Tension Grows as Governor’s Office Tries to Stop GRDA Vote on Plant Upgrades

  • Joe Wertz

The Grand River Dam Authority, a state-owned electric utility, wants to spend $300 million on a new natural gas-fueled power plant and $80 million in environmental upgrades to one of its two coal-fired power plants.

The projects were announced this spring as part of the GRDA’s plan to meet tougher federal environmental standards. Officials at the utility — a non-appropriated state agency — say work must start this summer to be finished by the end of 2015, the deadline set by federal regulators.

But Gov. Mary Fallin’s administration is trying to stop Wednesday’s GRDA board vote to start construction. The Fallin administration and the GRDA disagree on the urgency to start construction, but the Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel says there’s something else at work:

The real dispute, though, seems to be over the $380 million in revenue bonds the GRDA would issue. The bonds would be paid off through electricity sales, and the GRDA is about to retire an even larger bond issue, but the mood at the Capitol is not receptive to any sort of new debt.

Also, in an executive order issued July 8, Gov. Fallin appointed a 15-member task force to examine the GRDA and recommend “potential changes,” the World reports:

Fallin will appoint all 15 members of the task force, who will be charged with several tasks, including investigating the possibility of using the GRDA to generate money for the state’s general fund; privatizing the GRDA; and splitting the GRDA into two entities, one to manage the lakes and the other to operate the utility side.

The task force angered State Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, whose district includes Grand Lake, the paper reports:

Cox said he was particularly disturbed to discover that investor-owned utilities American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma and OG&E would be represented on the task force.