Silencing critics | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Silencing critics

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 8:15 AM

I continue to be puzzled by the full-throated fury with which the Arkansas Public Service Commission, its staff and the attorney general are resisting intervention requests by groups with environmental and cost objections to the proposed SWEPCO coal-burning power plant in Hempstead County.

Maybe they don't want to be troubled by inconvenient facts? With a few exceptions, this plant has been wired from the start, with everything from tacit to full approval at virtually every level of the utility industrial complex, from elected officials to regulators. SWEPCO doesn't pay all those lobbyists and make all those political contributions for nothing.

But, still, what's the harm in letting opponents have a voice before the commission? Do you think their interests can be adequately served by other parties? Consider what the supposed consumers' friend, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, said in a speech down at Hope a few weeks ago.

He celebrated the success of growth and prosperity in Arkansas and Hempstead County in relation to future developments such as the Turk Power Plant and the tax passed to support Hempstead Hall at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope.

“The Arkansas Attorney General’s office has a responsibility in the area of utility regulation. I am proud to say the Turk  Power Plant is moving forward. I am proud to say we are going to see new jobs, economic development and some of the most impressive environmental protection controls technology anywhere in the world. We are setting an example of we can provide industry and protect our environment all at the same time. I think it is exciting,” McDaniel said.

There are some people with scientific background who beg to differ with the general on this and cost issues. Not to mention states like Texas and Kansas that have closed the door to more coal. Let others speak. Why the resistance to a full record?

UPDATE: A former regulator offers theories on the fight to exclude intervenors:

Four thoughts on the ruckus dusted up by the staff and AG over interveners.

1.  The last group of interveners made them do actual hard work.  Not an
event they care to engage in on a daily basis.

2.  Staff and AG complety ignored the substantial environmental and economic
issues at the last hearing.  They both lamely parroted and protected the
information American Electric Power offered. They do not want those issues
raised again, much less read into a new record.

3.  The staff and the AG do not want to hear a recounting of the facts
relating to the track greasing the former PSC chairman did before she took
her job with an owner of the now under-construction plant.  In fact she even
offered to stay and rule on her employer's case.

4.  The staff and the AG may not want to hear, yet again, about the yet to
be started mercury base line study which will have no relevance after the
plant goes into operation.  Both the AG and the Commission have clear
statutory duties to see that the Commissions order on the long delayed study
is performed in a correct and timely manner.

So much for our staff and the AG protecting the health and economic well
being of their citizen ratepayers.

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