Gov. Mary Fallin and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson both say energy policy needs to be included in the national political debate, but they disagree on a transmission line project that would move wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to western Tennessee.
Fallin currently chairs the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, and Hutchinson takes over that role next year. Both spoke Monday at the group's annual conference in Little Rock.
Fallin says she supports the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project designed to move up to 4,000 megawatts of wind energy.
“It helps with our air emissions, as we all know, especially when it relates to the Clean Power Plan,” Fallin said. “It helps us diversify our energy mix, which is always a top goal for Oklahoma. Because when you're very dependent on oil and gas, and you have an energy downturn with low oil prices and low gas prices, it can really affect your state revenues."
Arkansas' congressional delegation is against the project because its members say Arkansans will not receive much power or benefit from the transmission line. Hutchinson says the project is a federal regulatory issue and declined to take a position.
“It can be an asset to [Arkansas] too in helping to bring alternative, renewable energy into both of our states and our economy, and certainly across the nation,” Fallin said.
Fallin also said she wants to hear more about energy policy during the next two presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“I was disappointed last week when we had our first presidential debate that we didn’t focus more on substantial, serious issues such as national security and energy production and the jobs and revenue they can create for our nation,” Fallin said.
The governor said she supports Trump individually, but not on behalf of the IOGCC.
Reporters also asked Fallin about seismic activity, since September’s 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Pawnee was also felt in parts of Arkansas. Fallin said her Governor’s Seismicity Council can be a model for other states to follow.
“We bring the U.S. Geological Survey, we bring our researchers at our major universities together, along with leading geologists, energy companies, and even environmental entities to talk, to share information, to bring new technology online,” Fallin said.
Fallin also praised the IOGCC as a group where energy states can discuss best practices regarding how to respond to earthquakes. Oklahoma has seen an unprecedented uptick in earthquakes since 2009, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have linked the earthquake surge to wastewater disposal that’s part of the oil and gas production process. Fallin said the state has seen a reduction in the frequency of earthquakes since the Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued tighter regulations about the pressure and depth of disposal wells in seismically active areas.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that we make decisions based upon factual, scientific information, not, once again, emotions,” Fallin said. “Because the energy sector is very important to our economy. And our state is suffering from a loss of energy jobs, and a loss of energy revenue when it comes to our state budget. So we have to have that fine balance between protecting home ownership, protecting buildings and infrastructure, but yet also being able to create jobs and opportunity.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.