The Oklahoma Corporation Commission agreed on Thursday to an order allowing Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. to recover an estimated $600 million in environmental improvements to some of its coal-fired electric generating plants. The order also means no change in electrical rates for OGE customers.
Commissioners Dana Murphy and Bob Anthony voted in support of the settlement agreement involving OGE, the state Attorney General, the commissions Public Utility Division, two consumer advocate groups and two large power users.
Commission Chairman Todd Hiett was against the order, telling the crowd on hand for the vote that he had concerns about the lack of documentation by OGE related to costs involving the work to install emissions scrubbers on two coal-fired generating systems at one plant and the conversion of two others from coal to natural gas.
“The company did not add evidence to the record to discuss the cost of those investments,” said Hiett who added he also felt the utility was correct in making the environmental improvements.
“Oklahoma is an energy leader, and that includes electricity,” Hiett said. “This agreement keeps Oklahoma ahead of the pack when it comes to the electricity needed to power our increasingly high-tech economy in an environmentally responsible manner.”
Customers won’t seen an increase in utility bills because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 which resulted in lower collections for corporate income taxes. OGE also acquired a coal-fired power plant in eastern Oklahoma and a natural gas-fired generating station in Oklahoma City.
The Commission’s action wasn’t well received by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club which said the ruling “misguidedly rewards the utility’s wasteful actions.”
Chapter President Johnson Bridgwater charged the commission disregarded “clear and extensive evidence” showing that if OGE had acted appropriately in support of non-coal alternatives in the past, customers would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars.
“This ruling flies in the face of what the Commission itself as well as the Oklahoma Supreme Court have said in the past, and it ignores evidence that anyone can see: OG&E’s decision to spend half a billion dollars to keep an old, inefficient, dirty coal plant running was a waste of money. It was a bad decision when OG&E announced it in 2014, it was a bad decision when they failed to revisit it in 2016, and it remains a bad decision today,” said Bridgwater. “Make no mistake, families, schools, and small businesses will wind up with bills higher than they should be if the OCC had acted in ratepayers’ best interest this time around.”
He said the Sierra Club will consider the option of appealing the decision with the State Supreme Court.