SWEPCO Reaches Settlement in Lawsuits Challenging Ultrasupercritical Power Plant

Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) on Monday said it has settled a series of lawsuits and other actions brought forth by an assortment of groups opposing construction of the 600-MW John W. Turk., Jr. power plant—the nation’s first ultrasupercritical pulverized coal power plant.

Negotiated terms mean that litigants will withdraw all their challenges to the plant under construction in Hempstead County, Ark., including the air permit and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the plant. SWEPCO, meanwhile, will commit to not building any new units on the Turk plant site, or proposing any new coal-fired power plants at any location in Arkansas at least within a 30-mile radius of the Turk site.

SWEPCO also pledged not to build transmission lines associated with the Turk Plant across “sensitive” environmental areas and to provide funding to support the Hempstead County Hunting Club’s longstanding efforts to conserve, restore, preserve and enhance the Little River Bottoms, and the Grassy Lake area.

The settlement will also force SWEPCO to affirm it will comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently announced Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. It also calls for SWEPCO to monitor the development of carbon capture and storage technology and install it at the Turk Plant if the technology becomes economically feasible and the costs can be recovered through electric rates.

The American Electric Power subsidiary said it is awaiting a stipulation of dismissal filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Texarkana. Once approved, the settlement will resolve all issues raised by plaintiffs in their challenges to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit for the Turk project, located about 15 miles northeast of Texarkana. “Additional filings will be made to withdraw the air permit appeal and terminate other cases,” SWEPCO said.

Plaintiffs involved in the settlement include the Hempstead County Hunting Club Inc., Dr. Mary O’Boyle, Pat Schultz, the Pat Schultz Family Trust, YCR Limited Partnership, Yancey Reynolds, and Charles Mills.

SWEPCO will continue to challenge the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society/Audubon Arkansas, which are contesting a state-issued air permit before the Arkansas Court of Appeals and the Corps permit in a companion case still pending before the U.S. District Court in Texarkana. SWEPCO will continue to aggressively defend the permits issued for the plant.

Construction of the plant is 70% complete—and on schedule for completion in Oct. 2012. More than 1,800 people are currently working at the site, SWEPCO said.

Sources: POWERnews, SWEPCO

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