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May 19, 2010

Coal Plant Permit Revoked by Arkansas Supreme Court

Glen-Hooks-Little-Rock

Arkansans for clean air and clean energy cheered on May 13 when the Arkansas Supreme Court voided the permit for a $1.7 billion coal-fired power plant under construction in southwest Arkansas. The ruling caps a 3-year campaign led by the Sierra Club, Audubon Arkansas, and the Hempstead County Hunting Club.

"In between all the permit battles, thousands of activists supplied comments, attended rallies, wrote letters, protested publicly, and made their voices heard against dirty coal," says Glen Hooks of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. That's Hooks at the podium in Little Rock, above.

Little-Rock-rally

The Arkansas high court unanimously reversed a regulatory decision by the state Public Service Commission to grant a permit for the Southwestern Electric Power Company's (SWEPCO) John R. Turk Plant in Hempstead County.

"We've fought SWEPCO at every turn," says Hooks, "before the Public Service Commission, the Pollution Control & Ecology Commission, the Department of Environmental Quality, in circuit court, the Court of Appeals, the Arkansas Supreme Court, and we have a case pending right now in federal district court."

Below, activists at an Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality hearing on the Turk plant in Hope, Ark.

DEQ-hearing-in-Hope

The May 13 decision, which upheld a similar ruling by the state appeals court last year, found that regulators did not conduct a proper permit hearing. Justices found that a clear need for additional power had not been determined, and they raised concerns about the proposed plant's environmental impact.

"The technology for the Turk plant is untested, the cost of the plant is considerably higher from original 2005 estimates, and an unknown customer need was determined in a non-public arena," wrote Justice Robert L. Brown. "Analysis of alternative sites has been given short shrift, and the preference given to coal over natural gas seems arbitrary in light of cost and the higher toxic emissions associated with coal."

The case will now be sent back to the Public Service Commission.

"The thing I'm most proud of is the fact that our activists never, ever gave up the fight," says Hooks, below with his two sons. "It's been a long campaign, but the result is cleaner air for my home state."

The-Hooks-boys

Hooks gives a special shout-out to James Burke, a Green Corps staffer who spent a year on the Turk campaign, and Little Rock-based Sierra Club organizer Lev Guter. "This was a great day for public health and the environment in Arkansas," Guter says.

Learn more about what the Arkansas Sierra Club is doing to move beyond coal.

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