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OG&E to EPA: State Has Better Plan

In comments filed Monday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oklahoma Gas and Electricity (OG&E) strongly rejected the federal agency's plan to reduce haze in the state in favor of Oklahoma's own plan. EPA's approach would create billions of dollars of unnecessary utility costs, resulting in the largest rate increase in the utility's history, OG&E said.

The utility comments were submitted in response to the proposed EPA rule that if adopted, would force Oklahoma's two largest utilities to add scrubbers to their coal-fired electric generation plants rather than adopt what OG&E considers a "more sensible" state plan for addressing the air pollution issue.

In lieu of scrubbers, the state plan calls for the use of low-sulfur coal and gives the utilities flexibility to burn more natural gas and less coal as a means of meeting more stringent air pollution requirements. And it provides a timetable that achieves the goals set for the proposed regional haze rule while keeping down added costs to utility customers, OG&E said. The utility's Patricia Horn, vice president for governance, said the state plan will be "just as effective" as the federal proposal.

The proposed haze regulations pertain to visibility in national parks and wilderness areas and not to public health, the utility stressed in its filing.

Horn said the utility is trying to get EPA to "rethink" its position and adopt the Oklahoma plan. "Should the agency decide otherwise, we will explore options to ensure that we are doing what it in the best interest of all stakeholders," she said. "It is our objective to seek compliance with the regulations while doing so in a reasonable and rational manner."

OG&E said it expects an EPA final decision later this year.

Noting for EPA that complying to the proposed rule could cost more than $1 billion, OG&E indicated in its filing that if the proposed rule is made final, it would likely spawn what it called "the largest customer rate increase in OG&E history" while providing little, or no, impact on the regional haze.

OG&E has gotten support from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, the state's attorney general, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state Department of Environmental Quality and others, all voicing opposition because they contend that the state has created a more effective and less costly plan.

"There seems little doubt that EPA's proposal does not follow the agency's own rules," Horn said. "It is disconcerting to see the agency fail to follow its own rules and guidelines in establishing both the cost and visibility improvement estimates underlying the proposed risk."

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