Beebe opposes SWEPCO bill UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Beebe opposes SWEPCO bill UPDATE

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Significant news on House Bill 1895, the legislation by the American Electric Power Company and the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation to put a screeching halt to court review of the regulatory decisions that allowed construction to begin on the Turk coal-fired power plant in Hempstead County.

In response to my request for Gov. Mike Beebe's position on this legislation, spokesman Matt DeCample responded that the governor had been told before the session that there would be an attempt to "legislatively address" some concerns the Public Service Commission brought up about the "dual docket" under which the plant was considered.

Separate hearings were held on the need of SWEPCO (an American Electric Power subsididary) for the additional generating capacity and on the construction itself. The Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court subsequently ruled that environmental concerns hadn't been adequately considered and said that the need and construction hearings should have been held in one proceeding.

DeCample said the PSC chairman indicated the court ruling was a shift in direction and the PSC wanted to address that with legislation aimed at the "long-term." The governor, according to DeCample, said "he would not object."

Ultimately, the PSC itself didn't propose a bill, but the power companies drew one up (apparently with some PSC input, however). And, said DeCample:

"The bill as filed we have problems with. The governor would not support anything that changes the options for judicial review [the pending legislation prohibits judicial review of PSC decisions] and he would not support anything that retroactively impacts the case currently in the courts."

So. This changes the playing field. Beebe has talked to sponsors. He's willing to consider the legislation for future proceedings. For now ....

UPDATE: The governor met with sponsors this afternoon. Changes are expected in the bill tomorrow morning.

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