by Max Brantley
Roby Brock at Talk Business has an interview with Paul Chodack, president of SWEPCO, about the company's unprecedented bid to be allowed to keep building a power plant while opponents contest its air permit.
This is some sneaky stuff. SWEPCO knows -- as does any moron -- that if they can get the plant all but built while the matter is still under appeal, it will be impossible to stop it from operating. That's why they did enormous ground prep before any approvals had been issued. That's why they had bulldozers rumbling the minute the permit came up. $63 million in costs from a four-month delay? I'd like to see some documentation on that bodacious assertion.
This is economic bullying, pure and simple. Will the Department of so-called Environmental Quality stand up to these bullying polluters and follow the accepted procedure of preventing work while permits are still being contested? Given that bullying polluters generally control politics in Arkansas, I wouldn't be too sure.
UPDATE: Audubon Arkansas and Sierra Club call on state to do the right thing.
Ken Smith of Audubon and Glen Hooks of the Sierra Club proclaim that “an opportunity exists today for the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission (APC&EC) to exercise environmental caution over development concerning SWEPCO’s request to lift a construction stay on its 600-megawatt coal-fired plant, the John Turk Plant, in
Smith urges the APC&EC to refuse SWEPCO’s request until an adjudicatory hearing is held by the Commission to review the final air permit issued
Hooks said, “We documented in our November 24th appeal of the final air permit several instances in which the ADEQ air permit failed to comply with both federal and state law. It only makes good sense to pause, review, correct or reject the air permit before construction starts in full again.”
“No doubt hundreds of jobs at the plant are held up,” Smith noted, “but when you consider the adverse impact of a coal-fired plant on the health of thousands of Arkansans and the environmental well-being of the Little River Bottoms, the crown jewel of wetlands in southwest
Ilan Levin of the Environmental Integrity Project and attorney for Audubon and Sierra Club said, “We will make a strong case for staying the construction and hope that the Commission will listen.” Levin also noted that the other time that the Commission has lifted a stay for a brand new facility was for the construction of the nerve gas incinerator at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.