Coal-fired power plant injunction upheld

A federal appeals court July 14 upheld a lower court ruling ruling temporarily blocking Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), from construction work on part of the $2.1 billion John Turk coal-fired power plant in Arkansas.

Bloomberg reported that a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis issued the decision. It upheld a U.S. District Court judge’s order blocking work on 8 acres of wetland at the site. Last October the district judge issued a temporary injunction that blocked construction of transmission lines and a water intake structure as well as the discharge of dredge or fill material into wetlands. Construction in other areas of the plant was allowed to continue.

SWEPCO appealed the initial decision, saying that environmental groups that brought the suit did not have the standing. The utility claimed the judge abused his discretion in granting the injunction.

A SWEPCO official was quoted as saying the utility has arranged for Hope Water & Light to provide water when the plant is ready to enter the testing stage. That agreement, however, does not extend to the plant’s actual operation.

The case was sent to a U.S. District judge in Nebraska. If a judge there rules in favor of the opposition groups, the permit process would start over with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. An adverse decision still could be appealed.

Several environmental groups are also challenging an air quality permit issued for the John Turk station by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. A hunting club challenged a permit issued to the plant by the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

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