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Archive for Sunday, January 29, 2006

Judge orders Aquila to tear down power plant

Utility failed to get county zoning approval before constructing Missouri facility

January 29, 2006

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— A Cass County judge has given utility Aquila Inc. until May 31 to begin tearing down a $140 million power plant that went up last summer without county approval.

Circuit Judge Joseph Dandurand on Friday also told the company to cease plant operations immediately and post a $20 million bond.

Dandurand rejected calls from Cass County attorneys that he order the power plant dismantled immediately. He said he was willing to give the Kansas City-based company time to ask the Missouri Public Service Commission to intervene and save the plant, built near Peculiar.

The judge said he thought tearing down the plant would be wasteful, but he admonished Aquila officials for what he called their "arrogance" and "disregard for the law."

Aquila began operating the 315-megawatt South Harper plant in June, saying a state-issued "certificate of need" meant it didn't need zoning approvals from county officials.

The county filed suit, and Dandurand agreed the company should have gone through the proper channels. The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld that decision, although it suggested Aquila could attempt to obtain approval after the fact.

Company officials announced earlier this month they would seek that approval, but presiding County Commissioner Gary Mallory said Friday the county had refused to accept the application because of the continuing litigation.

"We had anticipated them dismantling the plant immediately," Mallory said. "But we've said we'll do what the court says."

Aquila serves 1.3 million electric and natural gas customers in Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa.

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