by Max Brantley
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis today gave opponents of the SWEPCO coal-fired power Turk plant in Hempstead County. It's a big victory for environmentalists and, though it pertains to only a portion of the work, is a roadblock to completion of the plant.
The court upheld Judge Bill Wilson's ruling that stopped some fill work in wetlands near the plant. This temporarily halted work on a Little Red River water intake and dredging work. Court and regulatory action continues on many fronts.
Here's the 8th Circuit ruling. The Sierra Club and a hunting club near the plant have been pressing a halt to the plant for its environmental impact. SWEPCO came to Arkansas with the plant after Texas refused to permit it. The Sierra Club today callled the decision a win for public health and water resources. It's a big deal and the Sierra Club says SWEPCO shouldn't have continued construction with the potential for this ruling hanging.
Start reading the court's decision about page 15 for some strong words about the veracity of SWEPCO's case. SWEPCO represented the plant would help Arkansas ratepayers and had received necessary regulatory approval. "Wrong," said the court. The court also found ample evidence to be "dubious" about Corps of Engineers representations about environmental impact. Say it isn't so! The Corps misrepresent environmental impact? That's NEVER happened in Arkansas — except nearly every time the Corps puts its mitts on a project.
More good quotes, courtesy of the winners:
P. 28 “The environmental dangers at stake in this case are serious”
P. 18 “After the Arkansas Court of Appeals invalidated its state Certificate, SWEPCO continued with plant construction, despite Chief Operating Officer McCellon-Allen’s previous statement that it would not proceed without one.”
p. 26 “SWEPCO commenced plant construction a year before the 404 permit was issued, repeatedly ignoring administrative and legal challenges and a warning by the Corps that construction would proceed at its own risk.”
p. 27 “When agencies ‘jump the gun’ or ‘anticipate a pro forma result’ in permitting applications, they become ‘largely responsible for their own harm.”