Oklahoma has been both a driver and a beneficiary of the growing clean energy economy. Our wind industry has soared as new wind farms continue to open. More than 15 percent of the state’s energy now comes from renewable sources, creating new jobs and sparking innovation. According to The American Wind Energy Association, as many as 2,000 direct and indirect jobs were supported by Oklahoma’s wind industry in 2011.
In 2013, undoubtedly more Oklahomans are working in wind and we’ll see more good, family-supporting jobs as we invest more in clean energy.
Better still, Oklahoma has begun exporting our clean power to other states. We have not yet fully tapped our potential. According to Public Policy Polling, nearly 80 percent of the state’s voters support more clean energy, and six out of 10 people favor transitioning from coal to clean and affordable Sooner State wind.
Unlike Public Service Company of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Corp. has delayed addressing the deadly pollution from its coal-fired power plants. Doing nothing is no longer an option. The Clean Air Act is the law of the land, and the company needs to get serious about complying with it.
For each day that OG&E stalls action, pollution continues to spew from the smokestacks at its Muskogee and Sooner plants, sending children to the hospital, keeping working people off the job and undermining the health of our communities. According to the Clean Air Task Force, these are some of the most toxic and deadly coal-fired plants in our state. Combined, they contribute to 76 deaths, 117 heart attacks and 1,270 asthma attacks each year.
The time has come for OG&E to make a decision: Either commit to phase out the Muskogee and Sooner plants, or take the necessary and required steps to ensure that pollution-reducing equipment is installed at the plants.
Utility companies cannot pick and choose whether to comply with federal clean air protections, laws that ensure that families — including those in Oklahoma — are protected from the threats posed by toxic coal.
The good news is that while taking action to protect human health, OG&E can also help boost our local economy. Currently, it sends millions of dollars out of state each year to purchase coal from Wyoming.
OG&E has an opportunity to shift its generation to using local Oklahoma resources that support our state rather than locking us into more decades of needless reliance on coal. Making this shift should be common sense.
OG&E wants to make this decision about anything that allows it to deflect from what’s really at stake: the health and prosperity of Oklahoma families and communities for this generation and the next. It’s time for OG&E to move beyond coal.
Pearson is an organizer with Sierra Club Oklahoma’s Beyond Coal.