FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 17, 2012
Contact: Jenna Garland, (404) 607-1262 x 222, (404) 281-6398
Whitney Pearson, (405) 826-0241
Clean Air Advocates Fly Message to Shareholders Over Oklahoma City: OG&E, Move Beyond Coal!
Oklahoma City, OK – Today, the Sierra Club sent a message to OG&E that it is time to move Oklahoma beyond coal. On the morning of the annual OG&E shareholders meeting, Sierra Club commissioned a plane to fly over downtown Oklahoma City with a banner reading “OG&E – Move Beyond Coal.” OG&E is the state’s largest electric generator, and operates two coal plants that lack modern pollution controls, pump harmful emissions into Oklahoma’s air, and prevent the state from moving boldly to clean energy solutions.
“We are calling on OG&E today to make a strong commitment for the health and economy of Oklahoma: move beyond coal,” said Whitney Pearson, Organizer for the Beyond Coal Campaign. “Public Service Company of Oklahoma made a commitment to retire the Northeastern coal plant just last month in order to cut their air pollution. OG&E is considering right now whether to install pollution controls that will keep us chained to dirty coal power for decades, or whether to follow PSO’s lead and retire the oldest, dirtiest coal plants in the state. We think the right choice is clear.”
In 2011, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the largest cities in the state, had seriously unhealthy levels of smog pollution, which contributes to asthma, reduced lung function, and other respiratory illness. Coal plants are the primary contributor of multiple types of health-threatening pollution, including smog and mercury. OG&E operates two coal plants in the state, the Muskogee and Sooner plants, which pump pollution in to our air. Nearly 80,000 children and more than 230,000 adults are currently living with asthma in Oklahoma. In 2007, hospitalizations from asthma cost Oklahoma citizens $57.9 million in health care costs and time away from work.
Nancy Zorn, a Sierra Club volunteer and OG&E shareholder, added, “I believe that OG&E relies too heavily on coal-fired power. Coal isn’t cheap when you add in all the healthcare costs and costs from pollution. OG&E will need to reduce its pollution under the Clean Air Act, and as a shareholder, I believe the better long-term option is to retire its oldest and dirtiest plants and invest in clean energy instead. If OG&E chooses to retrofit its plants, ratepayers will be footing the bill for decades to come. The better option for everyone is to retire plants and build clean, home-grown energy in Oklahoma.”
According to a recent report from the American Wind Energy Association, more than 2,000 megawatts of wind power are online in Oklahoma, with more than 15,000 mw of wind projects waiting to be built and brought online. Wind power has created more than 2,000 direct and indirect jobs, and will create more as additional wind turbines are built, shipped, and installed. Long-term prices for wind power are predictable, low, and stable, unlike fossil fuels.
“Wind power today is cost-competitive with coal and gas,” said David Ocamb, Director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Fortune favors the bold. Now is the time for OG&E to show bold leadership and move beyond coal by making a major investment in wind energy. Everyone - the shareholders, Oklahoma’s citizens, and our state government – wins when wind powers Oklahoma and our neighbors.”
Sierra Club is working this summer to highlight the frequency and impact of high-ozone, or high-smog, pollution days in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. On May 17, the website www.ozoneisnotok.org will launch with information on smog pollution’s impacts for vulnerable communities.
Sierra Club is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the country, with more than 1.3 million members and supporters. The Beyond Coal Campaign has successfully prevented 168 new coal plants from being built and has secured the retirement of 110 plants nationwide.