Oklahomans want clean energy:
In results from a poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP), an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma voters support expanding Oklahoma’s clean energy resources such as wind and solar, and phasing out some of Oklahoma’s coal plants through clean energy and energy efficiency programs. The telephone poll reached 500 registered voters in Oklahoma from August 25 to 27, 2012.
In a strong move for our health and environment, the EPA has taken the lead in cutting pollution from Oklahoma's three oldest and dirtiest coal plants.
The EPA's final plan for reducing regional haze tells these plants enough is enough! It gives big polluters a choice: install new scrubber technology to limit emissions or retire their coal plants and convert to cleaner energy sources. This is a big step in stopping the pollution that is harming our communities and getting off coal entirely by transitioning to a use of cheaper, cleaner energy alternatives like wind, solar and energy efficiency. The deadline for Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) and American Electric Power (AEP)-Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) to make the choice and comply with this plan is 2017.UPDATE:
AEP-PSO reached an agreement with U.S. EPA and other parties on a plan that both complies and sets firm dates for retirement of both of their coal units. Under the agreement, the first coal-burning unit at the Northeastern Plant will be phased out by April 16th, 2016. The second unit will remain in use but will have pollution control technology installed by April 16th, 2016. Between 2021 and 2026, AEP-PSO will significantly reduce the amount of coal burned at the unit until it is decommissioned no later than December 31, 2026.
What is haze?
Haze causes health problems and degrades visibility in many American cities and scenic areas, including Oklahoma’s beloved Wichita Mountains. Haze is caused when sunlight encounters tiny pollution particles in the air. Some light is absorbed by particles. Other light is scattered away before it reaches an observer. More pollutants mean more absorption and scattering of light, which reduce the clarity and color of what we see.1
How do these pollutants impact your health and the environment?
The pollutants which form haze have also been linked to serious health problems and environmental damage. Exposure to very small particles in the air has been linked with increased respiratory illness, decreased lung function, and even premature death. The same pollution that causes haze also poses health risks for some people with chronic respiratory diseases.1
In addition, particles such as nitrates and sulfates contribute to acid rain formation which makes lakes, rivers, and streams unsuitable for many fish, and erodes buildings, historical monuments, and paint on cars.1
EPA has estimated that in 2015, full implementation of the Regional Haze Rule nationally will prevent 1,600 premature deaths, 2,200 non-fatal heart attacks, 960 hospital admissions, and over one million lost school and work days due to pollution-related illnesses.
Nearly 80,000 children and more than 230,000 adults are currently living with asthma in Oklahoma. In 2007, hospitalizations from asthma cost our citizens $57.9 million. 2 The EPA’s plan will reduce smog pollution, which triggers asthma attacks and other serious respiratory health problems.
What is the haze rule, and why should haze be reduced?
Haze has become a real problem across the country. In our nation's scenic areas where tourism is a major part of the local economy, the visual range has been substantially reduced by air pollution.
To reduce haze, and to meet requirements of the Clean Air Act, EPA issued a regional haze rule aimed at protecting visibility. The rule seeks to reduce the visibility impairment caused by many sources over a wide area, and in turn reduce the pollution that causes serious health problems from our communities.
What does this mean for Oklahoma?
The Clean Air Act requires states to modernize pollution controls of older power plants to meet regional haze requirements. EPA has finalized a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to clean up sulfur dioxide pollution from three of Oklahoma’s oldest and largest coal plants because Oklahoma’s plan did not adequately address Clean Air Act requirements to reduce pollution.
EPA is not singling out Oklahoma. This is not EPA’s first FIP, and there are many more upcoming deadlines for state haze plans – Oklahoma just happens to be one of the first. Pollution does not recognize state boundaries. Oklahoma’s pollution affects surrounding states, and Oklahoma is impacted by pollution coming from its neighboring states also. Oklahoma has to do its part, just like neighboring states will have to do their part.
EPA has given the dirtiest coal plants in Oklahoma a choice to install scrubber technology on three outdated coal plants or switch to cleaner energy sources to meet the stricter sulfur dioxide limit. The good news is that scrubbers are effective pollution control devices that reduce sulfur dioxide pollution and other harmful pollutants like mercury. Scrubbers have been used for over 30 years to reduce pollution at coal plants, and they are installed in every new coal plant. Scrubbers are also very cost effective to install on old plants, and are being installed on old plants around the country. The better news is that there are cleaner and cheaper ways to comply with EPA’s proposal than installing scrubbers – such as retiring old and dirty coal fired power plants and replacing them with modern renewable energy.
The three coal plants that have to make this choice are:
o Muskogee Generating Station in Muskogee, Oklahoma operated by OG&E
o Sooner Generating Station in Red Rock, Oklahoma operated by OG&E
o Northeastern Station in Oologah, Oklahoma operated by AEP-PSO
What is Sierra Club's Take on EPA's Plan to Reduce Air Pollution in Oklahoma?
EPA’s plan is a positive move toward cleaning up our air, though the plan could go further to implement even stronger safeguards to protect human health.
Sierra Club supports the choice to phase out the use of coal completely and transition to cleaner sources because it is the best option for Oklahoma. The health of Oklahomans has been impacted by coal pollution for far too long and it's time we move beyond burning coal for electricity. This is an opportunity for our utilities to do the right thing and invest in transitioning to clean energy sources.
Switching to cleaner energy sources also makes economic sense for Oklahoma since Oklahoma has to purchase the majority of its coal – 494 million dollars worth – from out of state. Oklahoma has its own home-grown resources that can produce power and create jobs.
Clean Energy in Oklahoma
“Continuing to develop Oklahoma’s incredible wind resource will provide economic development” - American Wind Energy Association
- Oklahoma added the 5th most new wind capacity in 2011 and is currently the state with the 8th most installed wind capacity overall in the US
Oklahoma Wind Capacity
Oklahoma’s wind resource (516,822 MW) is ranked 9th in the US
Oklahoma’s wind resource could provide nearly 31 times the state’s current electricity needs.
Economic and Environmental Benefits
1,000-2,000 = Total direct and indirect jobs supported in 2010
over $14 million = Annual property tax payments by wind project owners
$7.5 million = Annual land lease payments
Generating wind power creates no emissions and uses virtually no water. The wind power installed in OK will avoid 4.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Oklahoma has small and large wind manufacturing facilities and continues to be a prime location for consideration of new manufacturing facilities.