A group of environmental organizations on Tuesday released a report that claims Oklahoma's six coal-fired power plants release too many harmful materials into the state's lakes and rivers.
Oklahoma utility companies disputed the report as inaccurate and misleading.
The report “Closing the Floodgates: How the Coal Industry is Poisoning Our Water and How We Can Stop It” reviewed water permits for 386 coal plants throughout the country. It found that 274 nationwide — including all six in Oklahoma — discharge coal ash and scrubber wastewater into waterways.
“None of these have limits on the amounts of toxic metals like arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury and selenium they are allowed to dump into public waters,” the report stated.
“This report makes it clear that utility companies in Oklahoma need lessons in common sense: dumping poisons into our water without rigorous monitoring and reporting threatens the health, drinking water and recreation opportunities in Oklahoma,” said Whitney Pearson, who heads the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Oklahoma. “New Environmental Protection Agency limits on these toxics in our water will prevent children from getting sick and ensure our water is safe to drink and our fish are safe to eat.”
Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Brian Alford said the company's wastewater permits are renewed by the EPA and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality every five years.
Its Muskogee plant was last checked in 2011 and its Sooner plant near Red Rock was inspected earlier this year.
Both inspections found the metals listed in the environmental report as “below detection,” Alford said.
“We don't dispose of coal ash on site, either at Muskogee or Sooner,” Alford said.
The environmental report also found that three of the state's six coal plants are operating with expired Clean Water Act permits. Western Farmers Electric Cooperative said the claim is misleading.
“Western Farmers Electric Cooperative's single coal-fired electric generation unit located near Hugo, Oklahoma, is, despite the allegations of the Sierra Club, in compliance with the Clean Water Act and its valid Clean Water Act permit,” Brian Hobbs, Western Farmers' vice president of legal and corporate services, said in a statement.
“While the term of the existing permit has passed, the governing regulations provide that so long as the facility has made timely application for a permit renewal at least six months in advance of the expiration date, the existing permit continues in force and effect until such time a new permit is issued. Western Farmers Electric Cooperative has made such application and has complied with the applicable water regulations and the existing water permit is valid and enforceable. The regulations are clear on this matter.”
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality declined to comment Tuesday, saying agency representatives had not had a chance to review Tuesday's report.
This report makes it clear that utility companies in Oklahoma need lessons in common sense: dumping poisons into our water without rigorous monitoring and reporting threatens the health, drinking water and recreation opportunities in Oklahoma.”