Throughout the history of the Sierra Club, our organization has fought for clean air and supported regulations to protect our communities from pollution. More recently, the Sierra Club has been involved across the country in ending our dependence on dirty coal and moving the United States to a clean-energy future. Given that history, we must clarify a statement made in “Lack of common sense will be costly for Oklahoma” (Our Views, March 9) about the Sierra Club's support for our state's regional haze implementation plan.
We support the state's plan to transition away from using the country's oldest, dirtiest source of power, but we would like to see a short-term guaranteed timeline for getting off coal. In December 2009 we stated that if fuel-switching proposals were offered with timelines that could achieve the objectives to reduce regional haze, they should be considered in lieu of adding scrubber technology to existing coal-fired steam facilities.
We applaud the Environmental Protection Agency for taking steps to reduce pollution from power plants in Oklahoma. Because the EPA found that Oklahoma's proposed plan did not meet the Clean Air Act requirements, EPA proposed its rules giving the utilities the option to phase out their oldest, dirtiest plants, or modernize their pollution controls in three years.
The Sierra Club believes the best solution for Oklahoma involves both transitioning away from coal and doing so in the shortest time period possible. Oklahomans have been paying the true costs of coal with their health for far too long. Transitioning to a combined use of energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas will create jobs and save money in the long term.
We do not think it is in the best interest of citizens of Oklahoma to extend the life of these dirty coal plants. Continuing to use coal for electricity, while the rest of the nation moves away from coal, will be detrimental to our health and our economy.
The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club has promoted the transition to a clean-energy economy by advocating for a renewable energy goal to generate 15 percent of our state's electricity from clean sources by 2015. In 2010, the Legislature adopted this energy plan for the state that called for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as a commitment to natural gas facilities over coal-burning power plants. Any implementation plan to address regional haze must have firm timelines for decommissioning dirty coal plants and investing in natural gas facilities, along with renewable energy and efficiency upgrades.
This issue is about more than visibility at the Wichita Mountains. Fine particle pollution that contributes to regional haze affects people's health. Every day that we continue to rely on coal, we threaten the health of Oklahomans across the state.
Scott and Pearson represent the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club.