|Updated: 12/05/2008 7:46 pm
||Published: 12/05/2008 3:25 pm
Friday the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality ruled that SWEPCO can proceed with their 1.6 billion dollar coal-fired power plant near Fulton. Opponents lost their argument that the plant is harmful to the environment. At least for now.
“I don't know what I'll do if I lose this job," said Nathaniel Burk. He isn't alone. Dozens of plant workers drove from Fulton to plead with environmental regulators to allow work to resume after construction stopped earlier this week. "I need this job. They need this job," he said.
SWEPCO CEO Paul Chodak says building this plant will create 1400 construction jobs and dozens of permanent ones. "Once construction is complete, there will be 111 permanent jobs, 4 million dollars in taxes, rolling into local economy and the school system," said Chodak.
Jobs or no jobs, opponents like Mary O’Boyle argue that building the plant will harm the environment. "SWEPCO has said it will burn clean coal, it’s not true. It will emit mercury and lead into atmosphere causing a lot of neurological damage," said O'Boyle.
While many tried to convince the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality that the plant is harmful to the environment, workers argued that without this plant their families would be significantly impacted.
“It's Christmas, what kind of future will there be without it," said Billy Joe Francis
After hours of arguments, environmental regulators voted 7 to 1 to resume construction.
"Were pleased, this is in the customers of southwest Arkansas’ best interests. It’s not going to hurt the environment," said Paul Chodak.
“This commission continues to be a tool for industry. They have been emphasizing on industry instead of environment," said Ken Smith, Audubon leader. He says the fight is far from over.
A SWEPCO lawyer says he expects all 427 workers to be back on the job no later than Monday. A hearing on the plant's air permit is set for December 15. The law requires the commission to decide the appeal within four months.