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Judge Backs Coal-Fired Plant

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An administrative law judge recommended Tuesday that two utility companies be allowed to build a 950-megawatt coal-fired plant in northern Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., Public Service Company of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority are seeking to build the Red Rock plant near OG&E's Sooner Power Plant. Estimated cost is $1.8 billion.

In her recommendations to the three-member Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Judge Maribeth D. Snapp found that while the coal-fired plant would be more expensive to construct than a plant using natural gas, it would be paid off in about 4.2 years because of fuel savings. She based her calculations on natural gas selling at $7 per mcf.

The plant is needed to meet the needs of the company to supply its customers by the year 2012, according to supporters.

Opponents believe the new technology being used for the plant is not proven, but Snapp said in her report that it will lower operating costs and the amount of emissions.

She said it will eventually start saving ratepayers money, compared with a facility using natural gas.

She held that the OG&E and PSO companies should recover financing costs on construction equal to the return authorized in their last rate case.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. is among those opposing the coal-fired plant.

At a recent hearing before the Corporation Commission, Aubrey McClendon, chairman and chief operating officer of Chesapeake, said the plant could cost $3 billion, not $1.8 billion.

McClendon said the plant ran against a national movement toward more environmentally friendly forms of energy.

The Corporation Commission will have the final say on the plant and will hold a hearing on objections to Snapp's recommendations.

Related Stories:

6/13/2007 Supreme Court Asked To Block Consideration Of Coal-Fired Plant

7/9/2007 Environmentalists Speak Out Against Proposed Coal-Fired Power Plant

7/10/2007 Chesapeake Asks Supreme Court To Halt Coal-Fired Power Plant Hearings
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