Friday, July 4, 2008

Texas approves coal plant in Arkansas

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Texas Regulators Approve Arkansas Coal Plant

By John Lyon
The Morning News
LITTLE ROCK - The Public Utility Commission of Texas on Thursday approved Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s proposal for a coal-fired power plant in southwest Arkansas.

SWEPCO, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, received approval for the plant from the Arkansas Public Service Commission in November, but the company also had to submit applications to regulators in Texas and Louisiana, where many of its customers live. Louisiana regulators approved the proposal in March.

The Texas commission voted 2-1 Thursday to approve SWEPCO's proposal for a $1.52 billion, 600-megawatt plant in Hempstead County.

"The Texas commission's approval of the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant means Texas customers will continue to benefit from a reliable and affordable supply of electricity in the years ahead," AEP Chairman Michael Morris said in a news release. "Coal is essential to meeting the growing energy needs of our region and our country, and we are putting new technology to work in a facility that will generate electricity more efficiently with less environmental impact."

John W. Turk Jr. served as president and CEO of SWEPCO from 1983-88.

The Texas commission rejected the recommendation of Administrative Law Judge Wendy Harvel, who said in January that SWEPCO had failed to show a need for the plant.

SWEPCO had said it would build the plant with or without approval from Texas regulators, though a denial would have meant that Texas customers' rates could not be raised to help pay for the facility.

Hunting clubs and landowners in Arkansas who oppose the plant, claiming it will harm the local environment, have appealed the Arkansas Public Service Commission's ruling to the state Court of Appeals.

An application by SWEPCO for an air permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is pending.

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