Oklahoma utility tries third time to get scrubbers for the Sooner coal plant

Dive Brief:

  • Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.’s third attempt at pushing through a scrubber for its coal-fired Sooner plant has met with local opposition, The Oklahoman reports, with public comment at a hearing this week focused on why the utility isn't utilizing more solar and wind power.
  • If state regulators do not approve the $500 million plan to meet federal emissions standards, OG&E has said it will consider converting the facility to burn natural gas.
  • The utility said more than 100 jobs are on the line, and argued that environmental advocates are just trying to shut down the state's coal and gas industries.
  • OG&E proposed the scrubber in 2014, explaining that the upgrades would allow the utility to help Oklahoma meet its required greenhouse gas emissions reductions mandated by the Clean Power Plan.

Dive Insight:

While OG&E and plant employees advocated for scrubber installation, arguing the facility's jobs and tax contributions and reliable power make it a boon for the state, environmentalists say the technology is rooted in the past.

Kim Bartlett, conservation chair of the Oklahoma Sierra Club told the commission that the utility needs to "look forward rather than backward," according to The Oklahoman.

"It appears OG&E made a mistake and they purchased equipment that is not progressive-leaning in nature," Bartlett said. "As our environmental sciences have shown that we need to change the way we're producing things, it seems to me as a ratepayer that OG&E is asking me to pay for their mistake, their bad business decision, and I would prefer not to do that."

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, planning a run for an OCC seat, said the state should be looking beyond coal. "Oklahoma is blessed with many energy resources right here: cleaner burning natural gas and lots of cheaper wind," Morrissette said. "Our state has enormous potential for solar energy development, which can provide clean energy at the most expensive times of the day."

OG&E spokesman Randy Swanson told The Oklahoman that environmentalists have an agenda that ignores the state's realities.

"The EPA and Sierra Club bring up an agenda and point of view in Oklahoma that isn't always in the best interest of Oklahoma customers," Swanson told the paper. "The Sierra Club is essentially trying to shut down the oil and gas industry in this state. We're talking the economic engine of our state, and they're fighting it the whole way."

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