Pearson said the new standards for sulfur dioxide were based on science and show prior pollution levels were too high to adequately protect health.
The Sierra Club called on the state Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA to enforce the new sulfur dioxide emissions standards and revise operating permits for the coal plants. It also wants OG&E to use more wind energy.
OG&E's Alford said on hot days like Thursday, there isn't enough wind blowing to supply the electricity demands of customers.
“We believe fuel balance is essential,” Alford said. “We appreciate the passion, but we have to be realistic about what is achievable and affordable for our customers.”
Residents speak out
On a conference call with reporters, the Sierra Club made available members who live near OG&E's coal plants. Muskogee resident Sylvia Swan said she worries about fellow residents with asthma and how long children can play outside in the areas near the plant.
“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,” Swan said. “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.”
Longtime Osage County cattle rancher Joe Bush said OG&E's Sooner plant is about 30 miles southwest of his ranch headquarters. Although he's not an OG&E customer, Bush said he'd pay more for his electric bill if it meant a cleaner environment.
“I've been concerned about the effects of pollution on my health, my family, my livestock and local wildlife,” Bush said.