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story.lead_photo.caption Photo provided by Southwestern Electric Power Co. of its coal-fired power plant under construction in Hempstead County. - Photo by Southwestern Electric Power Co. / Southwestern Electric Power Co.

— Southwestern Electric Power Company said Thursday that it has settled legal challenges to its construction of a power plant near Texarkana.

The Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society and Audubon Arkansas had filed suit over the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant, a 600-megawatt coal-powered plant in Hempstead County.

Under the terms of the settlement, the legal challenges from those entities will be withdrawn and an injunction temporarily halting work on the facility will be lifted. In exchange, the utility will shut down another plant, pay millions to the environmental agencies and abide by a number of other restrictions once the new plant goes online.

SWEPCO said the settlement agreement includes the following provisions:

  • The 528-megawatt Welsh Unit 2 plant near Pittsburg, Texas will only be allowed to operate at 60 percent of its annual capacity once the Turk plant opens and it must be shut down completely by 2016.
  • Additional generating units will not be built at the Turk site
  • No new coal-fueled generating units can be added within 30 miles of the Turk plant.
  • The Turk plant will only burn coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming or coal with similar properties.
  • SWEPCO also must construct or secure 400 megawatts of new renewable energy meeting environmental guidelines set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, per the settlement.
  • New transmission lines from the Turk Plant won't cross Nacatoches Ravines Natural Area, the Little River Bois D'Arc Management area, property owned by The Nature Conservancy or the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission within Hempstead County and property owned by the Hempstead County Hunting Club.
  • SWEPCO will test particulate matter emissions and wastewater discharge and perform additional groundwater monitoring.
  • SWEPCO will pay $8 million to The Nature Conservancy for land conservation, $2 million to the Arkansas Community Foundation for clean energy measures and $2 million to Sierra and Audubon for attorney fees.

Nicholas K. Akins, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power, which owns SWEPCO, applauded the settlement agreement.

"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," he said in a statement. "The provisions of the agreement are consistent with our commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency and overall environmental stewardship."

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • TomBear
    December 22, 2011 at 10:38 a.m.

    That deal kinda sounds like legalized extortion to me.

  • Oldearkie
    December 22, 2011 at 10:56 a.m.

    This is not only extortion, but the people, me and you , are the ones who will actually be paying the various agencies the bribes.

  • JIMBOB47
    December 22, 2011 at 11:03 a.m.

    Why even bother completing a multi-million $$$ operation if you have to run at 60% capacity and then have to SHUT DOWN by 2016? I guess these environmentalists expect their computers will be powered by 'MAGIC''? I see nothing wrong will using what we have and working on futuristic changes, BUT shutting down our power grid certainly won't help matters. Just wait until these people see the skyrocketing costs of electricity - remember when gasoline was 25 cents a gallon - then they will bitch about the high costs - Obummer promised us much higher prices - here they come!

  • LevitiCuss
    December 22, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.

    Customers in THREE states? That's a lie right there. All the power from this plant will go to TX and LA- you know, those states that wouldn't let them build a coal-fired plant THERE.

  • LevitiCuss
    December 22, 2011 at 11:15 a.m.

    And it's not extortion when they broke the law to begin with, which they did. Now they're just paying us to look the other way while they foul our air. It's called "hush money". Wonder how many Arkansans will be among those 384,000 people who die every year from pulmonary disease caused by burning fossil fuels?

  • cadronboy03120856
    December 22, 2011 at 11:22 a.m.

    Environmental mitigation is nearly always nothing but extortion (and this is coming from a biologist who has devoted a large portion of his life to environmental issues -- "SWEPCO will pay $8 million to The Nature Conservancy for land conservation, $2 million to the Arkansas Community Foundation for clean energy measures and $2 million to Sierra and Audubon for attorney fees" -- As soon as everyone gets a little piece of the pie these projects always get approved and are built. Remember the snail darter controversy back in the 1970s that delayed of the construction of the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River and resulted in millions of dollars of overruns -- well eventually the dam gets built, the snail darter takes a hit, and the end-users and taxpayers end up footing the bill -- albeit the lawyers and environmentalists walk away with thousands and thousands of dollars to pocket. Only when a company refuses to be strong-armed to pay off the lawyers and environmentalists do the actual projects get terminated.

    Keystone pipeline? As soon as Obama's cronies, the "chicago mafia" and his supporters can position themselves to profit on the project through contracts, extortion, under the table dealings -- Obama will sign off on the project -- but right now Obama and his cronies are mostly "out of the loop" -- once they move into position to make a few millions, well just watch...

  • cadronboy03120856
    December 22, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.

    "Wonder how many Arkansans will be among those 384,000 people who die every year from pulmonary disease caused by burning fossil fuels?"

    Or from smoking tobacco or marijuana? Of from eating processed foods laden with chemicals? Or driving too fast? Or holding an electromagnetic transmitter (phone) up against their head? I assure you far more people in Arkansas will die from lifestyle and consensual acts than from the Turk's plant emissions. Use your noggin!

    December 22, 2011 at 11:59 a.m.

    This plant is really quite insignificant. Every week several new coal burners go on stream just in China and India. This has been going on for many years and will continue far into the future.
    The problem is too many people. Our last chance to save our civilization was about 50 years ago. We have been in free-fall ever since.

  • cadronboy03120856
    December 22, 2011 at 12:17 p.m.

    Excellent point! All that high sulphur coal being mined in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, etc. may not find much use here in America but it is being shipped to China and India elsewhere in vast quantities where it is being burned with little consideration given to reducing emissions -- one might even argue that it would be better for the global environment if we burned the coal here where we are better able to reduce the emissions. Yet even as we export millions of tons a coal overseas each year and have the world's largest deposits of low sulphur coal the US is getting to the point that we actually import more coal than we export. Why? Because environmental restrictions regarding roads, power transmission lines, etc. has effectively put most of our low sulphur coal off limits -- these vast deposits lie mostly untouched in places like Grand Stair Case Escalante that are protected by law. Thus we even import our low sulphur coal from overseas. Obvious this makes no environmental sense from a global perspective nor from an econmical perspective.

    But then again this is a country where it's illegal to secure oil/gas in the desolate artic circle that is principally devoid of inhabitants yet it is ok to drill and frack in my backyard and place our aquifers, homesteadsd and family -- even entire communities -- at risk. Go figure!

  • StrayGoose
    December 22, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.

    The Audubon Society and Sierra Club have cost American society as whole countless dollars through litigation and regulatory actions, and each of us is paying for their environmental whacko actions. It's time to defund the EPA!