On Thursday, March 28th 2013, CFACT activists testified before the Arkansas Public Service Commission in favor of maintaining operations at the Flint Creek Coal Power Plant in Northwest Arkansas.
This plant provides the base load power support for Northwest Arkansas and needs permission from the state to retrofit its facility to meet newly enacted EPA standards.
See the testimony transcripts below:
Hi, I’m with a group called CFACT. In 2010 we were interested in the attitudes of college students regarding the construction of new coal plants. Before we did our survey, the prevailing opinion was that college students would oppose ANY coal power. At least that’s what a quick search of the school newspaper suggested we’d find.
We surveyed over 1100 people at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville campus over 3 days – the specific question we asked was “Do you support the construction of a new clean coal power plant?”
We were quite surprised when 79% of students said YES. Reasons varied. Some liked the engineering efforts, many liked the economics, and many simply thought having more electricity was a good thing.
It seems to me that this plant runs well now, AND they are going to improve their performance with an additional $400 million investment. This seems like a good deal.
Finally, I apologize if I’m suspicious about the Sierra Club’s motives, but they want us to replace the coal plant with power from a natural gas plant… what?
The Sierra club is opposed to natural gas extraction, particularly fracking – and that’s what makes natural gas affordable.
So the Sierra club wants the plant to switch to a fuel that they are trying to make unaffordable and impossible to recover.
Who’s to say their next stop after this meeting isn’t to Oklahoma to convince a commission like this one to shut down the gas plant that NW Arkansas will rely on – and if that happens, what say will Arkansans have when it is the Oklahoma commission, and not this Arkansas Commission, determining whether NW Arkansas will get power or not?
This feels like a trap – one that could be easily avoided by making improvements to the existing plant.
The Sierra Club has been fighting to shut down Arkansas’s coal-fired power plants. Just last December, though, they compromised with SWEPCO to allow construction of the Turk power plant in Hempstead County — for a heavy price. SWEPCO had to promise never to expand the new plant, to close a plant in Texas, and to pay $12 million in tribute (including attorney fees).
Now Sierra opposes an environmentally sound plan to upgrade the Flint Creek power plant that serves northwest Arkansas. Their tactics are familiar — first, the smears, the demonization, then the public outcry and then the lawsuit. Maybe you can buy them off, keeping their attorneys awash in cash. SWEPCO and the Arkansas Electric Cooperative have already committed to spend $408 million for the upgrades needed to comply with new EPA regulations, so maybe Sierra figures another 5 to 10 percent for their attorneys and their causes is worth the fight.
This shakedown group relies on the ignorance and the goodwill of average people to bolster their public image as the “good guys” who are fighting pollution — but they change their tune as new opportunities arise. Sierra even opposes some wind and solar projects — whenever they sense they can get a payoff.
I’m all for free trade, but I’m also for keeping the lights on and having some say in the process. I’m told that the alternative to the proposed retrofit is to purchase our power from a plant in Oklahoma.
Now I imagine there is a board very much like this one in Oklahoma that will govern this plant, and this board will be made up of good Oklahoma citizens who are appointed by the good Oklahoma politicians who are elected by the good people of Oklahoma.
But I’m from Arkansas! And I have a real interest in keeping the lights on in Arkansas – and if we shut down our only plant in NW Arkansas, we will have no say in the process.
I’m sure the good people of Oklahoma will be thrilled to ramp up their production, create more jobs and make more income by selling power to us here in NW Arkansas. But state based energy policies to attract business aren’t unheard of. Texas spent the 90’s creating an energy infrastructure to provide cheap, high quality power to industry – but also endeavored to make power sharing across state lines difficult – to bolster their attractiveness to neighboring businesses.
I can think of a business or two in NW Arkansas enticing enough that Oklahomans might pull out all the stops to get them to move 100 miles west to Tulsa.
We have a perfectly good plant, a perfectly good retrofit plan – and frankly a perfectly good commission to oversee everything here. Let’s keep it that way.