Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EPA to go ahead with regional haze plan over Oklahoma's objections

The Oklahoman
Published: December 15, 2011

The U.S EPA is standing firm with its plan to force Oklahoma's two largest electric utilities to reduce emissions from their aging coal plants. The federal plan finalized Wednesday by the EPA has been criticized for failing to consider the financial impact on Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma customers if those companies are forced to install expensive scrubber technology. Utility officials have estimated the EPA-mandated improvements to reduce emissions could raise electric rates as much as 20 percent over three years.

“We're disappointed by what we've seen thus far from the EPA,” Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Brian Alford said. “We continue to stand by the Oklahoma plan that uses less coal and more natural gas, and believe it would do a much better job of improving visibility at national parks for far less cost than what the federal government is mandating.” The EPA's ruling is meant to improve visibility at national parks and wilderness areas, while protecting the public from pollutants coming from three state power plants, the agency said on Wednesday. “Controlling emissions that improve visibility also prevents health risks including increased asthma symptoms and premature death,” according to the prepared statement issued by the EPA.

The EPA plan would require OG&E and PSO to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from three coals plants. Each plant, built more than 30 years ago, has two electricity-generating units. “This can be accomplished by retrofitting the six units with dry flue gas desulfurization technology, commonly known as ‘SO2 scrubbers,'” according to the plan issued Wednesday. “EPA believes that these limits can also be met by wet scrubbing technology or switching to natural gas.” EPA estimates scrubbers would cost about $600 million for OG&E and $274 million for PSO, although the companies' estimates have been significantly higher.

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