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Public Service Co. of Oklahoma plans to spend $350 million for environmental compliance

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma said it will retire its last two coal-fired units in Oklahoma by 2026 under a pending settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, state environmental agencies and the Sierra Club. Customers could see higher rates of more than 10 percent beginning in 2016.
by Paul Monies Modified: September 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm •  Published: September 27, 2012

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma plans to spend up to $350 million to put in place the terms of a settlement for environmental regulations that will remove coal from its Oklahoma generating fleet by 2026, the electric utility said Wednesday.

PSO, a unit of Ohio-based American Electric Power that has more than 530,000 customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma, filed an environmental compliance plan with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The plan deals with federal regulations on emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and other air toxins.

If implemented, the plan could raise customer rates by 11 percent starting in 2016, PSO representatives said.

The plan came out of a pending settlement PSO has with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sierra Club, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Environment Secretary Gary Sherrer. The settlement dealing with the utility's implementation of EPA's regional haze rules was announced in April.

PSO plans to retire one of its coal units at its Northeastern station power plan near Oologah by 2016. It will install emissions-control equipment on another Northeastern coal unit and continue operating it until 2026.

To make up for the retirement of a coal-fired unit in 2016, PSO said it plans to buy natural gas generation from Calpine Corp. under a 15-year power purchase agreement. PSO will buy 260 megawatts of electricity from Calpine's Oneta Energy Center near Coweta from 2016 to 2031, the companies said Wednesday.

PSO's environmental compliance plan mirrors much of what the utility presented to the Corporation Commission in its long-term, integrated resource plan during a public meeting Wednesday. The integrated resource plan, which is not binding, has to be filed every three years with the commission.

PSO looked at several different options to deal with environmental regulations affecting utilities. It could have retired both Northeastern coal units at the same time or installed a combination of emissions controls to keep the coal units in service for a longer period.

“They are all reasonable options,” said John Torpey, AEP's director of integrated resources planning. “They're reasonable to the extent that we know we have to spend money. We know we have to do something. There's no do-nothing option that's available to us. Anything we're looking at to bring these units into compliance will involve spending additional funds.”

The integrated resource plan also includes energy-efficiency initiatives and programs to help customers reduce electricity demand.

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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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