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SWEPCO settles Turk plant suit | Environment

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SWEPCO settles Turk plant suit
Environment, News
SWEPCO settles Turk plant suit

Deal retires Texas plant, funds land conservation

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), Audubon and Sierra Club today announced a legal settlement bringing to an end a four-year public battle over the construction of the Turk coal-fired power plant in Southwest Arkansas.

The settlement, focused on offsetting the new Turk plant's total emissions, requires SWEPCO to install 400 megawatts of clean energy, and further accelerates the region’s transition away from coal. Sierra Club and Audubon will continue to work with AEP in seeking other emissions reductions within the AEP system companies.

“While we’d prefer that the Turk plant not be built, today’s settlement brings some very good news for Arkansas, which would not have been possible without years of citizen opposition to dirty coal plants,” said Glen Hooks, with Sierra Club. “By retiring the aging and polluting coal plant in Northeast Texas, we will significantly reduce air pollution coming into Arkansas. Protecting Arkansans from coal pollution is our top priority.”

“We have long believed that the Turk Plant is the right generation solution for our customers in three states, our electric system and the economy in Southwest Arkansas,” said Nicholas K. Akins, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />AEP president and chief executive officer. “The provisions of the agreement are consistent with our commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency and overall environmental stewardship. Now that all of the legal challenges are resolved, we can focus on completing the advanced ultra-supercritical coal technology of our Turk Plant to provide reliable and affordable power for SWEPCO, the Arkansas electric cooperatives and our other partners in the project.”

The agreement prohibits the siting of energy transmission lines in sensitive natural areas, including the Nacatoches Ravines Natural Area and the Little River and Bois d'Arc Wildlife Management Areas, adjacent to the Grassy Lake Audubon Important Bird Area.  SWEPCO will also be required to provide $8 million for the conservation of priority landscapes, replacing many times over the amount of habitat affected by the Turk plant. The Nature Conservancy will be the recipient of these funds.

SWEPCO will be required to reduce its use of the Welsh 2 unit in Texas as soon as Turk starts operations, and then retire the coal unit as soon as feasible, with a firm deadline of 2016.  Because Welsh 2 lacks pollution controls, taking this plant offline will offset Turk’s emissions of soot, smog, particulates, and toxics several times over. In addition, tightened monitoring of Turk's operations will help protect Arkansas residents from other environmental impacts, including coal waste and effluent. SWEPCO has also agreed not to develop additional coal units at the Turk site or near it, which will protect Arkansans from the threat of additional pollution.

 “Safe, clean energy promotes health, prosperity, and freedom from dirty, dangerous coal. With the settlement’s new major clean energy project, Arkansas is joining other states already shifting to clean, healthy, and safe renewable energy,” said Lev Guter with Sierra Club. “We hope that AEP and SWEPCO will prioritize a just transition for all workers during this process.”

Per the settlement, SWEPCO agrees to the following major concessions: 

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.

 

(From a Sierra Club press release)

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