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SWEPCO starts operation of SW Ark. coal plant

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm •  Published: December 20, 2012

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Southwestern Electric Power Co. on Thursday began generating power at its $1.8 billion coal-fired plant in southwest Arkansas, a facility that spurred lawsuits from environmental groups until the sides settled after the company agreed to make concessions.

The plant has undergone weeks of testing, though SWEPCO gave no advance notice that the facility would start supplying electricity to the regional grid.

"You don't do anything big. There's nothing to see," SWEPCO spokesman Scott McCloud said. "It's been burning coal for a month."

The plant joined the grid shortly after noon Thursday when a manager sent an email to Southwest Power Pool Inc., which manages the flow of electricity for the regional grid.

SWEPCO is planning a ceremony and open house at the 600-megawatt John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant in April, McCloud said.

Owners of a local hunting club along with the Sierra Club and Audubon Society sued to block completion of the plant. They also filed challenges with state regulators, but the sides came to an agreement late last year and construction went forward without further litigation.

Construction began in 2008 at the plant, which will supply enough electricity to light 450,000 homes.

Lev Gutter, spokesman for the Sierra Club, said Thursday the group was disappointed the plant was able to open, but added that the fight was worth it because of the concessions to which SWEPCO agreed.

"Through our long battle we put an enormous amount of pressure against the coal industry. And through our alternative settlement on the Turk plant with SWEPCO, we got considerable concessions that will protect the public health and environment for all Arkansans," Gutter said.

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