Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. is facing a possible federal lawsuit and civil fines over a series of upgrades to two Oklahoma coal plants in the past 20 years.
The U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter in March to OG&E's attorneys offering to have settlement discussions over a notice of violation the Environmental Protection Agency issued to the utility in April 2011.
The EPA notice alleges OG&E didn't take out the proper permits and failed to monitor emissions for 13 upgrades and repairs to coal units at its Sooner and Muskogee power plants from 1993 to 2006.
In its March 7 letter, the Justice Department said it was prepared to file a lawsuit in the case.
“On October 23 of last year, I invited you and your client to discuss a settlement framework to resolve these claims,” wrote Elias Quinn, a trial attorney with the department's environmental enforcement section. “Other than a note which promised further response ‘in due course,' I have not heard from you in the four months since that invitation.”
OG&E spokesman Brian Alford said the utility has met with officials since the letter.
Alford said OG&E believes the changes it made to the coal plants fall outside the EPA's New Source Review program. The allegations concern three units at the Muskogee plant and two units at the Sooner plant near Red Rock.
New Source Review is a preconstruction permitting program that ensures air quality isn't worsened by new and modified power plants, factories or industrial boilers. Permits granted under the program specify the type of construction, emissions limits and how the plant can operate.
“Our emissions remain well within the established thresholds,” Alford said of the units at the Muskogee and Sooner generating plants. “Our view is that the work performed was typical repair and maintenance on existing facilities.”