Benton County Coal Plant Must Meet Regulations or Shut Down

The Flint Creek Power Plant in Gentry must meet new Environmental Protection Agency regulations or it could be shut down.

The coal plant’s owners, Southwest Electric Power Company and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, came up with a plan to meet clean air standards.

“An investment of $408 million and that cost is split 50/50 by SWEPCO and the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives’,” said Peter Main, SWEPCO Spokesman.

The plan will include installing equipment which will clean the smoke stack to keep pollutants from being released into the air.

“The equipment to be installed includes a scrubber, activated carbon injection, load nitrogen burners, it`s a package of equipment that is designed to run reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide,” said Main.

SWEPCO residential customers will see an increase of $2.97/month (3.85%).

AECC estimate a wholesale cost increase to distribution cooperatives of an increase of 3.4%.

This increase will start in 2017.

Benton County Judge Bob Clinard said this will meet the new EPA standards.

“It cleans all that out to the point that it exceeds the EPA`s requirements now,” added Clinard.

The plant serves Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville areas.

If the plant shuts down electricity would have to come from somewhere else, according to Clinard.

“The electrical rates would go up for everyone in Northwest Arkansas because we would have to import the electricity from another state,” said Clinard.

The county would also lose $600,000 per year in taxes and 40 jobs, if the plant would shut down, according to Clinard.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission initially wanted the plant converted to natural gas, said Clinard.

“If we have to do that we will close the plant, it`s not economically feasible to keep the plant open if we have to do that,” added Clinard.

SWEPCO is asking the Arkansas Public Service Commission to review the plan and determine that the project is in the public interest.

SWECO and AECC must upgrade Flint Creek or close the plant by 2015, with a possible extension to 2016.

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