Commentary: Oklahoma needs clean power 

click to enlarge Johnson Bridgwater (Provided)
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  • Johnson Bridgwater

One of the most significant actions ever taken by the federal government to protect and improve the United States environment was taken on Aug. 3. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the final rule for the Clean Power Plan, a Clean Air Act action intended to stop degradation of our air quality and ultimately reverse our march toward runaway climate change. It is specifically geared to target America’s single largest cause of air pollution: coal-fired power plants. The Clean Power Plan calls for America to reduce its overall carbon pollution by 32 percent by 2030.

In response to this environmentally beneficial action, Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt, along with at least 25 other states, once again showed the rest of the country that our state government does not intend to work toward improving our environment despite the fact that Oklahoma energy companies such as OG&E and Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) have stated they believe they can meet the standards set forth in the specific targets developed for Oklahoma. To make matters worse, Oklahoma’s governor issued an executive order forbidding Oklahoma’s government from acting on or adhering to the plan. The short-sighted actions of these two government officials are detrimental to Oklahoma’s citizens, and they are actually giving up on financial benefits that will go to states that do comply — the Clean Energy Incentive Program will give credits for any investments states make in renewable energy before 2022, and an additional program specifically credits state governments that invest in low-income neighborhoods. Once again, Oklahoma passes up benefits merely to prove it is not a fan of President Obama.

Under the Clean Power Plan, individual state plans will be established to reduce overall carbon pollution, and the EPA has given each state the chance to develop its own approach to reaching carbon-reduction goals. Retiring or improving coal-fired plants, adding more natural gas and renewables and developing large-scale energy efficiency programs are some of these options. It is not a “one size fits all” government overreach; however, Oklahoma’s choice to refuse to submit or even work on its own plan means the EPA will impose a federal plan on Oklahoma in 2018. With her executive order, our governor has essentially guaranteed that Oklahoma will be given a federal plan. And most energy companies believe the state lawsuits will ultimately fail, leaving businesses scrambling to find solutions to the federal plans that will then be forced onto noncompliant states.

Environmentally friendly steps made by Oklahoma companies clearly show that Oklahoma businesses get it and our government is out of step with the very people it claims to represent.

From 2004 to 2014, Oklahoma’s state energy portfolio has decreased coal by 13 percent and increased its renewables by 16 percent, and overall, Oklahoma is now a top state in terms of overall renewable energy use. This fact could bring Oklahoma into the national spotlight for positive reasons and sustainable business opportunities. Instead, our officials continue to ignore that it makes financial sense to increase investment in these areas and the time for ignoring climate change is long past. Ultimately, what Oklahoma’s government is doing by refusing to participate in the Clean Power Plan is backing dirty fuels and ignoring legitimate threats to our state’s future.

In light of this information, I would ask each of you to contact your legislators and the governor’s office. Let Oklahomans, not two politicians, choose what is best for our state.

Johnson Bridgwater is director of the Oklahoma chapter of Sierra Club, proudly helping Oklahomans explore, enjoy and protect their environment since 1972.

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Oklahoma needs clean power

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