Oklahoma utilities say compliance with EPA standards will drive rate increases

OKLAHOMA CITY – Customers of the state’s two largest utilities can expect their electric bills to jump at least 10 to 15 percent for just the state’s cost to implement federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations announced last week.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. spokespeople aren’t sure how much their customers will have to pay to support President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from coal plants by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels.

One thing is certain. The new regulations will drive the leading electricity providers in the state away from their cheapest fuel: coal.

Customers for Oklahoma Gas & Electric will see increases of 10 to 15 percent (“at a minimum”) on the bills sent out on Jan. 4, 2019, Randy Swanson, director of public affairs, said.

Customers will be paying for upgrades at a natural gas facility and installation of scrubbers at a coal-burning facility, Swanson said.

Public Service Company customers can expect their bills to increase by about 11 percent, Tiffani Lyda Kelley, director of corporate communications for PSO told CapitolBeatOK.

“Understand that the cost is for the state implementation piece, as applied to PSO,” Kelley said. The cost “might be higher, but further study is needed to determine that.”

Cason Carter, a vice president at Tulsa’s Alliance Coal, predicted the cost of compliance will “fall on producers mostly here in the heartland states.”

Carter failed to add that those compliance costs would be passed along to utility customers who have no choice in the matter. Higher prices, he said, will mean “a lot of economic pain for virtually no gain.”

While real people will be bearing the brunt of the new regulations, some contacted by CapitolBeatOK could afford to be more sanguine.

Michael Teague, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Energy and Environment told this reporter the new regulations were “manageable.”

“The state and the utilities knew this was coming. Everybody has been planning toward the announcement of new regulations,” Teague said. “We met with the utilities, consumer groups, user groups, industry, and environmental groups.”

Teague said he was encouraged that the regulation is remaining with the states, where the price increases would be passed along.

While the utilities had already completed their cost increase estimates, Todd Schroedter, executive director of the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers told CapitolBeatOK his group was still days away from completing a “preliminary evaluation.”

Americans for Prosperity went on record last week decrying the increases.

“Whether you’re a senior citizen in Tulsa, living on a fixed income or a farmer in western Oklahoma feeding your stock or feeding your crops off of well water,” state director John Tidwell said, “all of our bills are about to go up.”
You may contact Pat at patrick@capitolbeatok.com