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U.S. 8th Circuit Upholds Partial Injunction on Turk Construction

July 27, 2011

July 14, 2011.

Today, a three-judge panel of the United States 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that halted construction on eight acres of wetlands and the water intake structure for the proposed Turk coal-fired power plant in southwestern Arkansas. The Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) appealed the decision by United States District Court Judge Bill Wilson, Jr., who halted the construction on October 27, 2010.

Lev Guter, Associate Field Organizer with the Sierra Club, stated, “We are thrilled with the 8th Circuit’s decision to protect the wetlands and water resources jeopardized by the proposed Turk coal plant. Today’s ruling marks an historic victory to protect Arkansans’ public health from the devastation that dirty coal has on our water quality. Our victory is twofold: not only has the Court spared destroying Arkansas’ water resources, but we are one giant step closer towards stopping the burning of more dirty coal, which poisons our health.” Last year, Sierra Club, Audubon and the Hempstead County Hunting Club sought an injunction to stop SWEPCO’s construction of the proposed John W. Turk 600 MW coal-fired plant in Hempstead County. After SWEPCO appealed the US District Court’s decision, the parties presented oral arguments before the U.S. 8th Circuit in St. Paul on March 15th.

Ellen Fennell, Executive Director for Audubon Arkansas, stated, “We applaud the court for affirming what we knew — that the Corps and SWEPCO had willfully ignored the most basic requirements of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) – ignoring environmental review as well as public input. This to the detriment of one of the most significant wildlife and bird production areas in our state, the Little River Bottoms. Recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, these wetlands are an incubator for thousands of birds that populate the region. Everyone who cares about wildlife in our state should be happy with this decision.”

The Turk plant, already under construction, would cost more than $2 billion as well as contribute to climate change through releasing millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Sierra Club and Audubon are represented by Richard H. Mays of Mays & White law firm of Heber Springs. Attorney Richard Mays stated, “The Eighth Circuit conducted an exhaustive review of the District Court record that covered five days of testimony, and concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of the case at final hearing, and that there was a likelihood of irreparable harm from SWEPCO’s actions on the plant site that were authorized by the Corps of Engineers. This is an important ruling in this case. SWEPCO was foolish to continue to construct the plant in the face of the potential for this ruling.”

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