Big News for Clean Air in Oklahoma
An announcement out of Oklahoma today marks a major victory for public health and anyone who likes to breathe fresh, clean air.
American Electric Power subsidiary Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (AEP-PSO) has agreed in principle to retire both units at AEP-PSO’s Northeastern coal-fired power plant near Oologah in Rogers County.
"Today's announcement paves the way for resolving long-standing public health concerns about PSO's Northeastern coal plant, and shines a bright spotlight on the other two coal plants owned by OGE. Litigation over OGE's two coal plants continues," said Whitney Pearson with Sierra Club.
Under the agreement between the EPA and Public Services Company of Oklahoma, the first 473 megawatt coal-burning unit at the Northeastern Plant will be retired by the end of 2017. A second unit of the same size will remain online but will isntall pollution controls. Between 2017 and 2026, AEP-PSO will dramatically reduce the amount of coal burned at the unit until it is decommissioned no later than the end of 2026.
"This retirement schedule creates ample opportunity for AEP-PSO to prioritize its workers," said Charles Wesner, Chair of the Sierra Club's Oklahoma Chapter, who added that the energy company needs "to keep existing workers employed while decommissioning the plant and strive to keep as many workers as possible employed in new, clean energy projects in Oklahoma. With our tremendous wind, solar, and energy efficiency potential, AEP-PSO should be able to create jobs and keep these workers employed."
Currently, Oklahoma has six coal-fired power plants that emit soot, smog, and mercury pollution. Air quality data from 2011 has shown that Tulsa and Oklahoma City exceeded federal limits on ozone pollution -- affecting children, the elderly, and people who work or exercise outdoors. Ozone pollution is worsened during periods of high temperatures; the summer of 2012 may be one of the worst ozone seasons in Oklahoma history.
Coal will ideally be replaced by clean, renewable energy. Oklahoma's wind resources rank ninth in the country, with more than 50,000 megawatts of wind power potential. Wind power in Oklahoma supports thousands of jobs, and according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind can provide more than 31 times as much electricity as Oklahoma currently uses.