Oklahoma panel says EPA "haze" plan too costly
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Friday, March 11, 2011
3/11/11 at 7:07 AM
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission fired back Thursday at a federal "regional haze" cleanup plan that could cost electric utilities billions of dollars that they say would be passed on to consumers.
The state's energy regulatory panel will host a forum at 10 a.m. March 23 to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's call for a 95 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions at three Oklahoma coal-fired plants. Utilities argued that the plan's three-year time frame is too tight and would cost at least $800 million at one facility alone.
The EPA proposed Monday to require the three plants to switch to cleaner-burning natural gas or install "scrubber" technology.
The cost burden could raise utility customers' bills by 10 percent to 12 percent, according to some estimates.
"Oklahoma had a plan in place that would have met the federal mandates without sudden price shock," Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Cloud said in a statement. "As an entity charged with ensuring affordable and reliable utility service to Oklahoma, the commission will work with all the stakeholders and others in government against such misguided federal requirements."
American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma, which provides power to 525,000 customers statewide, would be required to upgrade its No. 3 and No. 4 units at the Northeastern Station in Oologah.
"I would imagine we'd want to be there," AEP-PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford said of the March 23 forum at the commission's Oklahoma City headquarters. "It'd be very interesting to see what type of discussion and what type of plan, if any, comes from it."
The meeting will be open to other state agencies, electric utilities, consumer groups and all customers.
The EPA rejected a state plan to cut sulfur dioxide emissions. The proposal, which was crafted by the state Department of Environmental Quality with the input of AEP-PSO and Oklahoma Gas & Electric, would reach the same reductions in emissions but over a longer time frame, state officials say.
"I am very disappointed the EPA failed to work with Oklahoma and disregarded the devastating impact the EPA's plan would have on Oklahoma electricity customers," Commission Chairman Dana Murphy said. "Now that EPA has released its proposed mandate, we need to move quickly to protect Oklahomans' pocketbooks."
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., has criticized the EPA mandate, describing it as a "regulatory power grab."
The EPA's plan calls for pollution reductions at AEP-PSO's coal-fired units in Oologah and OG&E coal-fired plants in Muskogee and Noble County.
"These three power plants emit greater than one-third of all the (sulfur dioxide) from the hundreds of industrial and utility sources in Oklahoma,'' the EPA stated.
Scrubbers cost $350 million each, while nitrogen oxide controls would add at least $100 million more at the Oologah facility, AEP-PSO officials said.
Original Print Headline: EPA plan to cut power plant emissions too costly, panel says
Rod Walton 581-8457