Is there something shady in a deal for an Eastern Oklahoma coal-fired power plant?
We recently received a tip via the Ogle Mole Network suggesting we look into OG&E’s proposed purchase of the AES Shady Point power plant in Eastern Oklahoma. The proposal made the news toward the end of 2018, when nobody was paying attention.
Via The Journal Record:
Oklahoma Gas & Electric announced Thursday plans to purchase two power plants for $53 million, a move that will save customers money and lower power plant emissions, the company said.
Pending approval from state regulators in Oklahoma and Arkansas, the state’s largest electric utility will acquire the Shady Point power plant near Poteau in LeFlore County and the Oklahoma Cogeneration plant in western Oklahoma City. The 360-megawatt Shady Point plant is fueled with coal and natural gas and is owned by Arlington, Virginia-based AES Corporation. The natural gas-fired cogeneration plant in Oklahoma City can produce up to 146 megawatts and is owned by Oklahoma Cogeneration LLC.
The acquisitions will replace capacity now supplied to OG&E under contracts set to expire next year.
One of the biggest proponents of the purchase is freshman State Representative Lundy Kiger (R-Poteau). Not surprisingly or coincidentally, Kiger is the former Vice President of Government Relations for AES Shady Point. He retired at the end of January, just before taking office. According to Kiger he worked for AES Shady Point for 27 years and his last day was January 30, 2019, which just happened to coincide with the plant’s shutdown.
In social media posts, Kiger said getting OG&E to buy his former employer was a top priority for his district. The power plant sits outside Kiger’s District 3 boundaries, but he said the facility benefits a large part of LeFlore County…
Here’s another one:
It may seem odd or shady that a State Rep. would be so heavily involved in the sale of a company for which he may have a personal or vested interest, but Kiger essentially told The Lost Ogle that there’s nothing to see here.
He said while his retirement was once tied to AES Shady Point, he pulled that money out several years ago. He also said he no longer personally benefits from the plant and will not benefit from its sale to OG&E. He said this despite his first campaign contributions coming from AES employees and the lobbyist for AES Shady Point:
There’s no word if those donors, which it seems likely Kiger has good relations with, will benefit from OG&E’s proposed multi-million dollar acquisition of the plant.
The Shady Point sale has been approved by an administrative law judge, but the Oklahoma Corporation Commission must still approve of the purchase price. There is no way to tell if this purchase would trigger another rate increase request from OG&E.
For what it’s worth, Kiger has been a longtime supporter of Shady Point. Earlier this decade, residents in the area worried that a fly ash dump from the plant was triggering asthma and cancer outbreaks in the area. Kiger made sure he was there to stick up for the plant and it’s controversial waste disposal methods:
In a conversation with The Lost Ogle, Kiger defended the plant’s actions, including its controversial fly ash removal and disposal. He told The Lost Ogle a federal court determined it was operating within regulations.
However, OG&E told The Lost Ogle that if a sale goes through, the fly ash issues and the dump site – which was formerly run under the company name “Making Money Having Fun” – would remain AES’ concern.
OG&E will not be using the Bokoshe dump site.
“Most of ours (ash) is recycled for construction use (i.e. highways). When we do dispose, it’s in state-approved solid waste landfills,” OG&E spokesman Brian Alford told The Lost Ogle.
Kiger said if the purchase does not go through the plant would likely be deconstructed, and it would result in the loss of jobs to Eastern and Southeastern Oklahoma. We’d also assume it may lose him a few campaign donations.