Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coal plant appeal set for trial March 9, 2009

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Trial date set for coal plant appeal

LITTLE ROCK -- A challenge to Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s air permit for a planned coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County will go to trial March 9, an administrative law judge said Monday.

At a scheduling hearing, Judge Michael O'Malley set aside March 9-20 for a trial to decide whether the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's decision to grant an air permit for the $1.6 billion, 600-megawatt plant should be overturned.

Environmental groups, hunters and landowners have appealed the permit, claiming it was granted without complete analysis of the plant's potential impact on public health. SWEPCO claims there is nothing more to analyze.

Construction of the plant is already under way. The state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission ruled Dec. 5 that SWEPCO can continue with construction while the appeal is pending.

SWEPCO announced last week it would seek a rate hike to cover increased costs, including but not limited to the cost of building the Hempstead County plant.

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