LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson agreed when they spoke Monday at the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission’s annual conference that energy policy needs to be included in the national political debate.
But the two governors disagreed on a controversial transmission line project that is designed to move wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to western Tennessee. Fallin, the 2016 chairman of the commission, said she supports the $2.5-billion Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project, for which construction is scheduled to start next year.
“I support the clean line power plan. … And as I’ve talked to Arkansas about, you know it can be an asset to you too in helping to bring alternative, renewable energy into both of our states,” Fallin said in response to reporter questions. “It helps us diversify our energy mix, which is always a top goal for Oklahoma because when you’re very dependent upon oil and gas and you have an energy downturn with low oil prices and low gas prices, it really affects your state revenue.”
Revenue from the production of oil and natural gas in Oklahoma has fallen over the last year and more than 10,000 jobs have been lost in the industry in the last 18 months.
Arkansas’ congressional delegation came out against the transmission line plan earlier this year, saying the federal approval through the infrastructure-improvement Energy Policy Act of 2005 bypassed state regulators. Arkansas’ Public Service Commission ruled against the transmission line project in 2011, saying Clean Line Energy Partners firm didn’t qualify as a public utility serving the state’s power consumers.
Hutchinson, who is the incoming chairman of the interstate commission, declined to take a position on the project, saying he would work to make sure Arkansans received some energy production benefit from it.
“There has not been any role for the states to play in terms of that authority. It has been accomplished at the federal level, so there is not any position that is needed by me,” he said.