SWEPCO, Arkansas Electric want extra time in Flint Creek case

Saying there is some new information to offer, Southwestern Electric Power (SWEPCO), Arkansas Electric Cooperative (AECC) and the Arkansas Attorney General asked the Arkansas Public Service Commission to reopen the docket for the Flint Creek SO2 scrubber project.

Proceedings in this docket concluded with the filing of written closing arguments by all parties on Nov. 16, with the commission yet to make a decision. SWEPCO and AECC, co-owners of the coal-fired Flint Creek plant, said that in response to issues raised during the Oct. 9 hearing and in the post-hearing closing statements filed on Nov. 16, their senior management have had extensive discussions about the alternatives to providing the generation output of the Flint Creek plant if the commission denies the pending petition for a declaratory order finding that the installation of environmental controls at the plant is in the public interest. As a result of these discussions, management of SWEPCO and AECC have identified additional issues and new information that they feel need to be presented to the commission for its consideration.

The procedure proposed by SWEPCO and AECC will afford all of the parties to the proceeding the opportunity to thoroughly examine the additional information, file responsive testimony, and participate in an additional public hearing, the companies said.

“SWEPCO and AECC recognize that this request is unusual and not commonplace,” they added. “However, the additional issues raised during and after the hearing warrant the presentation of additional information which should assist the Commission by providing a more comprehensive record upon which to base its decision.”

SWEPCO and AECC said they have held discussions with business leaders in Northwest Arkansas and with Southwest Power Pool (SPP) officials. If this motion is granted, SWEPCO and AECC anticipate that Northwest Arkansas business leaders will provide direct testimony in support of SWEPCO and AECC. In addition, SWEPCO and AECC have requested that a representative of SPP file direct testimony offering its independent view of the potential impact on the integrity of the SPP transmission system if Flint Creek is retired prior to replacement generating capacity or additional transmission lines in Northwest Arkansas being operational.

SWEPCO and AECC said they will address why the additional information provides support for the recommendation to find that retrofit of the plant is in the public interest. The initial application and supporting testimony focused on the economic analyses showing that the retrofit of the plant is the least cost option. The additional testimony will not address those issues, but will present additional information responsive to the issues raised during and after the hearing.

New evidence to include transmission system impacts

It is anticipated that the testimony provided by SPP would address:

  • the need to construct additional transmission lines in Northwest Arkansas to maintain system reliability if the plant is retired, and the timeline for such construction;
  • the need to develop emergency operations plans to curtail load under certain conditions until such time as additional transmission lines are constructed;
  • the impact on SPP reserve requirements of the planned retirement of SWEPCO’s coal-fired Welsh Unit 2 combined with the potential retirement of the Flint Creek plant; and
  • the possibility of scarcity pricing in the Northwest Arkansas area once SPP’s Integrated Marketplace is implemented on March 1, 2014.

The general staff of the commission, the AG and the Sierra Club would be afforded adequate opportunity to review and investigate the additional testimony offered by SWEPCO and AECC, the companies said. Upon completion of that review, staff, the AG, and the Sierra Club would have the opportunity to provide responsive testimony addressing the information filed by SWEPCO and AECC.

The proposed new schedule is:

  • Additional direct testimony of SWEPCO and AECC filed by Jan. 11;
  • Reply testimony of staff, the AG and Sierra Club filed by Feb. 22; and
  • Public hearing on March 5.

PSC staff is amenable to this extra time, Sierra Club is opposed

Commission staff said in a Dec. 14 response to this request: “Because of the unique nature of this case and the issues presented herein, and because Staff, the AG, and Sierra would be afforded adequate opportunity to examine and investigate the additional testimony offered by SWEPCO, AECC, the SPP, and Northwest Arkansas business leaders, Staff does not object to the Commission granting the Joint Motion. Staff agrees that reopening the record in this proceeding to receive the additional testimony described in the Joint Motion should assist the Commission by providing a more comprehensive record upon which to base its decision regarding whether to grant the request of SWEPCO and AECC for a declaratory order that the proposed installation of environmental control equipment at the Flint Creek plant is in the public interest.”

Said the Sierra Club in its Dec. 14 response: “Sierra Club opposes this motion, as SWEPCo and AECC have had ample opportunity to present evidence supporting their request for a declaratory order, including four rounds of testimony.”

SWEPCO, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), filed the original application with the PSC on Feb. 8. It asked the commission for a declaratory order approving installation of $408.7m worth of new emissions controls on Flint Creek. The planned controls include: dry flue gas desulfurization (DFGD) equipment for SO2 control; activated carbon injection (ACI) for mercury; and Low NOx burners and over-fired air facilities for NOx control. The DFGD system selected by the project engineers will also include a pulse jet fabric filter, commonly called a baghouse.

Flint Creek is a single-unit, pulverized coal-fired plant with a net capacity of 528 MW and was placed in service in 1978. SWEPCO’s ownership portion of this unit is 264 MW net, and it is responsible for operating and maintaining the plant.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.