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

New High School Gets Green Light On Current Site

By Rose Ann Pearce
FAYETTEVILLE -- A 21st century high school will be built on the current site of Fayetteville High School.

After more than two years of contentious, often divisive discussion, the Fayetteville School Board authorized the school district's administrative team "to conceptualize and present a plan for a 21st century pre-K through 12 school system that includes one new high school on the existing site."

Thursday's vote was unanimous, climaxing 26 months of conversation, research, study and community input that divided many patrons into one of two camps, one supporting the current site and the other in favor of selling the property and building at a new location.

Assistant Superintendent Dick Johnson said the nine-member administrative team is ready to move forward with planning a new school on the current 40-acre site.

The district already has asked city officials about closing Stone Street, which could add just more than an acre to the construction site.

No other details on construction were discussed. The administrative team as well as principals and teachers are expected to visit 21st century schools. Several such schools have been identified, including one with an enrollment of 3,000 built on 16 acres in Boston, Mass., Johnson said.

Technology will be the centerpiece in Fayetteville's 21st century school, Johnson said.

"Throughout all of this, everyone wanted a new school. That's a unifying theme. I think we're there," said board member Tim Kring. "We had to look at all the options. I'm glad to see where we are. We have to ask our community to focus on helping us move forward."

Board member Becky Purcell said she is concerned the board may not gain the community trust without a discussion on the size of the new school.

The board has settled on a configuration of grades nine through 12 but hasn't been able to agree on the maximum size of a new school and at what point the discussion would shift to a second high school.

If a new high school is opened in four or five years with the ninth grade, enrollment could be about 2,700 students, based on current figures. A growth spurt in Fayetteville could send that number upward.

"We have had size discussions all the way through with so many camps of thought," said board member Susan Heil. "I would like to trust you to have that conversation."

Johnson said the administrative team is "very comfortable" in discussing size and making a recommendation to the board.

The administrative team doesn't have a timetable for bringing any recommendations to the board for action. Johnson said the site visits will be done first and could start in the next few weeks.

"Tonight was the go button," Johnson said.

At A Glance

No New Boundaries

The Fayetteville School Board probably will delay any major revisions to elementary school boundaries before the 2010-2011 school year.

Assistant Superintendent John L Colbert recommended the delay Thursday, noting, however, attendance boundaries for Root and Holcomb elementary schools may have to be modified this year to alleviate crowding.

Board member Becky Purcell has been meeting with administrative staff to lay some groundwork on criteria and suggested the board could wait to review the boundaries until after the completion of renovation at Butterfield Trail Elementary School.

The original plan was to have new attendance zones drawn for the entire district when the Butterfield renovation was completed in 2009.

Source: Staff Report

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

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.