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4:30 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Federal Government Approves PSO's Plan to Retire Coal-Fired Power Plants

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Public Service Company of Oklahoma — which provides electricity to more than a half-million Oklahomans — can move ahead with plans to retire its coal-fired power plants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday.

The agreement between the utility, state, and EPA is expected to bring PSO into compliance with regional haze regulations, the federal government’s effort to clear the air at national parks and wildlife refuges.

From The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies:

PSO’s plan for regional haze calls for it to retire one coal unit at Northeastern by 2016. It would install some emissions-control equipment on another coal unit before retiring it by 2026. To make up for the loss of the coal-fired unit in 2016, PSO will buy natural gas generation from Calpine Corp. under a 15-year power purchase agreement.

The utility also recently signed three 20-year contracts for a total of 600 megawatts of wind power from wind farms to be built in northwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle by 2016.

PSO President and Chief Operating Officer Stuart Solomon told the paper the alternative was a federal plan that would’ve cost $650 million more, and customers can expect the approved plan to increase electricity rates “by about 11 percent starting in 2016.”

PSO took a different tack than its counterpart and the state’s largest utility, Oklahoma Gas and Electric. OG&E continues to fight the EPA in court over the federal agency’s authority to enforce the regional haze rule.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt recently asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, after lower courts sided with the EPA.

“At stake is the ability of Oklahoma and other states to develop and implement state-based solutions. The EPA exceeded its authority when it denied the state’s plan to address regional haze,” Pruitt said in a statement.

Whitney Pearson, with the Oklahoma branch of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, reacted to Monday’s approval of PSO’s plan by calling on OG&E to follow its lead.

“The clean air plan will cut dangerous sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants that have been pumped into our air for decades by coal-fired power plants,” Pearson said in a statement. “While Oklahoma Gas and Electric is still fighting this process in court, PSO can move forward and focus on providing cleaner, reliable electricity for their customers.”

Copyright 2014 StateImpact Oklahoma. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/.