Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Lawmaker, Utilities Decry EPA Plan

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Lawmaker, Utilities Decry EPA Plan

Article excerpt

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a plan to improve air quality that would require three Oklahoma coal-fired power plants to switch to natural gas or install multimillion- dollar sulfur dioxide-scrubbing mechanisms within three years.

The plan, announced Monday, is part of the federal agency's push to implement the Clean Air Act of 1990. The federal law requires states to produce a plan to reduce air emissions that cause haze over wilderness areas, including the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Under the new EPA plan, the Oklahoma Gas and Electric plant near Muskogee, the OG&E Sooner plant in north-central Oklahoma and the American Electric Power/Public Service Company of Oklahoma plant northeast of Tulsa would all be required to reduce their sulfur dioxide emissions by 95 percent in three years.

The three power plants, among the oldest in the state, are responsible for more than a third of Oklahoma's sulfur dioxide pollution, the EPA claims.

"The steps we are taking to address the sulfur pollution from the oldest coal power plants will improve air quality for generations to come," Al Armendariz, administrator for the EPA Region 6, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 66 tribal nations, said in a written statement. "Everyone must continue to take efforts to reduce pollution, use cleaner sources of energy, and preserve our national wildlife areas."

OG&E and AEP-PSO claim retrofitting their coal-fired plants with expensive sulfur scrubbers or switching to natural gas would force them to pass on large rate increases to consumers to pay for the changes.

"We'd like the ability to evaluate other upcoming rules and alternatives that will provide the best solution to address the environmental issues and consider the magnitude of cost increases to customers' bills," said Brian Alford, a spokesman for OG&E. "We have serious concerns about the significant increase to customers' bills resulting from the short time frame proposed by the EPA. …

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