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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
/articleid/3874964/1/pictures/2189711">Photo - Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in his office during an interview with an Oklahoman reporter on Wednesday, April 10, 2013.  by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in his office during an interview with an Oklahoman reporter on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.

Two paths

Oklahoma's two biggest investor-owned electric utilities, PSO and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., are taking different paths on regulations for regional haze.

OG&E, along with Pruitt, is fighting the regional haze rule in court. A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in Denver last month ruled 2-1 against OG&E and the state on regional haze. Pruitt and OG&E are expected to file for a rehearing before the full 10th U.S. Court of Appeals before the Sept. 3 deadline.

PSO came to a settlement last year with the EPA, the Oklahoma environment secretary's office and the Sierra Club. PSO wants to retire one coal unit at its Northeastern Station plant near Oologah by 2016, and then install emissions-control technology on the other coal unit before retiring it by 2026.

PSO estimates its environmental compliance plan will cost more than $350 million and raise customer rates by about 11 percent starting in 2016.

William Yeatman, assistant director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said PSO's plan underreported the costs of switching to natural gas by using “budget gimmicks.” PSO ratepayers will have to pay for phasing out the Northeastern coal units before the end of their useful lives, he said.

Stan Whiteford, a spokesman with PSO, said the utility disagreed with most of the points in Yeatman's report. He said accusing PSO of accounting tricks in its cost estimates was offensive to the utility and state regulators at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

“Our process is widely accepted by public utility commissions across the country,” Whiteford said. “We take all of these things very seriously. This (report) is representative of outside interests with their own agendas who aren't responsible for keeping the lights on for customers in Oklahoma.”

Whitney Pearson, the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign organizer for Oklahoma, attended the forum and said PSO's plan for environmental compliance was a better option for Oklahomans. It would use Oklahoma-sourced natural gas instead of coal imported from Wyoming mines.

“We have a solution here at home that won't do near as much damage as coal,” Pearson said. “It's unfortunate that Attorney General Pruitt and Rep. Lankford would align themselves with coal when there's a forward-looking, low-cost and environmentally compliant plan out there.”

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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