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Bloomberg, Sierra Club Partnership Aims to Close Half of U.S. Coal Plants by 2017

Photo Credit- Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

Photo Credit- Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

The Sierra Club announced this week that Bloomberg Philanthropies will be investing $30 million over three years to the Beyond Coal Campaign. This new round of funding builds on the foundation’s previous commitment of $50 million.

Bloomberg will also lead a coalition of funders, which aims to match up to $30 million in grants. With this new support, the Sierra Club hopes to see the replacement of half of the nation’s coal power plants with clean energy by 2017.

“The coalition of more than a dozen funders includes individual donors, family foundations and major philanthropic organizations recognizing the urgency to fight climate change. Select funders include the Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Yellow Chair Foundation, the Grantham Foundation and the Sandler Family Foundation.  Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Michael R. Bloomberg announced the investments at the Sierra Club in Washington DC.” –source


The Bloomberg Philanthropies-Sierra Club partnership has led to 187 coal plants being retired or announcing their retirement. Coal has also dropped from 52% of US electricity generation to under 40%.

“The single biggest reduction in carbon pollution in the U.S. has come by retiring and repurposing coal-fired power plants – and that’s the direct result of our Beyond Coal campaign,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “Thanks to the community leaders who have spearheaded this work, the U.S. led every industrialized nation in reducing carbon emissions last year. But much more work remains, and today we are doubling down on what has proven to be an incredibly successful strategy for improving public health and fighting climate change.” –source

One of the goals of the campaign is to improve the health of Americans.

The health benefits of our work to date include preventing 5,000 premature deaths,  avoiding 82,600 asthma attacks, and saving $2.3 billion in health care costs – every year. Retiring even one coal plant can  prevent 29 premature deaths, 47 heart attacks and 146 asthma attacks annually. Peer-reviewed research has also shown families living next to mountaintop-removal coal mines have higher risks of cancer, birth defects, and premature death. Replacing half the nation’s coal plants with clean energy will bring real improvements to people’s lives.” –source

The campaign also aims to position the U.S. as a climate leader. Current reductions in coal and increase use of renewable energy has helped the U.S. reach a climate agreement with China. However, the Sierra Club is hoping for even more.

“…the science is clear that we must do more, and the goals announced today by the Sierra Club will put the nation on a path to exceed the U.S. climate targets announced in late March by the Obama Administration.” –source

The coal industry is clearly not a big fan of this effort by the Sierra Club and Bloomberg.

“Instead of trying to make headlines, environmentalists could be partnering with industry to make headway in providing cleaner, reliable energy to Americans across the country and around the world,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents coal interests, in a statement.”- source

However, the Sierra Club and Bloomberg say the partnership is helping transition the economy from coal to clean energy. Bloomberg has pointed out the increase in number of jobs in solar and other renewable energy.

“Saying we’re destroying the coal industry isn’t as true as people would want you to believe, said Bloomberg. We should be making investments in helping find jobs and careers in industries that will continue growing,” – source

You can find out more at the Bloomberg Beyond Coal and Beyond Coal websites.

USGS Says Earthquake Increase is Not From Natural Causes

2011 earthquake

Oklahoma has been seeing a sharp increase in earthquake activity. In 2014, Oklahoma beat out California, for the most earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater, with 562 quakes compared to 180 in California.

This increase has Oklahoman’s wanting answers on the cause. In September of last year, Gov. Fallin created a seismic activity council to do just that. However, many fear that the council is bias due to the fact that it’s members are largely connected with the oil and gas industry.


Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been studying this issue and last week said that the “rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.”

Their findings show that the increase is due to a part of the hydraulic fracturing process.

“These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S. ” – U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

These findings are consistent with other studies done around the state.

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS

4.3 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles State After Injection Well Shutdown

Oklahoma Earthquakes

Earthquakes in Oklahoma as of 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

A 4.3 magnitude earthquake was reported near Cherokee at 9:08 a.m. on Thursday. This comes after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission directed SandRidge Energy to shut down an injection well in Alfalfa County on Tuesday.

The well was shut down due to a magnitude 4.1 earthquake recorded in the area on Friday. It’s the second active wastewater injection well to be shut down since 2003, when a new monitoring system was put into place.

