Oklahoma Electric Companies Have Split Reactions to Federal Coal Crackdown

  • Logan Layden

President Barack Obama made it clear during his climate change speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday:

“Power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.”

He’s talking about burning coal to generate electricity. Oklahoma does it. Most of the state’s power comes from burning coal, but that’s changing, as StateImpact reported in May.

Natural gas is taking a more prominent role, spurred by stricter regulations on coal plants. And with Obama’s speech promising even more, it appears Oklahoma’s two largest utilities will continue to be forced away from burning coal.

The two companies will go about it in different ways, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

Tulsa-based Public Service Co. of Oklahoma has taken several regulatory steps toward phasing out its last two coal-generating units in the state by 2026. Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. wants to use energy efficiency programs to delay building a new fossil-fueled plant until at least 2020.

OG&E is much more resistant to new coal regulations than PSO, going so far as to sue the federal government over regional haze standards that would force a conversion to natural gas-powered plants, or the installation of air scrubbers at existing coal plants, both extremely expensive options.

PSO, however, is putting up less of a fight, the paper reports:

Stan Whiteford, PSO’s spokesman, said the utility’s environmental compliance plan to phase out coal anticipated new regulations or limits on carbon emissions. PSO wants to retire one coal unit at its Northeastern Station plant near Oologah by 2016. It plans to install emissions-control equipment on another coal unit there before retiring it by 2026.

Meanwhile, PSO’s parent company, Ohio-based American Electric Power, said Obama’s plan for curtailing carbon emissions at power plants appeared to take a balanced approach.