Stateregulators on April 28 authorized OklahomaGas and Electric Co. to install dry scrubbers on two coal-fired generatingunits at the Soonerpower plant in order to meet the U.S. EPA's regional haze plan requirements.
The OklahomaCorporation Commission found the OGEEnergy Corp. subsidiary's plan reasonable, but cost recovery for theestimated $490 million project will have to come in a future case.
The votewas 2-0. Commission Vice Chairman Dana Murphy concurred with the result but disagreedwith some of the wording of the order, so she did not record a vote, commissionspokesman Matt Skinner said by email.
"Onceagain, Oklahomans find themselves squeezed by 'Big Brother' as a result of a questionablefederal mandate," Murphy said in a statement."The EPA admits the Regional Haze rule is not based on health concerns, andOklahoma had developed a less-costly and less-disruptive approach to comply."
However,the EPA rejected Oklahoma'sproposal, and Murphy said the state's utilities and consumers will now have to payfor the federal mandate. Murphy noted that the coal plant is needed for baseloadgeneration, which is preferable to relying entirely on natural gas-fired resources.Further, OG&E customers have already made a huge investment in the Sooner plant,she said.
"Ithelps avoid the trap of relying on only one main fuel source for baseload electricgeneration when that fuel source is subject to market forces and speculation, Murphyconcluded.
In itsorder, the commissionsaid the level of funding and the appropriate funding mechanism will be ultimatelydetermined in a subsequent proceeding.
The commissionpreviously denied preapproval of OG&E's broad environmental compliance planto add $1.1 billion for construction projects at several facilities over an extendedperiod. The list included installation of the Sooner scrubbers. OG&E had soughtpreapproval of the projects and a rider to recover expenditures through periodicrate adjustments.
OG&Efiled a new application that was the subject of the commission's latest order concerningonly the Sooner scrubbers and did not seek a determination on cost recovery. Italso does not address its earlier application to convert two of the three coal unitsat the company's Muskogeecoal-fired facility to gas-fired generators.