Centerpoint Energy CEO David McClanahan and American Electric Power CEO Mike Morris were at the Clinton School today to talk about energy efficiency. Basically it was exactly what you would expect. It's kind of interesting to watch people who make a living selling energy talk about having to sell less because of that ol' pesky environment.
SWEPCO is part of American Electric Power and, as expected, there was some criticism from opponents of the coal-fired power plant being built - while an appeal is pending - in Hempstead County. Glen Hooks of the Sierra Club was on hand and asked Morris why, if hundreds of coal plants were being turned down by states all across the US, one was being built in Arkansas? Morris answered jokingly - some might say dismissively - that Arkansas was "more visionary" than other states and then trailed off into anecdotes about Russia in the Clinton era and said that if everyone was producing it, it didn't matter if it came from Arkansas or anywhere else in the world.
Hooks said "visionary" was hardly the right word. "I think the real reason is – and this came out during the PSC hearings – that the regulatory environment here was a little more appealing. It’s certainly not 'visionary' to say we’re going to stick with an industrial revolution technology while the rest of the country is looking toward renewable sources of energy. We’re going to turn away from that or we’re going to continue to be 49th or 50th in everything, and maybe even the last state to approve a coal plant."
Read more, including some of McClanahan's comments and a press release from the Sierra Club on the jump.
Both said they were concerned about how federal stimulus dollars aimed at energy conservaton would be spent. McClanahan said he would urge the state of Arkansas to consider giving that money directly to utilities so everyone wasn't "knocking on the same door." He said putting conservation and energy efficiency programs in place would be expensive and a financial incentive for utilities would encourage them to produce a better product.
McClanahan also lauded the natural gas industry and said it would make a great transition fuel to clean coal. He said that while natural gas would make a great fuel for fleet vehicles and commercial trucks, it's probably not likely that we'll see wide use of vehicles run by natural gas. The infrastructure is just too expensive. He did, however, say that electric cars would likely be huge in the United States in the very near future.
SIERRA CLUB TO UTILITY CEO: “WHY SHOULD ARKANSAS BE THE LAST STATE TO APPROVE A COAL PLANT?”
Environmental and Citizen Groups Continue to Oppose Dirty Coal-Fired Power Plant Proposed for Arkansas
Environmentalists and citizens challenged the CEO of American Electric Power today about his company’s plans to construct a coal-fired power plant in southwest Arkansas, alleging that the plant is a risky bet for public health, the environment, and Arkansas ratepayers.
Michael Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, appeared as a speaker at the Clinton School of Public Service. American Electric Power is the parent company of SWEPCO, which is seeking approval to construct the 600 megawatt John W. Turk, Jr. coal-fired power plant near the town of Fulton, Arkansas at a cost of more than two billion dollars.
“Across the country, state after state is rejecting dirty coal,” said Glen Hooks of the Sierra Club. “Nearly 100 proposed plants have been rejected or abandoned in the last few years as states become aware of the real costs to our environment, health, and wallets. As other states embrace cleaner energy sources, will Arkansas be the last state to build a dirty coal-fired power plant?”
Since 2001, 151 new coal-fired power plants have been proposed. To date, 97 of those projects have been canceled across the country, including multiple projects in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. A full list can be seen at http://www.sierraclub.org/environmentallaw/coal/plantlist.asp
SWEPCO is currently seeking approval from the Arkansas Public Service Commission to raise their electric rates by 18 percent for its Arkansas customers, in part to pay for the construction of the Turk power plant.
“Utility CEOs like to talk about coal as a cheap source of power, but that’s increasingly untrue,” said Hooks. “The cost of building the Turk plant has increased by hundred of millions of dollars over the last year, costs that will be borne by the ratepayers. Factor in the damage coal inflicts on our public health and our environment and it’s apparent that dirty coal is a fantastically bad investment in 2009.”
The Turk power plant is set to emit nearly six million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, along with nearly four hundred pounds of poisonous mercury.
American Electric Power has an extremely poor record of environmental stewardship. In 2007, after being sued by the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council for massive violations of the Clean Air Act at sixteen of its plants, AEP paid out the largest environmental civil penalty ever ($4.6 billion). In 2008, AEP/SWEPCO agreed to pay more than $2 million to settle thousands of Clean Air Act violations related to its coal plant in Texas. And just this month, the EPA has issued notice of a $27,000 proposed fine for SWEPCO’s destruction of wetlands at the proposed Turk site in Arkansas.
“The days of dirty coal are numbered, yet AEP is working to sneak the Turk plant in under the wire and pollute Arkansas for another forty to fifty years,” said Hooks. “Our message for AEP is simple: The Natural State is not your dumping ground.”
*American Electric Power is the single largest user of coal in the Western hemisphere.
*American Electric Power is the country’s single largest user of “mountain top removal” coal, which has devastated Appalachia’s environment. See more at http://www.sierraclub.org/coal/mtr/default.aspx
*The proposed Turk plant is located near the ecologically sensitive areas of Grassy Lake and the Caney Creek Wildlife area.
*Approximately 85% of the power generated by the proposed Turk plant will go to out-of-state customers.
*AEP/SWEPCO is asking for an 18% rate increase for its Arkansas customers, in part to help finance the construction of the Turk plant.
*97 proposed coal-fired power plants have been rejected or abandoned in recent years, all across the country. To see a complete list, go to: http://www.sierraclub.org/environmentallaw/coal/plantlist.asp