Yesterday the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) decided to allow Sierra Club and Audubon Arkansas to participate in the proceeding to determine SWEPCO’s request for a rate increase of over $50 million per year. The PSC attached a condition to the environmentalists’ participation – we cannot and should not check into the economic viability of the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant that is currently under construction in Hempstead County. The Attorney General agrees with the condition.
Here’s the problem – about half of the rate increase goes toward paying for the Turk plant. How are we to have a straight face discussion on whether the rate increase is justified without looking into the economic viability of the Turk plant?
There are many reasons why the plant may not be the cheapest option to meet our electricity demand – lower electricity demand, lower natural gas costs, and the climate change legislation currently under consideration in Congress. Heck, before the Turk plant was even approved, the PSC’s own expert said that building a new coal plant is more expensive than building a new natural gas plant.
The PSC approved the most expensive option to meet our electricity demand, SWEPCO asks for a rate increase of over $50 million per year to pay for the plant, and the environmentalists cannot look into the economic viability of the plant? Something is screwed up.
I urge the PSC to deny SWEPCO’s rate increase. Stop forcing us to invest in a $2 billion project without a reasonable economic review! In this economic downturn, Arkansans don’t need higher electric bills to help SWEPCO make more money! Listen to your own expert and put a stop to this madness called coal!