Democratic nominee Mike Ross. The two ex-congressmen are running to succeed Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
Ross said he has a long-standing history of standing up to the EPA and said he had vowed earlier Monday in a speech to the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas to do everything in his power to fight the EPA rules.
"The EPA's recent attempts to go after electric generating facilities disrupts the balance between protecting our state's beautiful natural resources and the energy needs that support our way of life and keep energy costs low for working families in Arkansas," Ross said in a statement released by his campaign.
Hutchinson made the announcement the same day Attorney General Dustin McDaniel met with the EPA's general counsel to discuss the impact the rules would have on Arkansas. McDaniel is a Democrat and barred by term limits from seeking re-election this fall.
"The proposed rule will require Arkansas to make a very large reduction in emissions, but does not appear to consider the unique circumstances facing the state in doing so," McDaniel wrote in a letter to EPA General Counsel Avi Garbow. "The implications for my state will be far reaching and will have a great economic hardship on rate paying customers."