Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. has asked a federal judge to dismiss a case brought by the Environmental Protection Agency over emissions estimates from a series of modifications to its coal plants.
Attorneys for OG&E said additional emissions from the projects at its Sooner and Muskogee coal plants did not meet the standards for “significant” emissions increases under the Clean Air Act. They said emissions after the modifications were found to be lower than the utility first estimated.
“There have been no ‘significant' increases in covered pollutants, and indeed, emissions levels have actually decreased following the projects in most cases,” OG&E attorneys said in documents filed Friday in federal court in Oklahoma City.
The attorneys said OG&E provided the state Department of Environmental Quality with emissions data that confirmed its pre-construction emissions projections.
OG&E also said the government's complaint wasn't timely because it's been more than six years since the last project began. While the Clean Air Act doesn't have a defined statute of limitations, OG&E's attorneys said five years was applicable for the enforcement of penalties or civil fines under another federal law.
“Indeed, it was not until April 26, 2011, several years after the projects commenced, that EPA issued a Notice of Violation (‘NOV') to OG&E as part of its ongoing quest to penalize coal-fired electric plants,” the attorneys wrote.
The Justice Department filed its complaint against OG&E in July on behalf of the EPA. The government said the utility failed to properly estimate emissions changes at its coal plants before it made eight renovations totaling $80 million from 2003 to 2006.
OG&E told the Department of Environmental Quality it planned to make the modifications, but EPA said those plans weren't detailed enough.
“OG&E said its action plan sufficed for compliance, but in fact it is a road map for evasion,” the government said in an Aug. 30 filing in the case.
Government attorneys quoted OG&E internal memos discussing the plans for some of the projects.
“Plainly, OG&E's own discussions of its facility upgrades highlight the concern that the work may well lead to an emissions increase in the years to come, after the expiration of the company's temporary management plan,” the government's attorneys said.
Separately, OG&E also faces a similar lawsuit from the Sierra Club. The environmental group said OG&E didn't take out the required permit when it made modifications to a coal unit at its Muskogee plant in 2008. The utility has said it believes it has complied with the law.