Good news from the federal court.

Judge Kristine Baker today approved a settlement of the Sierra Club’s lawsuit against Entergy Arkansas that will guarantee the retirement of the coal-burning White Bluff and Independence power plants.

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More to come, but the Sierra Club notes that this follows Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s unsuccessful to block the settlement. She was working in the interest — neither clean air nor the Arkansans whose air is fouled by soot — of a Wyoming coal producer that sold coal to the plants.

Here’s the settlement.

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Here’s the news release:

Today, Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association’s settlement with Entergy Arkansas to close two massive coal plants and a gas plant and build solar power was finalized by a judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. The agreement to close the Independence and White Bluff coal plants and Lake Catherine gas plant by 2030 concludes years of litigation over air emissions between the utility and the environmental groups, although it was delayed when Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge attempted to intervene in the legal proceeding in December 2018. With today’s action by the federal court, closure of the two coal plants can proceed with certainty, which will save Arkansas electric ratepayers $2 billion through the avoided investment of commonly-used pollution controls that would have been required to continue operating the plants

The original settlement resolves several claims by environmental groups alleging Entergy illegally modified the White Bluff and Independence coal plants without permits and increased emissions, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The settlement also resolves multiple challenges by Entergy and the environmental groups to federal and state Clean Air Act regulations intended to improve the air in national parks, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges across Arkansas and throughout the region.

These plants rank sixth (White Bluff) and twelfth (Independence) in harmful sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions out of the hundreds of power plants across the United States. The coal plants have also been linked to increased levels of ozone smog, harming communities in St. Louis and Memphis. This settlement turbocharges renewable energy growth in Arkansas, as Entergy agreed to bring 800MW of affordable renewable energy to the Arkansas Public Service Commission for approval no later than 2027, a process that is already underway.

Settlement documents can be found here and here.

Statement by Glen Hooks, Sierra Club’s Arkansas Chapter Director:

“The settlement finalized today shows that our agreement to close massive polluting power plants is a win, win, win for Arkansans. The agreement will save utility customers up to $2 billion, reduce and eventually eliminate air pollution from two of the dirtiest coal plants in the country, and boost our economy with new renewable energy investments.

“The Independence and White Bluff coal plants are two of the largest unscrubbed coal plants in the nation. Their closures will combine to prevent 192 deaths, 111 heart attacks, and 1,249 asthma attacks each year. I encourage Entergy Arkansas’ CEO, Laura Landreaux, to accelerate the closure of these plants because it will save lives. Replacing electric capacity with renewable energy and energy efficiency is the cleanest, safest and most affordable way for Entergy Arkansas to power its customers.”

Statement by Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air & Climate Programs Director & Counsel for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“Today’s decision is a win for clean air and our environment. For too long, Arkansas’ White Bluff and Independence coal plants have spewed pollution into surrounding communities and public lands like the Buffalo National River and Caney Creek Wilderness, while contributing to climate change. Our settlement agreement will help right those wrongs, preventing huge amounts of pollution from dirtying the air we breathe and increasing renewable energy resources to support local economies. As climate change is the number one threat facing our communities and national parks, now is the time to transition to clean energy in a just and equitable manner to combat the climate crisis and provide a safer future for people and our parks.”

Attorneys George Hays and Naomi Melver represented Sierra Club and Earthjustice represented NPCA in these cases.

 

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Entergy also issued a statement:

This final ruling is an affirmation of our plans for the future. It allows us to move forward with implementing measures to comply with the Arkansas State Implementation Plan that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved in 2018,” said Kurt Castleberry, director, resource planning and market operations for Entergy Arkansas, LLC.

The SIP was created to replace older, less-efficient generating plants with newer, more efficient generation resources. Entergy Arkansas’ priority is to do that in a way that is economically beneficial to the company’s stakeholders, while continuing to provide safe, clean and reliable electricity.

The approved settlement agreement is consistent with Entergy Arkansas’ plan to cease using coal to generate electricity at its White Bluff power plant by the end of 2028 and Independence power plant by the end of 2030. Additionally, the agreement allows for the legacy Lake Catherine 4 natural gas generator to retire by the end of 2027.

Entergy Arkansas’ plan is a key step in Entergy Corporation’s ongoing strategy to transform the company’s generation portfolio to better meet customers’ needs today and in the future with cleaner, highly efficient resources of electricity. Options for renewable energy under the agreement may include solar, geothermal, run-of-the-river hydroelectric and wind power, including both commercial- and residential-scale projects (e.g., rooftop solar) and energy storage technologies.

Entergy operates one of the cleanest large-scale generating fleets in the country, and we recently announced we are taking another significant step toward a lower carbon future with a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.