The Audubon Society, Sierra Club and Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) say they have struck a deal that will allow the controversial Turk power plant to go forward.
A number of environmental caveats were accepted as part of the legal settlement, including a phase-out of Welsh 2, a coal plant in northeastern Texas.
The settlement brings to an end a four-year high-profile public battle over the construction of the Turk coal-fired power plant near Hope, Ark. The 600-megawatt plant is more than 80% complete and scheduled to begin commercial operation in late 2012.
“While we’d prefer that the Turk plant not be built, today’s settlement brings some very good news for Arkansas, which would not have been possible without years of citizen opposition to dirty coal plants,” said Glen Hooks, with Sierra Club. “By retiring the aging and polluting coal plant in Northeast Texas, we will significantly reduce air pollution coming into Arkansas. Protecting Arkansans from coal pollution is our top priority.”
“We have long believed that the Turk Plant is the right generation solution for our customers in three states, our electric system and the economy in Southwest Arkansas,” said Nicholas K. Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, the parent company of SWEPCO.
“The provisions of the agreement are consistent with our commitment to renewable energy, energy efficiency and overall environmental stewardship. Now that all of the legal challenges are resolved, we can focus on completing the advanced ultra-supercritical coal technology of our Turk Plant to provide reliable and affordable power for SWEPCO, the Arkansas electric cooperatives and our other partners in the project,” Akins added.
According to press releases provided by SWEPCO and The Sierra Club, SWEPCO agreed to the following:
• The permanent retirement of the 558 megawatt Welsh (Unit 2) boiler in Pittsburg, Texas, as early as 2014 but no later than 2016. Welsh Unit 2 will also reduce its capacity factor to no more than 60% (reducing output and emissions about one fifth from recent levels) when Turk plant begins commercial operation.
• SWEPCO will purchase 400 megawatts of new wind or solar energy resources for its service territory (Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana), with power purchase agreements for at least 20 years.
• SWEPCO must provide $8 million to The Nature Conservancy for conservation and restoration purposes in Arkansas.
• SWEPCO must provide $2 million to the Arkansas Community Foundation, to be used to support clean-energy and energy-efficiency policy efforts in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
• SWEPCO agrees to not build additional units at the Turk site, nor build any coal-fired units within 30 miles of Turk.
• SWEPCO agrees not to site any future Turk transmission lines in the Nacatoches Ravines Natural Area, the Little River and Bois d’Arc Wildlife Management Area, or in a number of other natural areas.
• SWEPCO agrees to stricter and more frequent testing and monitoring requirements for the Turk plant’s air emissions, wastewater discharges, and landfill.