In conjunction with Asthma Awareness Month, on the last day of May the Sierra Club and the Muskogee Clean City Coalition sponsored an asthma awareness event in Muskogee, Oklahoma, home to the state's oldest, largest, and dirtiest coal plant, owned and operated by Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E).
Pictured above, local Boy Scout leader Tom Russell, Troop 627 scout Troy Seroble, local activist Linda Turner, Muskogee City Council member Ivory Vann, activist Marylin Brown, and Troop 627 scout Charley Walton.
The Club's Beyond Coal Campaign has been working for the past four years to retire the Muskogee Generating Station and get OG&E to move away from fossil fuels toward clean energy.
Between 75 and 100 people turned out for the event in Robison Park in southwest Muskogee. Sierra Club volunteers set up booths and tables offering information about asthma, air quality, and opportunities to help combat pollution in the city and in Muskogee County.
Local vendors provided food, local musicians provided entertainment, and members of a local Boy Scout troop talked about their involvement with the Muskogee Clean City Coalition, of which the Sierra Club is a part. That's Charley Walton, high school senior and member of Boy Scout Troop 627, above at microphone.
"The Muskogee Clean City Coalition is a growing group of area residents concerned about air and water quality," says Oklahoma-based Sierra Club organizer Whitney Pearson, at left, the Club's lead organizer for the event. "This occasion was about fun, education, and building the coalition's membership. We've been working over the past several years to develop relationships with local residents and organizations who want to clean up the air and improve water quality in Muskogee."
Locals don't just suffer from pollution from the coal plant, Pearson says. "There are numerous industrial facilities in the city of Muskogee and Muskogee County compounding the problem. More than 6,500 people in the county suffer from asthma, including 1,500 children."
At the May 31 event, Sierra Club volunteers gathered signatures petitioning OG&E and other polluters, like Yaffe Metals, to clean up their act. Petitions were also collected targeting elected officials and other local leaders. That's local activist and asthma sufferer Darla Bennett, above at left, and city councilman Ivory Vann, above at right, sporting a Sierra Club Beyond Coal t-shirt.
"We want polluters to know what they're supposed to be doing to reduce their emissions, and let local decision-makers know that people out there are concerned," Pearson says. "We know that polluters heard our message, and this event was a great building block toward creating a strong, sustainable coalition of people who want to work on cleaning up Muskogee."
Pearson gives kudos to Sierra Club colleague and "logistics guru" Shelly Campbell, deputy press secretary Jenna Garland, regional online organizer Andy Wilson, "and of course all the volunteers who made this event such a success."