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3,800 Megawatts of Coal-fired Power in Oklahoma Set to be Cleaned up or Repowered

Date
March 7, 2011
Contact
Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303
In This Release
Climate + Energy

Monday, March 7, 2011
3,800 Megawatts of Coal-fired Power in Oklahoma Set to be Cleaned up or Repowered

EPA Plan Opens the Door for Clean Air, Clean Energy
Contact: Jeremy Nichols (303) 573-4898 x 1303

Oklahoma—Three massive coal-fired power plants inOklahoma are being faced with two choices: clean up, or convert to clean energy.

Under a planannounced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the states’dirtiest and oldest coal-fired power plants would be required to reduce harmfulair pollution by 95% within three years, or otherwise convert to natural gas orother cleaner power sources.

The planpromises significant benefits for public health and the environment.

“This is a bigstep forward for clean, breathable air,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate andEnergy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians, a nonprofit environmentalorganization. “It also emphasizesthe need to move toward cleaner energy sources.”

Coal-fired powerplants in Oklahoma already take a disproportionate toll on health and theenvironment. Estimates indicatethat every year, these plants contribute to 111 premature deathsand other illnesses at a cost of more than $1 billion (see the Clean Air TaskForce report). And, the EPAestimates that every year, Oklahoma coal-fired power plants degrade visibilityin pristine areas such as the Wichita Mountains Wilderness Area, which islocated in the southwestern portion of the state, making the area three timeshazier than normal.

The EPA’s planwas spurred by a WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit, which challenged the EPA’sfailure to ensure that air pollution from a number of states, includingOklahoma, does not interfere with downwind states’ ability to protect their ownclean air. As part of thislawsuit, EPA agreed to finalize a clean air plan by June 21, 2011.

Today’s planresponds in three significant ways:

  1. It proposes to approve an Oklahoma planto reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions from its coal-firedpower plants. Oklahoma’s planwould reduce smog and haze forming nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 27,000tons annually, equal to taking 1.4 million passenger vehicles off the road.
  2. It proposes to disapprove of Oklahoma’s planto reduce sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Oklahoma’s plan fell short of ensuringenough sulfur dioxide pollution was reduced in time to meet Clean Air Actrequirements.
  3. It proposes to adopt a federal plan thatwould require the use of scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions fromthree coal-fired power plant units in Oklahoma—two units at Oklahoma Gas andElectric’s 1,716 megawatt Muskogee plant in Muskogee County and two units atthe company’s 1,138 megawatt Sooner plant in Noble County, and two units atAmerican Electric Power’s 946 megawatt Northeastern plant in RogersCounty. The plan would reducesulfur dioxide emissions by 95% from these coal-fired plants and require thesereductions to be achieved within three years.

The EPA’s planrejected a proposal by Oklahoma that would have allowed the state’s coal-firedpower plants to avoid installing scrubbers in exchange to committing to convertto cleaner natural gas by 2026. Theplan does not foreclose on the ability of the power plants to convert tonatural gas, but makes clear that such conversions would need to happen morequickly.

In total, 3,800megawatts of coal-fired electricity would be cleaned up or repowered.

“The door isopen for clean energy, but we can’t sacrifice our clean air to get there,” saidNichols. “EPA’s plan leavesOklahoma utilities a reasonable choice: either convert to clean energy sooner, or clean up theirpollution.”

The EPA’sproposal will be open to public comment for 60-days while a public hearing hasbeen scheduled for April 13 in Oklahoma City. More information from the EPA is available here.

Other Contact
Under a plan announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the states’ dirtiest and oldest coal-fired power plants would be required to reduce harmful air pollution by 95% within three years, or otherwise convert to natural gas or other cleaner power sources.
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