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GRDA And Gov. Fallin Make Nice As Plans For New Natural Gas Plant Move Forward

Doug Wertman
Flickr Creative Commons

The summer was tough on the Grand River Dam Authority’s relationship with Gov. Mary Fallin.

It started when the GRDA announced plansearlier this year to spend almost $400 million to build a new natural gas power plant, and upgrade its newest coal-fired plant in compliance with new federal regulations.

Gov. Fallin is no fan of new federal regulations on electricity generation, nor is she a fan of millions of dollars in new debt.

She responded by appointing a 15-member task force to study ways to make the GRDA more efficient, and look at the possibility of privatizing the non-appropriate state agency.

And it was pressure from the administration that caused the GRDA’s board to table a scheduled vote on its natural gas plant proposal in mid-July, during a sometimes contentious meeting.

But a lot can happen in a month, as the Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reported last week:

A spat with Gov. Mary Fallin apparently patched up, the Grand River Dam Authority proceeded Wednesday with plans to build a new 400-megawatt-class natural gas-fired power plant at the GRDA complex near Chouteau. … Fallin’s finance secretary and acting energy secretary, Preston Doerflinger, attended Wednesday’s meeting and offered no objection to the plan, indicating that the administration and the GRDA are again on good terms – or at least in agreement on this particular issue.

Fallin also suspended plans for the GRDA task force, saying it could have a negative impact on the utility’s credit rating.

So the course is now clear for the GRDA’s new natural gas plant, just one element of its long-term strategy to move away from coal. From energy industry news websitepennenergy.com:

As its reliance on coal goes down, GRDA will be able to bring greater balance to a generation portfolio that already provides a beneficial and diverse mix of resources. Though hydroelectric output will not change significantly with the new plan, gas generation will go from 25 percent of total capacity to 45 percent. GRDA also plans to increase its wind generation from approximately 3 percent of total capacity today to 13 percent in the future.

The impact of all of this on customer rates, however, remains unclear.

Logan Layden is a reporter and managing editor for StateImpact Oklahoma. Logan spent six years as a reporter with StateImpact from 2011 to 2017.
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