Northeastern Coal Plant One Step Closer to Retirement

On November 14th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the proposed settlement between the Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), the State of Oklahoma, and the Sierra Club, which brings the Northeastern coal plant near Oologah, Oklahoma one step closer to retirement. Previously, all parties had announced an agreement in principle in April of this year to phase out the aging coal plant as part of legal disputes concerning air pollution coming from the plant.

“I am pleased that the plan to phase out the Northeastern coal plant is moving forward,” said Whitney Pearson, organizer with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “In preparing for the plant’s retirement, PSO has been a leader and a model for prioritizing its workers while also honoring their duties under the Clean Air Act. Oklahomans will breathe easier once the Northeastern plant is retired, but we must also remember that there are still aging, dirty coal plants in Oklahoma contributing to serious air quality concerns. We need further action.”

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.

OG&E is the largest electricity generator in Oklahoma, and is fighting Clean Air Act health protections, with litigation pending now. “OG&E has the opportunity to show the same type of leadership for Oklahoma that PSO has shown in this responsible plant retirement,” said Pearson. “Instead of shirking their responsibility to provide electricity without harm, OG&E should prioritize protecting public health and keeping rates stable with cleaner sources of energy.”

Currently, Oklahoma has six coal-fired power plants that collectively emit significant amounts of soot, smog, and mercury pollution. Coal-fired power plants are a major contributor of ozone-forming pollution, and air quality data for 2011 and 2012 has shown that Tulsa and Oklahoma City exceeded federal limits on ozone pollution, threatening Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens, such as children, the elderly, and people who work or exercise outdoors.

Oklahoma has significant clean energy potential, which could power the state while protecting public health. Oklahoma’s wind resources rank ninth in the United States, 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. States such as Alabama are already purchasing Oklahoma wind power.

Nationwide, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has worked with allies and partners to prevent the construction of 168 new coal plants, and has helped secure the retirement of 125 coal plants.

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