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Toxic Sulfur Dioxide Plumes in Oklahoma

pollutionOn Thursday, the Sierra Club released a report demonstrating how OG&E’s Muskogee and Sooner coal-fired power plants are producing enough toxic sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution to violate state and federal health standards. In addition to the report, the Sierra Club has released maps showing where the pollution from the two plants is going.

Sulfur dioxide exposure can be harmful in a very short period of time. It’s especially dangerous for people living with asthma. In Muskogee County, where one of the plants is located, there are nearly 7,000 people with asthma.

“Even five minutes of exposure to high sulfur dioxide levels can be harmful, and can result in injury that can be compared to a sunburn on your lungs” said Whitney Pearson, organizer with Sierra Club. “It’s now clear that OG&E’s Muskogee and Sooner coal plants are violating air standards that protect our health. We have abundant, affordable wind energy resources in Oklahoma, yet OG&E is stuck on polluting plants that fueled by dirty out-of-state coal. It’s well past time for OG&E to clean up its coal-fired power plants.”- read more


Coal burning plants are the largest source of sulfur dioxide pollution in the nation and the Muskogee and Sooner plants are largest coal plants in Oklahoma. These plants still lack modern pollution safeguards called “scrubbers.” Scrubbers can help control pollution, including sulfur dioxide, though they can’t eliminate all pollution from the plants.

In the plume maps released by the Sierra Club were produced by experts and show that the sulfur dioxide levels at the plants are exceeding the safe levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency. This poses significant health risks to the residents. Elderly, children and people with asthma are the most vulnerable.

“It’s concerning for people to look at these maps and see their home, school, or workplace in an area with high levels of pollution that could be responsible for their child’s asthma attacks,” said Sylvia Swan, Muskogee resident. “More than three thousand people in Muskogee suffer from asthma. We can install locks on our doors to protect ourselves from burglary, but there’s nothing we can do to protect ourselves from OG&E’s pollution. It’s the responsibility of the state and federal agencies to protect us, and it should be the responsibility of OG&E to produce electricity without harming us. It’s time to clean up the Muskogee plant now, that’s why I’ve gotten involved in the effort to educate my community about this important issue.” –read more

The Sierra Club is asking Oklahomans to tell OG&E to clean up and phase out the Muskogee and Sooner coal plants. You can learn more and send your message at Beyond Coal Oklahoma.

Photo Credit- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Lisa Sharp is the founder of Green Oklahoma. She is passionate about the environment and improving Oklahoma for future generations. She also writes on her personal blog Retro Housewife Goes Green.
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