Oklahoma’s earthquakes are continuing to increase. In 2011 Oklahoma experienced the largest earthquake in state history, magnitude 5.7. That year there were 63 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater.


2012 was a bit quieter with 34 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater. However, in 2013 earthquakes increased again with 106 of magnitude 3 or greater. And in 2014 the number jumped to 567 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater.

While studies continue to link the increase in earthquakes to injection wells, the state has been slow to address the issue. The oil and gas industry accounts for a third of the state’s economy and one in five jobs, making state officials slow to enact more regulations on the industry.

In September of last year Gov. Fallin created a seismic activity council to study the issue. However, some have criticized the council because they believe the oil and natural gas industry is too heavily represented.

“I applaud the governor for proposing the council, but its membership needs to be expanded to include someone other than just people beholden to the oil and gas industry,” . Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant said. –read more

How Oklahoma handles the earthquake increase and the oil and natural gas industry could also come from the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The state’s highest court is set to decide if two oil companies can be held liable for injuries a woman received from the 2011 5.7 magnitude earthquake.

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS

Keystone XL Pipeline Fails to Pass U.S. Senate

Keystone XL PipelineThe controversial pipeline failed to pass the Senate on Tuesday, by one vote. The vote comes after the House voted to approve the bill last week.

The southern route for the pipeline, which goes from Cushing, Oklahoma to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has already been built and is flowing. TransCanada, the pipeline’s owner, is waiting on approval to build the northern route which crosses the U.S.- Canadian border.

Proponents of the bill say it will create around 42,000 jobs. However, this number includes many indirect jobs and most are temporary. It will only create around 50 permit jobs.


Concerns surrounding the pipeline include many environmental ones. The pipeline will go over the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water for people in eight states, including Oklahoma. It also provides as much as 30% of the nation’s ground water used for irrigation.

Before oil even started flowing in the southern route of the Keystone XL, TransCanada had to repair 125 dents and sags in the pipeline.

Even if the vote had passed, experts believed President Obama would veto the bill. The Obama administration had delayed its review of the pipeline back in April until a lawsuit in Nebraska, addressing questions about a state law dealing with the pipeline’s route in the state, is resolved.

“It certainly is a piece of legislation that the president doesn’t support because the president believes this is something that should be determined through the State Department and the process that is in place to evaluate projects like this,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Photo credit: shannonpatrick17

House of Representatives Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline

keystone xl pipelineThe House has voted 252 to 161 to approve a bill that would direct the federal government to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline. The Senate is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 18th, that vote could send the measure to President Obama’s desk.

This is the ninth time that the House has voted for a measure to force the approval of the pipeline. And there is thought to be little change that this vote will matter. The Democrats have a majority in the Senate until the Republican take over in January, and it’s unlikely that the bill will attract 60 votes, enough to avoid a filibuster. President Obama has also signaled he will possibly veto the bill if it does reach his desk.

“While the White House has not issued a formal veto threat, it has indicated it is prepared to reject the House bill; press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday it has recommended vetoes against similar bills in the past. And barring an extraordinary legislative maneuver forcing his hand next Congress, according to individuals familiar with the administration’s thinking, Obama is likely to reject a final permit when the matter comes before him.” – Washington Post


While the status of the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is still in the air, the southern leg that runs from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, is already up and running. Though many are still fighting it in Oklahoma and Texas.

Due to many environmental and property rights concerns the Keystone XL has faced many delays. TransCanada Corp. of Calgary, Alberta, the pipeline owner, first submitted the application more than six years ago to the State Department.

The Obama administration had delayed its review of the pipeline back in April until a lawsuit in Nebraska, addressing questions about a state law dealing with the pipeline’s route in the state, is resolved.

Photo credit: shannonpatrick17

Twelve States Suing the EPA Over Federal Clean Power Plan

power plant

Photo Credit: Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

Twelve states, including Oklahoma, have joined together to sue the EPA over President Barack Obama’s plan to cut carbon emissions 30 percent nationally by 2030. The plan largely focuses on reducing our reliance on coal-fired power plants.

