As One Battle Ends, Another Sparks Between the EPA and OG&E

  • Logan Layden
Oklahoma Gas & Electric's Muskogee Power Plant was part of more than $80 million in renovations done at OG&E coal plants between 2003-2006.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gas & Electric's Muskogee Power Plant was part of more than $80 million in renovations done at OG&E coal plants between 2003-2006.

The clash between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oklahoma Gas & Electric over pollution from coal-fired power plants continues to escalate.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and OG&E both asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its July decision in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At issue was whether EPA has the authority to usurp the state’s plan for limiting haze on federal land; a plan EPA has deemed inadequate.

So OG&E first lost the case, then the appeal, and now it’s calling for a review of the appellate decision. The prospects for a reversal aren’t good, but at the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City Tuesday, OGE Energy Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Pete Delaney joined with Pruitt to justify the continued fight. From The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies:

“On appeal, you’re working a little bit uphill,” Delaney said. “We know there’s a lot at stake for our ratepayers because there’s potential investment of $1 billion for scrubbers, so we take that very seriously.”

… Pruitt said his rehearing request was about preserving the state’s ability to formulate its own plan for regional haze. The Clean Air Act requires states to make “reasonable progress” toward better visibility at federal parks and wilderness areas by 2064.

While the regional haze case looks to be close to an end, another lawsuit filed by the EPA against OG&E is just getting started.

The EPA is accusing the electric utility of violating the Clean Air Act by improperly estimating the amount of emissions that could come from upgrades at two coal-fired power plants.

Between 2003 and 2006, OG&E made more than $80 million in renovations to its Sooner and Muskogee power plants, including an enlargement of boiler reheaters and superheaters, which leads to increased emissions.

On August 30, the EPA filed motion for summary judgement  that says when a company decides to make major modifications at a coal plant, a very specific process must be followed: The Prevention of Significant Deterioration rules.

…as the first step in assuring public health is adequately protected, an operator must either (a) perform a detailed projection of future emissions to determine whether a modification “would result in” a significant emissions increase, or (b) accept a legally and practically enforceable limit on future operations.

The EPA claims OG&E did neither. A response from the company is expected within days.

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