Arkansas AG Requests Investigation Into Settlement That Closes Coal Plants

Dec 13, 2018

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge speaks with reporters at her downtown Little Rock office in August.
Credit Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is asking for an investigation into a settlement that would result in the shutting down of the state's two largest coal-fired power plants.

In a statement, Rutledge said she would like the Arkansas Public Service Commission to review the pending settlement agreement between the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, and Entergy Arkansas, which co-owns the two plants.

The agreement would require Entergy Arkansas, the state's largest utility company, to stop burning coal at the plants by the year 2030. Rutledge said she's asking the commission to determine if the settlement is in the public interest, suggesting it would result in increased prices for electricity in the state.

"The terms of the settlement between Entergy and the Sierra Club will directly impact Arkansans' utility bills," Rutledge said in a press release. "This settlement has not been properly vetted by the Public Service Commission, my office or other agencies that have the public's interest at heart."

Rutledge is also asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas to serve as a representative of Arkansas utility ratepayers, to "inform the federal court that Entergy's actions should first be reviewed by state regulatory authorities."

Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas Sierra Club, argues Rutledge's request is "another misguided attempt to thwart clean air protections for Arkansans."
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The settlement resulted from a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club that alleged Entergy violated the federal Clean Air Act. Arkansas Sierra Club Director Glen Hooks said in a statement that the state Public Service Commission is already reviewing aspects of the settlement.   

"Burning coal no longer makes environmental or economic sense when clean solar and wind energy prices have plummeted," Hooks said. "Entergy Arkansas realizes this, as does the Sierra Club and utilities across the country."

The settlement would result in Entergy Arkansas closing its White Bluff plant in Redfield by 2028 and its Independence plant in Newark by 2030. The settlement also involves the company's Lake Catherine natural gas plant closing by 2027.

UPDATE: Entergy Arkansas responded to the Attorney General's announcement in a statement provided to KUAR News. That statement is published below. 

This settlement is in the best economic interest of our customers, our employees, our community and the company. It allows us to move forward with plans to replace these older generating plants with newer, highly efficient generation resources without incurring the expense of potentially adding scrubbers to the plants at the cost of $1 billion each. The settlement also allows us to put an end to costly ongoing lawsuits over the use of coal at the plants.

The State Implementation Plan, which was approved by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality with the support of the Governor, had already included the same cease-to-burn coal date at White Bluff of 2028, consistent with the settlement. We do not believe it would be a wise investment or in the best interest of our customers to sink $2 billion into almost 50-year old plants. Customers are best served with an orderly transition and investment in new, more cost-efficient technology. Any costs related to new investments to replace the generation of these plants is required to be reviewed by the Arkansas Public Service Commission at the time it is proposed.