Power plants account for nearly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Currently, there are limits on how much arsenic, mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particle pollution power plants can emit. However, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution.

“By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:

· Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year; 
· Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
· Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and 
· Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.”    – read more 

Oklahoma State Attorney General Scott Pruitt told The Oklahoman, “I believe the EPA does not possess authority under Section 111(d) to take the action they took (in June).”

However, EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi told The Oklahoman“history has shown that EPA writes solid rules and they stand up in court — the courts have reaffirmed our science and reasoning time and time again.”


This is not the first time Pruitt has gone up against the EPA. He unsuccessfully tried to stop the regional haze rule.

10 Ways to Reduce Your Energy Consumption This Summer

While rain has kept temperatures in Oklahoma lower than predicted, it’s still hot and energy consumption is up. The increased energy use is hard on the environment and our budgets. Here are some easy ways to reduce your consumption and save some money this summer.

energy

 

  1. Make sure your A/C is tuned-up and running as efficiently as possible.
  2. Use a programable thermostat. We all want a cool house but we don’t want to waste energy cooling an empty home. A programable thermostat allows you to have the temperature go up while you are away from the house and go back down when you are home.
  3. Run full loads. When running your dishwasher and washing machine be sure the loads are full to reduce the number of loads you are running. This will also help save a lot of water.
  4. When buying new appliances and electronics look for Energy Star certified products. Energy Star products have to meet standards of efficiency and will help you make sure you are getting an efficient product.
  5. Use power strips. Many electronics use what is called vampire energy, energy consumed while the item is turned off. Plugging items into a power strip and turning the strip off when the items aren’t in use can ensure the items aren’t using energy while not in use. You can also get smart power strips, which turn the items off without the whole strip being turned off.
  6. Plant a Tree. Trees that shade your home can help keep it cooler.
  7. Don’t over dry your clothes. Many newer dryers have sensors that turn the dryer off when the clothes are dry, if your’s has one use it. If your dryer doesn’t have a sensor be sure to check your clothes fairly often. This saves energy and is better for your clothes. Better yet, skip the dryer and line dry your clothes.
  8. Cover your windows. During the day close your curtains or blinds to keep the sun from heating up the room.
  9. Keep your freezer full. A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one. If you don’t have enough food to fill it you can freeze plastic bottles filled with water.
  10. Dust your fridge coils. Dusty coils can be a fire hazard and make the fridge work harder.  Keeping them clean helps your refrigerator run more efficiently and safely.

These are just a few ways you can reduce your energy consumption this summer. Please share your tips in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo Credits- The original photo is curious of AZAdam/Flickr. The photo has been modified.

Oklahoma’s Wind Industry in Jeopardy

Wind Turbine Oklahoma is currently sixth in the country in wind production. However, Oklahoma’s wind industry is now at risk due to two state Senate bills.

The first bill, SB 1440, would place a moratorium on new wind development east of Interstate 35. The second bill, SB 1559, places restrictions on wind and would stop development and divert new projects to Kansas and Texas.

Wind power has been very important to many Oklahomans. Wind provides jobs and has helped bring businesses like Google to the state. Wind is also helping Oklahoma become energy independent. And in the past wind energy has received overwhelming bipartisan support.


Oklahoma currently has several incentives for wind developers, including a five-year local property tax exemption. Renewable energy developers can also receive a tax credit of 0.25 cents to 0.75 cents per kilowatt hour of energy produced.

“It’s unfortunate that we are seeing bills this legislative session aimed at either restricting wind farm developments or halting future projects altogether,” Arnella Karges, vice president of government affairs for the State Chamber of Oklahoma, said. “Why have policies which encourage wind production in our state and then not allow that development? The State Chamber supports an ‘all of the above’ energy portfolio for Oklahoma, and wind power is part of that.”- read more

Why the sudden change of attitude towards wind energy? The lobbyist working to help advance the bills may be the answer.

“These bills have been advanced by a wealthy individual related to the Walton family (of Walmart fame) who hired lobbyists and made campaign contributions so he wouldn’t have to look at wind turbines.”- Oklahoma Sierra Club

Oklahomans wanting to save the wind industry in Oklahoma should contact their state Senators today and let them know these bills are not best for Oklahoma. And ask them to vote no on SB 1440 and SB 1559.

