Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fourth District Rep. Mike Ross rolls over for SWEPCO power plant, needs to join GOP now

The Associated Press story below suggests that Mike Ross of Prescott, who represents Arkansas' Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House and who previously has run as a Democrat, is about ready to pull a Tommy Robinson and join the GOP!
That trick didn't keep Robinson in Congress and it won't work for Ross. But it may be his only option. His support for a coal-fired power plant in south Arkansas flies in the face of thousands of his former supporters.

Ross Visits Power Plant, Reaffirms Support
FULTON -- Fourth District Rep. Mike Ross has gotten his first look at the $1.5 billion coal-fired power plant that is being built in Hempstead County by Southwestern Electric Power.
The Prescott Democrat, whose congressional district includes the construction site, supports the project that landowners, hunters and environmentalists oppose because of concerns that plant emissions will degrade the air quality and harm wildlife. Coal-fired power plants also are a main source of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
During a Monday tour, Ross downplayed the environmental concerns. He said that because of new technology, Arkansans can be assured that the environment will be protected.
"I'm an environmentalist," Ross said. "The way coal power plants operated then is different than the way they do now. Using new technologies, we'll continue to find ways to continue to clean coal up. We can get electricity we need with the plant here and still be good stewards of the environment."
Ross reaffirmed his support for the project and said the power station was already providing an economic boost to the area.
The Arkansas Public Service Commission has approved the project but Swepco faces a March 9 administrative trial over a challenge to an air permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
Ross predicted an electricity shortage in the decades ahead, and said the plant would be a necessary source of power.
"An electricity crisis will hit in 20 or 30 years. The electric crisis will hit harder than the gas crunch we've already been through. We have to become less dependent on oil and use what's here. Coal is the most abundant fuel to use for an energy source -- we've got to do it all," he said.
Accompanying Ross were officials from Swepco and parent-company Arkansas Electric Power, as well as people affiliated with the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope and the Shaw Group, which is building the John W. Turk Jr. plant. Jennifer Methvin, vice chancellor of the community college, said the school was training students to work at the site.
"There have been 100 students enrolling at UACCH so far to learn these jobs. We want to help the economy and we're thrilled and flattered at AEP's confidence in us to create the curriculum for the program," Methvin said.
Officials said about half of the 500 people working construction at the site are from the area. A warehouse is under construction, and steel for the power plant is to be erected in May. Swepco has been granted permission to build even though appeals of its permits are pending.

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