Sierra Club Tool Grades Utilities, and Arkansas' Pass

Sierra Club Tool Grades Utilities, and Arkansas' Pass
Glen Hooks, the director of the Sierra Club of Arkansas. (File photo) (Karen E. Segrave)

The Sierra Club is grading the nation’s utilities based on their climate progress, with Southwestern Electric Power Co. of Shreveport winning the best grade in Arkansas, a B.

The state’s other major utilities were C students in the Sierra Club’s report card, which based its scores on utility plans for retiring coal plants, cutting reliance on new gas plants and squaring companies’ stated carbon reduction goals with what’s truly required according to science.

The data is available through the club’s report and research tool that’s newly online. The tool will allow environmentalists and everyday citizens to “judge each utility’s climate progress,” according to a Sierra Club news release.

“It’s encouraging to see our state’s largest utilities score better than most of their peers, but there’s always room for improvement,” said Glen Hooks, Sierra Club’s Arkansas Chapter director. “SWEPCO could be among the top utilities in the country transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy if it would reconsider the continued operation of the aging Flint Creek coal plant.”

That plant, a 528-megawatt powerhouse west of Gentry in Benton County, burns low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. The Gentry plant is being modified for continued operation, SWEPCO announced last year, installing a dry bottom ash handling system and other facilities that will meet Environmental Protection Agency rules and effluent guideline requirements by 2023. SWEPCO, a utility of American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio, owns the Flint Creek Plant with Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Corp. of Little Rock.

Entergy Arkansas trails sister company Entergy Mississippi, which received a B, but it fared far better than Entergy Louisiana and Entergy New Orleans, which both received Fs.

“Arkansans are reaping the vast benefits that come with renewable energy investments now, like new jobs, lower bills, and cleaner air and water,” Hooks said. “Clean energy is our present and our future, and this tool will help customers and investors ensure this trend continues.”

The report and online tool draw information from utilities’ long-term energy assessments — known as Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) — as well as the Energy Information Administration, S&P Global Market Intelligence, and major announcements from the 50 utilities that generate the most electricity from coal and gas.