Tuesday, April 22, 2014, marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. Activities during this time each year remind us of the need for protecting our earth and practicing environmental consciousness in all aspects of life. “AEP Southwestern Electric Power Company’s (SWEPCO) commitment to environmental quality is a strong and ongoing one,” says Brian Bond, SWEPCO Vice President, External Affairs.
The following items are some examples of SWEPCO’s actions, both required and voluntary, which have contributed to the protection or enhancement of the environment.
- SWEPCO informs people living in the five county region of Gregg, Harrison, Rusk, Smith and Upshur of Ozone Action Days through its WEATHERLINE service. By calling 903-234-1000, residents hear the days’ forecast and can plan accordingly for ozone action awareness.
- Working with the Nature Conservancy to conserve rare or critical habitat, SWEPCO is a supporter of the Black Bayou project, located in the northwest corner of Louisiana. This site contains five miles of spring-fed streams with a diverse habitat prime for preservation, including the globally rare Arkansas oak.
- With strong community partnerships, SWEPCO built an eagle and wildlife observation pavilion and nature area at the Flint Creek Power Plant near Gentry in Northwest Arkansas. Over 2,000 people visit the viewing area annually. The company launched a facebook page this week on the nature trail; it can be found at www.facebook.com/SWEPCOEagleWatch. Flint Creek and the Eagle Watch Nature Trail have been recognized by many organizations, including designation as an “Important Bird Area” by Audubon Arkansas. It also is certified on the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Corporate Lands for Learning and Wildlife at Work programs.
- The AEP Foundation gave a $200,000 grant to the Illinois River Watershed Partnership in Arkansas to fund a public education and outreach campaign on watershed management. SWEPCO’s Flint Creek Power Plant is located on Little Flint Creek, a tributary of Flint Creek and the Illinois River. SWEPCO Lake, the 500-acre cooling reservoir for the plant, is part of the watershed.
- Near Gilmer, Texas, SWEPCO and other contributors developed the Kelsey Creek Nature Sanctuary as an 800-acre “wilderness park,” with hiking paths through an area complete with a beaver pond, wetlands, creeks, bottomland, fields and woodlands, to accommodate the abundant resident and migratory birds and wildlife.
- SWEPCO has purchased 469,000 kilowatts of long-term renewable power from wind farms in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to provide energy for its customers in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
- SWEPCO operates the John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant in Southwest Arkansas, in Hempstead County near Fulton. The plant had 2,200 construction workers at the peak of employment in May 2011. Turk utilizes ultra-supercritical coal technology for electric generation, and is one of the cleanest, most efficient coal plants in the United States. The plant began commercial operation on December 20, 2012.
- The SWEPCO Forestry Services Department has received several Project Habitat Awards, which recognizes utilities for the safe and efficient use of herbicides on their rights-of-way. SWEPCO is one of only 23 utilities nationwide to receive the award. The goal of the project is to protect wildlife and enhance habitat along utility rights-of-way. By using EPA-approved herbicides in transmission line rights-of-way, plants that are important for wildlife food, shelter and nesting are favored. Animals that commonly benefit are deer, turkey, quail, songbirds, small mammals and birds of prey.
- Low-sulfur Wyoming coal, used in five generating units, results in a minimal amount of sulfur dioxide being created during combustion. Electrostatic precipitators at all coal and lignite-fired power plants remove 99 percent of the fly ash particles, which would have entered the atmosphere. Flue gas desulfurization systems, or scrubbers, are installed on both of SWEPCO’s lignite units. These devices remove sulfur dioxide from the flue gases.
- State-of-the-art reclamation practices at the company’s two lignite mines return the mined land to a condition which is actually better than the condition prior to mining. Soil nutrients and wildlife habitat are improved. Landowners are able to use their reclaimed land for many uses.
- Wastewater treatment and control systems at power plants assure the discharge of wastewater that is environmentally safe. SWEPCO maintains an excellent compliance record with federal and state regulations which control air emissions, water discharge, solid waste management and other matters
- SWEPCO undertakes environmental assessments of all new projects, including endangered species surveys, archaeological investigations, wetlands mapping, groundwater testing and socio-economic impact determinations. Transmission lines are routed to avoid environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, scenic areas and endangered species habitats.
- SWEPCO provides management and support for development of recreational fisheries at power plant cooling reservoirs. Largemouth bass fisheries have been created, as well as recreational fishing for sunfish, catfish and crappie.
- A nature trail runs through the diverse woodlands at Wilkes Power Plant in East Texas. Wildlife habitats have been created around other company power plants.
- A wood duck nesting program has been established on company lakes. This highly successful project enhances the wood duck population, and the boxes are a safe haven for nesting. More than half the boxes produce young wood ducks annually. Some are home to screech owls and flying squirrels.
- Some waste products, such as solvents from power plants and service facilities, can be recycled. Coal combustion by-products (ash) are sold for use as cement additive, road base material and waste stabilization additives.
- SWEPCO supports and promotes efforts to use electricity wisely by its customers. For information on how to save energy and money, visit SWEPCO.com and aepefficiency.com.
- SWEPCO works with trade organizations, government agencies and others to develop equitable and realistic laws, regulations and standards to protect human health and the environment, while at the same time providing reliable and economical electric service.