Holiday wish list
Aside from baby hair and puppy breath, what smells better than a new planner?
Mmmm. Opening that new planner is always a treat, especially with that delightful smell of leather, fresh paper, and potential. These days, my planning is focused on how to move Arkansas forward.
Arkansas has come a long way recently. We’ve moved our dirtiest coal plants toward retirement, and we’re seeing large investments in clean solar and wind energy to power our state. Thousands of Arkansans are employed directly and indirectly in clean energy jobs. That’s good news for our communities and for the birds that Audubon Delta seeks to protect.
Where can we go? If you peek into my planner, here’s my wish list for Arkansas in 2022:
• A Commitment To Truth Telling. It’s abundantly clear that so many of the ills and problems in our state are rooted in dishonesty. While we have long tolerated at least a degree of hyperbole in our politics, the dishonesty has recently become so blatant that it is negatively impacting our ability to combat climate disruption. Admitting that climate disruption is real allows us to–together–enact the policies and practices that solve the problem.
• Agreeing That A Healthy Environment is a Nonpartisan Issue. When you get right down to it, everybody wants clean air, clean water, and healthy forests. We want and need these things no matter which political parties we favor. There are plenty of legitimate issues on which smart people of different political parties can disagree, but we can all agree on the need for a healthy environment. Unfortunately, some of our political leaders create and leverage divisions where none should exist, for the benefit of themselves and polluting corporations. In 2022, let’s push our political leaders of all stripes to come together for environmental solutions and refuse to be falsely divided.
• Fair And Aggressive Clean Energy Policies and Practices. Arkansas has some of the nation’s best policies on clean energy, including a true national model for the “net metering” rules that allow solar energy owners to sell unused energy back to their utility at a full retail rate. These policies were hard-won, yet continue to be threatened by utilities that seek their repeal or by certain electric cooperatives that are erecting obstacles for Arkansans who want solar on their homes and businesses. This cannot stand. Aggressive clean energy deployment saves ratepayers money, creates good-paying Arkansas jobs, and lessens air pollution in Arkansas. In 2022, I want Arkansas utilities and electric cooperatives to fully embrace clean energy for all and stop misguided efforts to slow its deployment.
• An End To Unfair Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Registration Fees. Transportation is now the No. 1 source of greenhouse gases in the United States. Our state should be encouraging clean cars–but instead we currently assess hundreds of dollars in extra registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles. Penalizing Arkansans for making a vehicle choice that lessens pollution for all of us is a wrong-headed policy. Our state is now installing hundreds of EV charging stations across the state, but we need to get serious about removing one of the highest EV and hybrid registration fees in the nation.
• A Commitment To Building Just and Equitable Communities. For decades, dirty power plants have negatively impacted public health and air quality in underserved and minority communities. These communities have disproportionately borne the brunt of pollution and illness from coal and gas plants. As we move toward a clean energy future in Arkansas, we need a conscious, purposeful effort to ensure that these impacted communities now receive the benefits of this transition. That means good-paying jobs, lower electric rates, cleaner air, and healthier citizens. In the last several years, Arkansas’ clean energy portfolio has grown almost exponentially. We have hundreds of megawatts of utility-scale solar installed with more to come, and our utilities are importing a substantial amount of cheap wind energy to boot. In 2022 and beyond, let’s make a substantial effort to put these underserved communities at the front of the line for clean energy’s benefits.
Those are some of the items on this Arkansan’s wish list. Unfortunately, Santa won’t be putting them in my stocking or yours. We will fulfill this wish list by being informed, active, and engaged citizens. The kind of people who know our elected officials by name. The kind of Arkansans who legitimately and sincerely want stronger, healthier, communities in which to spend our lives.
So when you get that sweet-smelling planner on Christmas morning, it is my wish that all of us, collectively and intentionally, plan how we are going to make The Natural State live up to her motto and to her potential. We can move Arkansas forward–but we must take action. Let’s make 2022 the year when it all happens.
Glen Hooks is a lifelong Arkansan and the Arkansas Policy Manager for Audubon Delta.
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