Photo Credit

Regional Haze Rule, For Health or Visibility?

powerplantOklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a petition last month with the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court decision on the regional haze rule, which went against Oklahoma and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. (OG&E).

In a press release from last year, Pruitt stated the rule is about visibility and not health.

“At stake is the ability of Oklahoma and other states to develop and implement state-based solutions. The EPA exceeded its authority when it denied the state’s plan to address regional haze. Oklahomans need to understand the regional haze rule is not about health, it is about visibility in a state wildlife area that Oklahoma leaders want to protect.”


The regional haze rule is aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from coal power plants. While the rule is meant to help improve visibility on federal lands, sulfur dioxide is a major air pollutant and a precursor to acid rain.

There is scientific evidence linking short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide, ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours, with an array of respiratory risks. These risk particularly impact asthmatics.

Sulfur dioxide can also react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form small particles. These particles can penetrate sensitive parts of the lungs and worsen and even cause respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and emphysema. This can aggravate existing heart disease and lead to hospitalization and even premature death.

Coal burning plants are the largest source of sulfur dioxide pollution in the nation. OG&E’s Muskogee and Sooner plants are the largest coal plants in Oklahoma. The plants lake modern pollution safeguards called scrubbers. The scrubbers can help control pollution including sulfur dioxide. However, they can’t eliminate all of the pollution.

Tulsa’s Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) reached a settlement with the EPA in 2012 to retire its last coal units in Oklahoma by 2026 to meet regional haze and other environmental rules.

Take Action: Tell Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt that Oklahomans want sulfur dioxide emission reduced.

Photo Credit- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Protect Our Lakes, Conserve Resources

conserveOklahoma has been experience a drought for the last several years. Currently over 60 percent of the state is abnormally dry or worse. The drought conditions have left Oklahoma’s lakes in bad shape. Citizens are very concerned about water levels in Lake Texoma and many other lakes around the state.

A group of over 20,000 people have “liked” the Facebook page, Save Lake Texoma. While this group started because of a rumor that is untrue, it’s great to see people concerned about what’s going on in the state due to prolonged drought.

There are ways we can help save our lakes. Lakes like Lake Texoma provide water to towns and industries. Lake Texoma and some of the other lakes in Oklahoma also provide electricity. By conserving water and electricity we can reduce the amount of water needed from the lakes, helping conserve the remaining water.


The long term forecast doesn’t look good for Oklahoma’s drought situation. Conservation is going to become more and more necessary as time goes on. Many towns are already struggling to find enough water. Oklahoma City is working to combat this by encouraging conservation through even/odd watering days and offering discounted rain barrels to citizens.

How You Can Help

We don’t have to wait for our cities to encourage us to conserve, we can start now. There are many great ways to conserve water and energy. Here are five easy tips to get you started conserving today.

  1. Turn off the water while brushing and saving. This can save you around four gallons of water every time you brush!
  2. Stop vampire energy. Many electronics continue to use energy even when not in use, this is called vampire energy. Prevent this by unplugging items when not in use. You can also use a power strip and just flip the switch when done.
  3. Switch to CFL or LED light bulbs. While these bulbs cost more initially, they save you money on your electric bill and also last much longer than traditional bulbs. Don’t forget to recycle your CFLs because they contain a small amount of mercury. If you want to avoid the mercury, choose LED bulbs.
  4. Check for leaks in your toilet. Place a few drops of food coloring in the tank, leave it for a few hours, and if you see any in the bowl without flushing then you have a leak. Fixing toilet leaks can save around 200 gallons of water a day. And don’t forget to fix those leaky faucets ASAP.
  5. Only run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machines. It can be tempting to just go ahead and run the dishwasher even though it’s not full, or wash your favorite jeans even though you don’t have a full load. However, this wastes a lot of energy and water, so avoid the temptation.

For more tips check out Ways to Conserve Water and 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Electric Bill. Also share your tips below and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit- Dripping Faucet: Doladimeji, Power Lines: Altair, Lake: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District (USACE)