Swepco Ratepayers Could Be on Hook for Cost of Turk Plant

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Aug. 10, 2009 12:00 am  

PSC Chairman Paul Suskie: "If the Court of Appeals' ruling stands, I don't see how a plant can get built anywhere in the state of Arkansas, period."

The PSC approved the Turk plant in November 2007, and then finally gave the nod to the plant's transmission lines in January.

The division of hearings can also be convenient for out-of-state businesses. Because a plant, depending on the size, can often take longer to build than the laying of transmission lines, the time needed to bring an operation online is shorter if a business can start earlier on the plant.

 

A Question of Need

Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on the question of whether two PSC proceedings complies with the law - if, that is, the high court chooses to hear the case when it reconvenes after Labor Day - the plaintiffs still allege there is no need for the Turk plant. And proving need is one of the first hoops through which a utility provider must jump before getting a CECPN.

Charles Nestrud of Chisenhall Nestrud & Julian PA of Little Rock, which represents the groups challenging the project, pointed to Swepco's market in Texas.

Because transmission lines for the Turk plant cross state lines, Swepco also had to present its case before public service commissions in Texas and Louisiana.

"Swepco's need has deteriorated. In the Texas proceeding, they couldn't project that they needed this power plant because the need had evaporated," Nestrud said. "If you look at their latest [annual report], their wholesale sales are down, their retail sales are down."

Paul Chodak, president and chief operating officer of Swepco, disputed the notion that the need for the Turk plant had disappeared.

"Now, have we seen an economic downturn? Sure, we've seen an economic downturn. But we're building this plant to last the next 40 years, really the next 60 years," Chodak said. "So what the economy does in a two-year time frame is not the basis by which you build a plant."

Nestrud also contended that a natural gas plant makes more fiscal and environmental sense than a coal plant.

"We believe that now with the cost of this plant having escalated the way it has, with the gas prices having decreased below anybody's projections, and with the cost of carbon-capture for coal plants, this plant could never survive in a cost comparison of alternatives," Nestrud said.

 

 

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