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OG&E Plans Expensive Move Away from Coal to Comply With EPA Rules

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's coal-fired Sooner Plant in Red Rock, Okla.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric — the state’s largest utility — was resistant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, which means to clear the air at national parks and wildlife refuges, and was part of a challenge to the rule the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear.

So, as The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports, OG&E is — begrudgingly — planning to convert two of its coal-fired units at its Muskogee power plant to natural gas, install air scrubbers at its Sooner plant, and make other changes to comply with federal rules the company says will cause customers’ electricity bills to rise substantially:

While it’s too early to determine exact costs, OG&E representatives said the changes could increase customer bills by 15 to 20 percent when it’s fully implemented by 2019.

OG&E said its plan meets federal mandates in a way that preserves reliability and minimizes the effect on customers.

“Unfortunately, all alternatives available to the company increase customer costs,” the utility said in a draft Integrated Resource Plan submitted to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

OG&E is also planning to update its 60-year-old natural gas power generating units at its Mustang plant. The changes should bring the utility into compliance with both the regional haze rule and separate rules that limit emissions of mercury and other toxins.

“With this plan, we’re moving a lot further into the (natural) gas area, but we are preserving some coal for fuel diversity, which is a very important part of our planning,” said OG&E attorney Kimber Shoop. “We really feel strongly that fuel diversity is important for our customers because of the insurance against the increase in costs of one particular fuel.”

The utility’s planning document forecasts that natural gas will be twice as expensive as coal.

OG&E will submit plan to comply with the regional haze rule by August. It has until April 2016 to comply with the mercury rule, and until January 2019 to comply with regional haze regulations.

Copyright 2021 StateImpact Oklahoma. To see more, visit StateImpact Oklahoma.