Arkansas and coal

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Introduction

Coal production in Arkansas is relatively minor. In 2004, the state produced approximately 7,000 short tons of coal, which made it 26th in the nation in coal production according to the National Mining Association.[1] Although the most accessible coal has already been mined, Arkansas still has abundant coal deposits. There are an estimated billion tons of bituminous coal still present in the Arkansas River Valley. Much of this coal is relatively low in sulfur content. There are also approximately 9 billion tons of lignite coal in the eastern and southern parts of the state.[2]

Arkansas imports most of its coal from Wyoming.[3] The state consumed over 15 million short tons of coal for electrical power in 2004,[1] producing approximately 46 percent of its electricity. Arkansas' average retail price of electricity is 6.99 cents per kilowatt hour, the 18th lowest rate in the nation.[4] In 2003, Arkansas emitted 62 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, ranking it 32nd in the nation overall.[5]

History

Governor's Commission on Global Warming

On October 23, 2008, the Governor's Commission on Global Warming released its final recommendations for reducing greenhouse gases in the state. Among the recommendations was a guideline that Arkansas reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, 35 percent by 2025, and 50 percent by 2035.[6] In an 11-10 vote, the Governor's Commission on Global Warming recommended a moratorium on new coal plants in the state until carbon sequestration technology is ready.[7][6] Other recommendations focused on building new nuclear power plants, establishing a carbon tax, developing renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency.[6]

The report states that greenhouse gas emissions have increased faster in Arkansas than in the nation as a whole. From 1990 to 2005, there was a 30 percent rise in state emissions versus a national increase of 16 percent; on a per-capita basis, this translates to a 10 percent increase in Arkansas, versus a 2 percent decrease nationwide.[6]

Governor declines to issue a moratorium on new coal plants

In December 2008, Governor Beebe met with environmental groups opposed to the new Hempstead plant. The groups delivered more than 3,700 petitions asking for a moratorium on new plants in the state. However, the Governor said that he doesn't have the authority to issue such a moratorium.[8]

A member of the Governor's Commission on Global Warming, which developed a list of strategies to slash the state's CO2 emissions, said that the panel's work would become pointless if the new plant is built. Rob Fisher, executive director of the Ecological Conservation Organization, said, "All the work we did and the recommendations we came up with will be completely negated by this coal plant. All of the work of this commission will be completely in vain."[8]

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) issued a statement thanking the governor for not issuing the moratorium.[9]

Citizen activism

Citizen Action Against John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant

On July 20, 2010 two environmental organizations asked a federal judge to halt construction of the $1.7 billion John W. Turk coal-fired power plant that is to supply power to electric customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

The two groups, Audubon Arkansas and the Sierra Club said construction of the Southwestern Electric Power Co. plant was destroying pristine wetlands. Owners of a hunting club near the plant site sued previously to stop construction, also on environmental grounds.[10]

Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars Movie in Arkansas.

Environmentalists Claim Coal Neighbors' Air

In November 2010, a report produced by the Sierra Club, attributed as many as 64 days with harmful levels of smog in Oklahoma to Texas' coal-fired power plants. The report also tied air pollution from the plants to as many as 20 days of unhealthy air in Arkansas and up to 16 in Louisiana.

"The coal plants are a real problem — not just for Texas, but the entire region," said Jennifer Powis, a regional representative for the Sierra Club.

The report supported earlier concerns raised by Oklahoma officials about the potential impacts on their state from the nearly 30 coal-fired plants either operating, permitted or proposed in Texas.[11]

December 2011: Plum Point II canceled

On December 12, 2011, the Sierra Club announced a legal agreement between LS Power and Sierra to cancel Longleaf, a 1200 MW proposed coal plant in Georgia, and Plum Point II, a 665 MW proposed coal plant in Arkansas. In addition, as part of the agreement, Sierra dropped its opposition to the Sandy Creek Plant in Texas and LS Power agreed to stricter air pollution controls at Sandy Creek. Sierra Club noted that Longleaf, which had first been proposed in 2001, was among the first coal plants among the hundreds of coal plants proposed -- and mostly defeated -- in the recent coal boom.[12]

Legislative issues

After Governor Beebe responded to environmentalists in December 2008 that he didn't have the authority to issue a moratorium on new coal plants, a spokesman from his office suggested that new protocols may be discussed during the 2009 legislative session.[13]

Proposed coal plants

Operating

Cancelled

Citizen groups

Coal lobbying groups

Power companies

Existing coal plants

Arkansas has five operating coal-fired power plants totaling 5,223 megawatts (MW).[14][15]

All of these units are larger than 500 MW:[16]

For a map of existing coal plants in the state, see the bottom of this page.

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Arkansas, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[17] The report mentioned Arkansas based Flint Creek Power Plant and the Independence Steam Station were two sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[18]

Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Arkansas coal waste sites

A report released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011 stated that there are many health threats associated with a toxic cancer-causing chemical found in coal ash waste called hexavalent chromium. The report specifically cited 29 sites in 17 states where the contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash and included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In Arkansas, the Flint Creek Power Plant was noted as having a high level of chromium at its coal waste landfill.[19]

According to the report, the Flint Creek coal ash site is a landfill. Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was reported at the site above 128 ppb (parts per billion) - 6,400 times the proposed California drinking water goals and 1.28 times the federal drinking water standard.[19][20][21][22][23]

As a press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[24]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[19]

Major coal mines

There are no major coal mines in Arkansas.[25] As of 2010 there was 1 active coal mines in Arkansas with production approximately 32 short tons per year.[26]

Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Mining in Arkansas, National Mining Assocation, accessed June 2008. (Pdf)
  2. "Coal Mine Permitting: Hydrogeologic Assessment for Environmental Protection", Dr. Stephen Kline, Arkansas Tech University, accessed June 2008.
  3. State Coal Profiles: Arkansas, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008. (Pdf)
  4. "The Facts", America's Power, accessed June 2008.
  5. "Texas, Wyoming lead in emissions", USA Today, June 2, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Global Warming Commission approves final revisions to report," Focus the Nation, October 23, 2008.
  7. John Lyon, "No new coal plants until technology improves, panel recommends," Politics in Arkansas, Sep 25, 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Governor says he has no authority to stop generating," KTBS 3 News, Dec. 9, 2008.
  9. "ACCCE Response to Sierra Club's Call for a Moratorium on Coal in Arkansas and New Ad Campaign," MarketWatch, December 9, 2008.
  10. "Sierra Club, Audubon sue to stop SWEPCO plant" Business Week, July 19, 2010.
  11. "Study: Texas coal plants foul neighbors' air" Matthew Tresaugue, Houston Chronicle, November 17, 2010.
  12. "Longleaf Cancellation Marks End to Nation's Longest Running Fight Against Coal Plant," Sierra Club press release, December 12, 2011
  13. "Calling for a Coal Plant Moratorium?," Arkansas Matters, December 9, 2008.
  14. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  15. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  16. Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration website, accessed May 2008.
  17. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  18. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  20. "Damage Case Report for Coal Combustion Wastes," August 2008
  21. U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
  22. EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
  23. EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
  24. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.
  25. Major U.S. Coal Mines, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  26. "Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2010" U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2010.

Maps

Existing coal plants in Arkansas

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