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PSO plan to phase out coal generation may cost too much, group says

by Paul Monies Modified: August 22, 2013 at 8:35 pm •  Published: August 23, 2013

An environmental compliance plan by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma to end its use of coal in the state will cost too much money for the utility's customers and limit fuel diversity, a researcher for a libertarian think tank said Thursday.

The paper by the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute was released at a forum on the costs of federal environmental regulation hosted by the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

At the forum, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama administration were exceeding their authority on a number of environmental rules affecting electric generating plants and their ratepayers.

Pruitt, whose office is involved in several lawsuits against the EPA, said the Clean Air and Clean Water acts were drafted with the idea that states would be involved.

“There was a recognition that states had to be a viable partner,” Pruitt said. “States had to be the regulators under those acts because, after all, states are concerned about the safety and health of their citizenry and they know better how to balance the competing effects we see in the environmental arena than someone in Washington.”

Among the rules Pruitt is fighting is regional haze, which governs power plant emissions that affect visibility at national parks and wilderness areas.

Pruitt said regional haze is about aesthetics, not safety and health. Because of that, it is unique among environmental laws in that it allows states to do cost-benefit analyses for compliance. Pruitt said the state's plan for regional haze, which was rejected by EPA, reached compliance 15 years earlier than the 2064 deadline.

“They rejected it out of hand and they did so because I believe the EPA has an anti-fossil fuel mentality,” Pruitt said. “They started with coal, and now it's reached natural gas. ... You see that permeating the EPA's approach to these laws. That's the reason I think they are rejecting, and dismissing and not respecting, the role of the states.”

Lankford said with gridlock in Washington, he's concentrating on Congress' oversight of federal agencies. The idea that Washington regulators know what is best for Oklahomans is insulting.

“These battles are not solved easily or quickly, but they have to be solved because they affect ratepayers in Oklahoma,” Lankford said. “This can be done in a way that we're both guarding our environment and protecting it for the next generation, but also making economic sense.”

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by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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