SWEPCO reacted today to the Arkansas Court of Appeals' reversal of a permit for construction of the coal-fired Turk Plant in Hempstead County.
At a 2 p.m. news conference, the company said it would appeal the decision, not a surprise given the investment to date. They also said they would continue construction in the meanwhile. They are betting no court in Arkansas will eventually have the brass to tell SWEPCO, "too bad about that investment, but you never justified it."
SWEPCO president and COO Paul Chodak said the Arkansas Court of Appeals got it wrong. He repeated what SWEPCO has been saying since the decision came down, namely that the court's decision was based on technical, legal process and not on the need for/merits of the plant. One theme to look for as this process moves forward: those who oppose this plant are not like us. Chodak referred to the Sierra Club and Audubon Arkansas as elite groups who wanted to "clog up the system." He also took a couple of shots across the bow of the hunting clubs who have fought against the plant saying that most members of those clubs were not even from Arkansas.
Chodak also stressed all of the time and effort that has gone into the plant as of now. He said there were currently over 700 people employed to build the plant and 90 percent of the construction materials had been purchased. SWEPCO took the risk of continuing construction while the appeal was being heard. Now they're gambling even further that the Arkansas Supreme Corut will overturn this (unanimous) decision. At some point they'll have to decide how much time and money they want to throw at this plant, but for the moment, they seem completely content to do so.
A picture of the Turk Plant as of May 21, 2009
SWEPCO has been playing high-stakes gambling from the beginning by spending big money before the hearings process was complete. Critics of the plant also contend full environmental studies haven't been performed. Maybe there's time for that now.