POTEAU, Okla. (AP) — An air-quality official says a study is needed on the impact of a proposed new coal-fired power plant in eastern Oklahoma on air quality in Tulsa.
AES Shady Point plans to build a second, 630-megawatt coal-fired plant that would nearly double its 320-megawatt facility in nearby Panama. The proposal has been the focus of a series of public meetings in Poteau, Sallisaw and Fort Smith, Ark., last week organized by the Center for Energy Matters.
Although Panama is 116 miles away in southeastern Oklahoma, Tulsa is downwind from Panama’s coal plant and others in Hugo and eastern Texas.
Oklahoma Air Quality Council member Montelle Clark said it will have to be determined what impact the second plant would have on Tulsa’s airshed and whether it would push it closer to non-attainment status under the Clean Air Act.
AES Shady Point spokesman Lundy Kiger also has concerns: harm to the company from the Center for Energy Matters’ alleged spreading of misinformation and the rolling blackouts that could occur if the company doesn’t stay on top of power needs.
Coal is plentiful domestically and affordable. Proponents stress that it lessens U.S. dependence on foreign energy.
“I’m proud we burn a fossil fuel,” Kiger said. “We’ve put a lot of people to work. We’re doing the best we can.”
The coal industry promotes the progression of “clean coal” technology that would one day be able to recapture and store carbon dioxide underground.
If the second plant is built, it will employ the latest available clean coal technology, which would result in lower emissions, Kiger said.
The plant now captures about 99.9 percent of particulate matter and 12 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, Kiger said.
The coal byproduct, heavy-metal-laden fly ash, is trucked to an abandoned coal mine in Bokoshe for deposit.
Tim Tanksley said he sees a lot of fly ash dust because he lives nearby.
“Several of my friends have died of lung cancer. I’ve got to believe there’s something to it,” he said.
Oklahoma’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 22 percent from 1990 to 1999, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality records show.
Carbon dioxide, the byproduct of burning fossil fuels, was the biggest contributor, representing 72 percent of the greenhouse gases in 1990 and 70 percent in 1999.
Coal-fired power plants, of which Oklahoma has six, are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Coal-burning emissions also can threaten water quality and wildlife when absorbed by the atmosphere and deposited back through precipitation into the water and soil.
Greenhouses gases, as well as mercury, are not regulated, but many believe they will be at some point under President Barack Obama.
Initial findings in a study released recently by the DEQ shows that fish in 14 lakes, including Lake Wister, Poteau’s water source, have high mercury levels that may warrant a fish consumption advisory in the future.
That study has not yet identified a probable source of the mercury concentrations.