The Sierra Club and Audubon Arkansas have announced a settlement with SWEPCO, the utility building the Turk coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County.
This ends legal challenges to the plant and will be reflected in a consent decree to be filed in federal court later today in Texarkana. Nicholas Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, SWEPCO’s parent, said in a release: “The provisions of the agreement are consistent with our commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency and overall environmental stewardship.”
It also eliminates the possibility that Arkansas appellate courts, in the past unfriendly to SWEPCO legal arguments, might block the plant despite the huge sum of money already invested.
SWEPCO, the organizations say, has agreed to retire a coal plant in Texas in return for an end to pending challenges to permits for the Turk plant, plus pay $10 million for environmental and clean energy causes and another $2 million for attorney fees. It promises not to build a second unit at the Turk plant. Here’s the SWEPCO release, too. The key details, according to Sierra/Audubon news release.:
1. The permanent retirement of the 558 megawatt Welsh (Unit 2) boiler in Pittsburg, TX, as early as 2014 but no later than 2016. Welsh Unit 2 will also reduce its capacity factor to no more than sixty percent (reducing output and emissions about one fifth from recent levels) when Turk plant begins commercial operation.
2. SWEPCO will purchase 400 megawatts of new wind or solar energy resources for its service territory (AR, OK, TX, and LA), with power purchase agreements for at least 20 years.
3. SWEPCO must provide $8 million to The Nature Conservancy for conservation and restoration purposes in Arkansas.
4. SWEPCO must provide $2 million to the Arkansas Community Foundation, to be used to support clean-energy and energy-efficiency policy efforts in AR/OK/TX/LA.
5. SWEPCO agrees to not build additional units at the Turk site, nor build any coal-fired units within 30 miles of Turk.
6. SWEPCO agrees not to site any future Turk transmission lines in the Nacatoches Ravines Natural Area, the Little River and Bois d’Arc Wildlife Management Area, or in a number of other natural areas.
7. SWEPCO agrees to stricter and more frequent testing and monitoring requirements for the Turk plant’s air emissions, wastewater discharges, and landfill.
Air and water permits have remained at issue in courts and regulatory agencies, though SWEPCO had earlier settled a challenge by a hunting club over alleged degradation of the environment to their nearby property. The plant is substantially complete and more than $1 billion has been spent.
The news release from Sierra/Audubon, followed by a list of key settlement agreements from the SWEPCO news release: