Judge William R. Wilson today issued a preliminary injunction on construction work at SWEPCO’s coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County that is related to its Corps of Engineers-issued water permit. It can’t dredge or fill or build an intake structure or work on power lines crossing rivers.

SWEPCO is not happy and has asked for a hearing before the judge, scheduled to begin at 3:15 p.m. UPDATE: It said, however, that with some time to tie up a few loose ends it was prepared to shut down that part of the construction work affected. Other work on the plant will continue.

While the preliminary injunction applies only to wetlands work, Wilson commented about broader issues related to the plant, remarking, “There is no other evidence of need — outside of SWEPCO’s bare assertions — anywhere in the record.” Wilson noted appellate courts reversal of the PSC approval of the plant because of lack of sufficient environmental assessment.

As Judge Josephine L. Hart of the Arkansas Court of Appeals noted in her concurring opinion, “it is improper, unnecessary, short-sighted, and it leaves the public interest unprotected for the Commission to abdicate, to any degree, its responsibility to assess the acceptability of the environmental impact of the plant . . . .”82 Plaintiffs here make the same argument regarding the Corps’ actions. The public has an interest in knowing that its government agencies are fulfilling their obligations and complying with laws that bind them. Just as important as the public interest
in potential economic gains in Hempstead County is the public’s confidence that its government agencies act independently, thoroughly, and transparently when reviewing permit applications.

Finally, it is still debatable whether anyone, other than SWEPCO, contends that the area in question is short on electric generating capacity. While I recognize that the Corps adopted SWEPCO’s position, it relied on a CECPN [certificate of environmental compatibility and public need] that was not valid, and the Corps’ disclaimer that it did not rely on the CECPN to make its decisions is hardly credible since it repeatedly (no less than eleven times) cited the APSC’s finding of consumer need in its Decision Document.

See Sierra Club and SWEPCO comments on the jump: