The Sierra Club on Thursday said two Oklahoma Gas & Electric coal-fired power plants are releasing too much sulfur dioxide, a compound that can cause respiratory disease, which they said endangers residents near Muskogee and Red Rock.
The environmental group commissioned a study that modeled the amount of sulfur dioxide released by the Sooner and Muskogee plants, and says both will violate federal clean air standards — when those standards are implemented. As The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports, the Sierra Club acknowledges that neither plant is currently violating any law.
EPA established new standards for sulfur dioxide emissions in 2010, but their implementation has been delayed as the agency decides how to determine attainment. It is collecting comments on drafts of documents that states will use to implement the new standards.
“We agree that there have been no formal declarations of nonattainment, and that is exactly our point,” said Whitney Pearson, organizer for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “We are warning the state and OG&E that unless they reduce emissions, areas in Oklahoma will be designated as nonattainment for SO2 (sulfur dioxide) for the first time.”
For its part, OG&E says this just isn’t an issue for its coal plants:
“OG&E is in full compliance today with state and federal air standards,” spokesman Brian Alford said. “Our plants are continually monitored by the state. None of the actual monitoring data exceeds National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”
The EPA is working to implement the new sulfur dioxide standard, but hasn’t figured out exactly how yet. In the meantime, the Sierra Club’s modeling analysis shows that the Sooner and Muskogee plants will be out of compliance. But using these kinds of air quality models is controversial:
The issue of using modeling analyses or monitoring data is one that is hotly debated within air quality studies. EPA allows both types of measurements for assessing compliance with various regulations.