by Max Brantley
Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society today asked the Arkansas Pollution Control & Ecology Commission to immediately stop the construction of the proposed SWEPCO power plant in southwest Arkansas and deny the permit issued by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. In a petition filed with the PC&E, the groups maintained that a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that the permit issued to SWEPCO violates the Clean Air Act. Accordingly, the groups have asked PC&E to stay the construction of the plant and to deny its permit to do so.
On August 12, 2009, the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued a ruling commonly referred to as the Trimble decision (“In The Matter Of Louisville Gas and Electric Company, Trimble County, Kentucky Title V/PSD Air Quality Permit”, Petition No. IV-2008-3). In Trimble, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson invalidated a permit to construct a Kentucky coal-fired power plant based on the applicant’s failure to properly assess the impacts of, and controls for, particulate matter known as PM 2.5, a small, very dangerous air emission. According to the Trimble decision, this failure violated the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.
The Trimble decision has a direct impact on the construction of the SWEPCO plant in Arkansas. Neither SWEPCO nor the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality undertook a proper analysis of PM 2.5. Accordingly, as in Trimble, the permit approved by ADEQ does not satisfy the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
“SWEPCO is recklessly constructing the Turk coal-fired power plant,” said Glen Hooks, Regional Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “By SWEPCO’s own estimates, it has spent more than $700M in construction costs, and continues construction today in the face of adverse rulings. Instead of putting Arkansas ratepayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, SWEPCO should immediately cease construction.”
“Construction of SWEPCO’s Turk plant must stop now, before it starts spewing pollution that will harm people and wildlife across Arkansas and beyond,” said Ken Smith, Executive Director of Audubon Arkansas. “The Pollution Control & Ecology Commission needs to protect Arkansas by denying this permit outright or at least halting plant construction. There’s no justification for letting this project move forward. The risk here is just as great and the outcome should be same—no permit, no construction, and no threat to the people and wildlife of this state.”