Federal Judge Recuses from SWEPCO Turk Case

U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson recused himself last Tuesday from the case challenging Southwestern Electric Power Company’s construction of a $2.1 billion coal-fired power plant in south Arkansas.

Wilson, an Eastern Distrcit judge, accepted the case after every judge in the Western District rescued due to conflicts of interest.

In October 2010, Wilson granted the plaintiffs, the Sierra Club, Audubon Arkansas, Hempstead County Hunting Club, and local residents, a preliminary injunction halting the construction of certain portions of the plant. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis overturned Wilson’s decision in a one-sentence order that it issued on November 24.

Wilson wrote in his letter of recusal that the appeals court gave him no guidance as to where his injunction was in error, and that he believes his time would now be better spent working on other cases.

Wilson also wrote in his letter that the “projects that were stopped by the now-dissolved preliminary injunction will apparently be completed well before the Eighth Circuit considers the case on the merits. In other words, the harm I foresee will have been done, irrevocably.”

Read the full text of Wilson’s letter by clicking here.

I have a tremendous respect for Judge Wilson, and his recusal is extremely disappointing. I don’t blame him, though. It does appear that the 8th Circuit Court already has its mind made up in favor of SWEPCO. Its one-sentence order reversing Wilson’s decision gave no reason as to why it overruled Wilson. Why go through all the testimonies and hearings when you already have an idea of how the appeals court will rule once the case is appealed?

One thing is certain. SWEPCO is forging ahead with the construction to finish building the plant as fast as possible so that the case becomes moot. When we finish arguing all the cases, the plant may indeed be illegal. But by then, as Judge Wilson wrote, the harm is done irrevocably.

It would be interesting to see how the next judge will decide the case.

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