PSO: EPA Proposal Could Raise Customers' Fees By 12 Percent

Tuesday, March 8th 2011, 4:55 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Environmental Protection Agency is moving ahead with a plan to require three Oklahoma coal-fired power plants to switch to natural gas or install new technology.

The proposal has the state considering a lawsuit against the EPA.

Supporters say the EPA's plan will help the state in the future. But both Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Gas and Electric say if the power plants go ahead with the change, its customers would be forced to pay more for their utilities.

3/7/2011 Related Story: EPA's Decision Could Be Costly For Oklahomans

The EPA has turned down part of the state's plan to reduce pollution at three coal-fired power plants.  It wants PSO and OG&E to install new technology and scrubbers to its facilities in Oologah, Muskogee, and Red Rock.

The EPA says the three plants, combined, produce more than 1/3 of all the sulfur dioxide emissions in Oklahoma. It says its proposal would reduce emissions by nearly 95 percent.

"Oklahoma put forward a plan that we believe was much more cost effective and closely followed the EPA's own rules," Brian Alford, an OG&E spokesman, said.

PSO and OG&E say the state made its own proposal that would reach the same goal, but the EPA wants it done by 2014 and the state's plan goes until the early 2020's.

Both also say the EPA proposal will end up costing their customers.

PSO, for example, says it would cost close to $800 million to install two scrubbers at its plant in Oologah.

"Our customers, what that could potentially mean, is an additional 10%-12% increase in their bills," Stan Whiteford, a PSO Spokesman, said.

But the EPA plan does give PSO and OG&E an option.  It says the companies can switch to natural gas, something the Sierra Club of Oklahoma supports.

A spokeswoman says, "We do not think it is in the best interest of citizens of Oklahoma to extend the life of these dirty coal plants. Continuing to use coal for electricity while the rest of the nation moves away from coal will be detrimental to our health and our economy."

The plan is not yet official. The EPA will be taking comments for the 60 days followed by a public hearing in Oklahoma City in April.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt was in Washington on Tuesday, meeting with other attorney's general from across the country.  A spokeswoman said he is considering a lawsuit against the EPA if the plan moves forward.