Rick Addison, attorney for the hunting club, argues his case before the commission.
The Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission voted to finalize the air permit for the John W. Turk coal-fired power plant at their regular meeting today. Richard Mays, attorney for the Sierra Club, said the air quality controls required by the permit did not go nearly far enough for a plant that will emit over five million tons of carbon dioxide per year. He also reminded the commission that approval for the plant's construction permit was overturned by the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
Rick Addison, an attorney for the Hempstead County Hunting Club arguing against approval of the permit, took aim at former commissioner Thomas Schueck. Addison claimed that because Schueck had ties to two contractors with significant financial interests in the construction of the Turk plant, the former commissioner should have never voted on a waiver that allowed construction on the plant to continue. Because of that bias, he said, the commission now lacks the authority to rule on such matters and they "lack the integrity to administer justice" in this case.
In other business, the commission was set to vote on a recommendation to grant a variance to major utility companies (including Entergy Arkansas, SWEPCO and the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Corp.) regarding the State Implementation Plan for Air Pollution Control. The plan would set a deadline for utilities to retrofit boilers at coal-fired plants by October 15, 2013. The utilities want the date pushed back. The Sierra Club petitioned for a public hearing on the matter, which was granted by the commission this morning.
The public hearing on whether to grant the variance will be on February 8, with public comments on the matter set to conclude ten days later. Commissioner Randy Young said the docket for the hearing would be closed by March 12 and the commission would consider the matter at their March 26 meeting.
Lev Guter, associate field organizer with the Sierra Club, said that even though their request had been granted, he still felt the public would not have ample time to respond. In rule-making procedures, a 30-day notice is given for public hearings.
Glen Hooks, regional director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, said the commission "chose to ignore" the conflict of interest allegations. "They seemed to say, we don't need to consider that, and I find that amazing," Hooks said.
"Why should we issue an air permit for a facility that doesn't have a construction permit yet? Given the EPA's objections to the permit granted by ADEQ, the court of appeals decision and the conflict of interest allegations - I don't see how they can ignore those matters but they sure did," Hooks said. "This process is far from over. We've got a lot of appeals yet to go, especially given some of what happened in today's proceedings. I'm still confident we're going to stop this Turk plant it's just a question of what venue and when. The process has been flawed from the beginning and I think the courts are going to see that and rule in our favor."