This Oklahoma-Texas rivalry â€” with a bit of Nebraska mixed in â€” has to do with what blows across the Red River.
Texas environmental regulators earlier this month awarded air permits to an Omaha, Neb., developer of a cleaner coal-fired power plant, allowing construction to begin on a facility near Sweetwater in west Texas.
It's the third such coal plant permit issued this year by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. There are at least a dozen new coal-fired power plants either planned or in some stage of construction south of the Sooner State's border.
â€œThe health of Oklahoma residents is put at risk by air pollution crossing our state border,â€ said Bud Scott, president of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club. â€œBut not only does Texas air pollution affect our health, it's an economic issue as well.â€
In September, a number of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club's Oklahoma Chapter, filed a federal lawsuit against a Texas power company claiming it had more than 50,000 violations of air pollution regulations during the past five years at a coal plant in the east Texas city of Longview.
And while that lawsuit continues, several environmental groups sent a notice of intent to sue Tuesday to a Texas company operating a Titus County coal plant in east Texas.
State officials object
It's not just environmental groups objecting to the Texas coal plants.
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and state Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Thompson have expressed in writing their concerns about the number of coal-fired power plants under construction in Texas.
Thompson wrote a letter in April to Texas officials claiming that the commission repeatedly has failed to notify Oklahoma as required by law about any agency action that adversely may affect air quality in neighboring states.
â€œIf ODEQ is not afforded the opportunity to provide comment on all new or modified major sources located in Texas ... then ODEQ will be forced to pursue all available options to ensure that this legal requirement is provided,â€ Thompson wrote.
Edmondson wrote a letter to the regional director for the Environmental Protection Agency in May, saying â€œthere appears to be a concerted effort to rapidly permit and construct additional coal-fired plantsâ€ in Texas.
â€œI am greatly concerned that emissions from these new sources will adversely impact air quality, public health and economic growth in Oklahoma,â€ Edmondson wrote.
Scott, Thompson and Edmondson said an increase in pollution could contribute to cities such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa not attaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which would force Oklahoma businesses and local governments to spend money to reduce air pollution.
Emissions from Texas already are reducing visibility in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Area, state officials said.
DEQ officials have proposed a regional haze plan that would allow utility companies to transition from coal to natural gas in their power plants.
In May, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Director Mark Vickery responded with a letter to Thompson.
Vickery said Texas' overall nitrogen oxide emissions have dropped dramatically during the past 11 years and will continue to do so.
â€œTherefore, it would be incorrect to conclude that as new plants are authorized and constructed, new emissions from these plants will be added to existing sources thereby increasing ambient air pollutant concentrations,â€ Vickery wrote.
On Dec. 14, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved permits for the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center near Sweetwater, about 150 miles southwest of the Red River.
The proposed $3.5 billion clean coal power plant will capture 85 to 90 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions while producing 600 megawatts of power, according to information released by the Omaha company.
The emissions will be sold to oil companies that will pipe it underground to help recover oil.
The Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club claims there were several problems with Tenaska's submitted plans, including a failure to demonstrate emissions will not violate national standards.
â€œAs citizens of Oklahoma who will bear the brunt of these outdated, dirty sources of energy, we must stand up to Texas to ensure they cannot continue to dump their pollution on our state,â€ said Whitney Pearson, an associate field adviser for the Sierra Club's Oklahoma Chapter.