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Named Next Chief of Oil and Gas Group, Hutchinson Decries U.S. Regulation

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson was named the next chairman of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission on Monday at the commission’s three-day conference at the Little Rock Marriott. Hutchinson will take over from the current chairman, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, in 2017.

Hutchinson spoke Monday afternoon to the public, guests and members of the commission, which advocates for environmentally sound ways to increase the supply of American-produced energy.

Hutchinson discussed energy issues affecting Arkansas and where the state stands in the national energy marketplace. He also focused on a balanced approach in encouraging innovation and what he sees as responsible regulation in the energy industry.

The governor addressed concerns about energy infrastructure security in an age of terrorism and denounced what he called excessive federal regulation of energy policy.

Related: Asa Hutchinson says Arkansas would see benefits from the Clean Line transmission project.

A former U.S. attorney, congressman and undersecretary of Homeland Security, Hutchinson noted the importance of the state’s energy industry in economic development, saying that reliable and inexpensive energy was one key in landing the $1 billion Sun Paper project near Arkadelphia. He also said that the oil and gas industry must be vigilant in preparing for possible terrorist attacks on the oil and gas infrastructure.

But his main thrust was that energy policy is at a crossroads as November’s election nears, and that the federal government, through initiatives like the Clean Power Plan, is overstepping its bounds.

“Energy policy is going to be determined in this election, and in court decisions, but the proper place for most energy decisions is in the states,” he said, describing the Clean Power Plan, which was the subject of oral arguments last week in federal appeals court in Washington, as an example of “overbearing federal rules and regulations.”

The plan, designed to fight global warming, would strengthen the trend of clean energy with new standards for power plants and goals for states to cut carbon pollution. A week ago, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge made the state’s argument against the plan, which could imperil some coal-powered electricity generation in the state.

“States have a critical role in energy policy,” Hutchinson said. “Our attorney general is in that fight.”

Hutchinson, who has endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, said he was disappointed that the first presidential debate didn’t include a single question about energy policy.

“A lot of other important issues were discussed, like beauty queens,” he said. “We should be putting more focus on energy.”

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