Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment (ADEE)

Established in 2019 as part of the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 (Act 910), the new umbrella agency called the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment (ADEE) absorbed the former Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), which became a division, and the Arkansas Geological Survey.

The Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is Arkansas’s regulatory body in the area of environmental protection. It is headquartered in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the state government’s first “green” building. ADEQ operates seventeen field offices throughout the state.

ADEQ’s first incarnation was the Arkansas Water Pollution Control Commission, created by Act 472 of 1949. Originally operating under the auspices of the Arkansas Department of Health, the commission was given the power to “administer and enforce all laws relating to the pollution of any waters in the State,” investigate pollution, establish pollution standards, and “prepare a comprehensive program for the elimination or reduction of pollution” in state waters. However, the commission comprised three gubernatorial appointees “representing industry, municipalities, and agriculture and livestock interests”—who often had little motivation to regulate pollution—as well as a member each from the State Board of Health, Game and Fish Commission, Oil and Gas Commission, and Resources and Development Commission.

Act 183 of 1965 changed the commission’s name to the Arkansas Pollution Control Commission and gave it the power to regulate air pollution; the act also made the commission a separate agency and expanded it from seven to eight members. It explicitly forbade, however, the commission from enforcing laws regarding agricultural operations, land clearing operations, road construction, and a few other such activities.

In 1971, the Department of Pollution Control and Ecology was established. During the 1970s, the department was given the responsibilities of regulating coal mining and hazardous waste disposal, and, in 1989, it was also made responsible for regulating underground petroleum tanks. In 1999, the department’s name was changed yet again, this time to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. In 2007, ADEQ moved into its new headquarters in North Little Rock. The Arkansas Energy Office was moved under the ADEQ in 2017. In 2019, it became the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality under the ADEE.

ADEQ has faced criticism over the years for not doing enough to protect the state’s environment, as in 2008 when it issued an air permit for a proposed coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County and later when it allowed a hog farm to operate in the Buffalo River watershed from 2013 to 2018.

ADEQ maintains six regulatory divisions covering air, hazardous waste, mining, regulated storage tanks, solid waste, and water. In addition, its emergency response staff coordinates with other government agencies and the private sector to address environmental emergencies, such as the release of toxic chemicals. The agency’s website offers numerous searchable databases as well as state environmental regulations and contact information for the filing of complaints.

Under ADEQ in the organizational structure established by Act 910 are the Committee on Petroleum Storage Tanks, the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel, and the Arkansas Marketing Board for Recyclables.

Other boards and agencies governed by the new ADEE include the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, the Oil and Gas Commission and Board, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board, and the Arkansas Geological Survey.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Architectural Review section. July 31, 2008, p. 4H.

Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality. http://www.adeq.state.ar.us/ (accessed November 18, 2019).

Lyon, John. “ADEQ Approves Air Permit for New Coal-Fired Power Plant.” The Morning News, November 5, 2008.

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Last Updated: 11/18/2019

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