Local & Regional
8:01 am
Fri March 11, 2011

Haze Ruling Causes Warning

Oklahoma City, OK – In response to the start of federal actions that could drastically increase utility bills, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) will provide a forum for other State agencies, electric utilities, consumer groups and all stakeholders to meet on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) newly-released, costly plan to reduce regional haze in scenic areas.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. March 23 at the OCC and is designed to include discussion about the numerous, expensive actions federal agencies are planning to try to impose on Oklahomans and possible courses of action.

"We issued a warning about the possibility of this EPA plan months ago," Commission Chair Dana Murphy said. " I am very disappointed the EPA failed to work with Oklahoma and disregarded the devastating impact the EPA's plan would have on Oklahoma electricity customers. Now that EPA has released its proposed mandate, we need to move quickly to respond and protect Oklahomans' pocketbooks."

Murphy warned that nationwide, utility commissions are facing a grim battle to hold the line against substantial rate increases in the face of unreasonable federal mandates.

OCC's Public Utility Division Staff currently estimates that the EPA regional haze plan will increase utility bills a minimum of 15 percent and other government mandates in the pipeline could cause bills to increase 40 percent or more.

Vice Chairman Jeff Cloud said the EPA proposal is a "call to action."

"Oklahoma had a plan in place that would have met the federal mandates without sudden price shock," Cloud said. "As the entity charged with ensuring affordable and reliable utility service to Oklahoma, the Commission will work with all the stakeholders and others in government against such misguided federal requirements."

Commissioner Bob Anthony noted no one is immune from such mandates.

"To protect utility ratepayers from wasteful multi-million dollar expenditures and unnecessary costs, the Corporation Commission should help Oklahoma follow the federal process that allows us to make public comment opposing the recently proposed EPA electric generation mandates," Anthony said. "Our constitutional agency can and will provide an accurate and credible analysis that the EPA should use in reconsidering its inappropriate way of dealing with laws about regional haze."

The meeting will be held in the Commissioners' courtroom (Room 301), Jim Thorpe Office Building, 2101 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City.