OKLAHOMA CITY —
Public Service Company of Oklahoma and the Environmental Protection Agency have reached an agreement on federal air quality rules for PSO’s two coal-fired power plants in Oologah.
Under the agreement, the first 473 megawatt coal-burning unit at the Northeastern Plant will be retired by Dec. 31, 2017. The second unit, also 473 megawatts, will remain online but will have pollution controls installed by Dec.31, 2017.
Between 2017 and 2026, AEP-PSO will dramatically reduce the amount of coal burned at the unit until it is decommissioned no later than Dec. 31, 2026.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office sued the EPA in May to allow more time for the state to craft a solution. The agreement allows PSO to comply with EPA rules, while protecting Oklahoma consumers and ratepayers.
Fallin says the agreement provides certainty for PSO and its customers as well as real environmental benefits for all Oklahomans.
The Sierra Club joined Gov. Fallin, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, US EPA, and American Electric Power subsidiary Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (AEP-PSO), in announcing an agreement in principle in pending federal court litigation over the state’s clean air protections. The agreement sets firm dates for retiring both units at AEP-PSO’s Northeastern coal-fired power plant near Oologah.
The plant’s retirement is a major victory for public health in Oklahoma, as reducing the number of coal-fired power plants will both reduce harmful emissions and will pave the way for clean energy.
“Oklahoma must move beyond coal, and AEP-PSO is taking a strong first step here,” said Whitney Pearson with Sierra Club. “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.”
Pearson added, “EPA has done a great job here working with a utility to create a responsible retirement plan. We commend the EPA and Governor Mary Fallin for their leadership in this settlement. AEP-PSO has set a good example for OG&E, which is now the biggest polluter in Oklahoma.”
“This retirement schedule creates ample opportunity for AEP-PSO to prioritize its workers,” said Charles Wesner, Chair of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club.. “Sierra Club calls on AEP-PSO 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 collectively emit significant amounts of soot, smog, and mercury pollution.
Coal-fired power plants are a major contributor of ozone-forming pollution, and 2011 air quality data 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.
Ozone pollution is worsened during periods of high temperatures, meaning the summer of 2012 may be one of the worst ozone seasons in Oklahoma history.
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.