Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) and the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) on Tuesday asked the Arkansas Supreme Court for a rehearing, after the high court last month overturned a 2007 permit awarded by the PSC to the utility’s 600-MW John W. Turk, Jr. power plant. SWEPCO said that it plans to continue construction of the $1.7 billion project—the nation’s first ultrasupercritical coal plant—to meet its commitments to serve the company’s customers in three states.

SWEPCO’s petition asks the state Supreme Court for a rehearing of a motion to dismiss the case. The overall project, including engineering and related activities, is about a third complete. Construction of the plant is about 22% complete.

The high court on May 13 agreed with the Arkansas Court of Appeals, which last June overturned the APSC’s November 2007 decision to grant a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) to the $1.7 billion project.

The appellate court ruled on the grounds that APSC had “erred by failing to resolve all matters in a single proceeding as required by Arkansas Code Annotated section 23018-502,” a clause related to the state’s Utility Facility Environmental and Economic Protection Act.

A CECPN is legal authorization granted by the state of Arkansas to a regulated utility to construct a power plant or transmission facilities and is only issued after public and formal review by the state and interested stakeholders. The June 24, 2009, ruling favored landowners, including the Hempstead County Hunting Club, Schultz Family Management Co., Po-Boy Land Co., and Yellow Creek Corp.

The state’s Supreme Court concluded that Arkansas regulators did not conduct a proper hearing for the permit and sent the case back to the APSC. But the court also took issue with the APSC’s conclusion that coal-fired generation using ultrasupercritical pulverized coal technology is a reasonable solution to baseload power needs for SWEPCO customers.

"We remain focused on ensuring that Arkansas customers benefit from the portion of the Turk Plant planned to serve their future energy needs,” said Paul Chodak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer, in a statement on Tuesday.

"Reliable and affordable electricity from the Turk Plant and two natural gas-fueled plants in SWEPCO’s new generation construction program are essential to the continued economic growth and vitality of SWEPCO’s three-state service territory.”

SWEPCO, an American Electric Power (AEP) subsidiary, owns 440 MW, or 73%, of the plant’s 600-MW capacity. SWEPCO’s share of the plant cost is an estimated $1.3 billion.

As of March 31, 2010, approximately $959 million had been spent on the Turk project, including $742 million by SWEPCO for its 73% share of the plant, the utility said. As of March 31, SWEPCO and the joint owners had an additional $459 million in contractual commitments for the plant, including $337 million for SWEPCO. “Through new and existing generation, renewable energy and energy efficiency, SWEPCO is committed to meeting the future energy needs of our customers,” Chodak said.

The Turk plant was expected to begin operating in October 2012. Regulators in Arkansas, Texas (July 2008), and Louisiana (March 2008)—states served by SWEPCO—have approved the Turk Plant project. The plant also received the required air permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality in November 2008—though that permit is also under appeal before the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission.

The Turk Plant’s ultrasupercritical advanced coal combustion technology would use less coal and produce fewer emissions, including carbon dioxide, than traditional pulverized coal plants. The plant would use low-sulfur coal and would include state-of-the-art emission control technologies, including a design that allows for the retrofit of carbon dioxide controls. For a special report on the Turk plant’s steam turbine system, see “Designing an Ultrasupercritical Steam Turbine” in the July 2009 issue of POWER.

In related news, AEP said last week it would run 10 small coal-fired power units—nearly 2,000 MW—on “extended start-up” status beginning June 1 because of a sluggish economy, reduced demand, and low natural gas prices.

The company said it plans to make the old units in Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, and West Virginia available during peak summer months, though the units would be available to run in other months with about four days’ notice.

The units include: Picway 5 (100 MW), Muskingum River 4 (215 MW), Clinch River 3 (235 MW), Tanners Creek 1 (145 MW), Tanners Creek 2 (145 MW), Glen Lyn 5 (95 MW), Glen Lyn 6 (240 MW), Philip Sporn 3 (150 MW), Philip Sporn 4 (150 MW), and Philip Sporn 5 (450 MW).