The Pryor Times

Local News

July 11, 2013

Coal wars: ‘A slap in the face’

President Barack Obama’s recent decision has stirred up a dust storm around coal plants.

In a recent speech, Obama outlined his three-part plan to reduce carbon emissions; cutting the nation’s carbon pollution, leading global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and preparing the United States for the impact of climate change.

He is skirting Congress and moving forward with an executive action, which includes collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency to set pollution standards for new and existing carbon power plants.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Obama reminded the public of pledges he made in his inaugural address to respond to the growing threat of climate change for the sake of future generations.

“This is a serious challenge, but it’s one uniquely suited to America’s strengths,” said Obama. “We’ll need scientists to design new fuels and farmers to grow them. We’ll need engineers to devise new sources of energy and businesses to make and sell them. We’ll need workers to build the foundation for a clean-energy economy, and we’ll need all of our citizens to do our part to preserve God’s creation for future generations.”

While some politicians and environmentalists were supportive of the plan, others said it was a direct affront to struggling Americans. They voiced that a ‘war on coal’ was the same as a ‘war on jobs.’

Oklahoma’s Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) is openly opposed to the plan.

“These climate change proposals will burden hardworking Americans with new regulations and increased energy costs. Increased regulation will inhibit not only job creation, but also our nation’s entrepreneurial spirit overall,” said Mullin. “Additionally, these proposals are a slap in the face to our hardworking energy companies across the nation. The energy industry as a whole has worked tirelessly in recent years to reduce emissions and pollutants and yet they remain the enemy in the eyes of this administration.

“If we want America to be energy independent, let’s actually let America be energy independent,” said Mullin.

Politicians conjure the image of coal-burning factories producing black smoke and soot.

But Capitol Hill is a long way from Grand River Dam Authority’s coal-fired plants at Chouteau.

GRDA, a major electricity supplier for the region, produces most of its electricity from burning coal.

GRDA’s website explains it has consistently ranked among the most efficient and reliable electric generating plants in the nation. Today, the coal-fired facility produces approximately 70 percent of all electricity needed by GRDA customers. The service area stretches across 24 counties in Oklahoma.

As Environmental Protection Agency regulations are constantly evolving, so is GRDA as it continually goes above and beyond to be good stewards of the environment.  

GRDA is one of the only coal units in Oklahoma that has installed sulfur dioxide scrubbers to clean emissions.

Fly ash and bottom ash collected from coal combustion is shipped off in trucks and recycled for beneficial purposes such as making concrete, highway road beds and fertilizer.

The coal is treated prior to burning to reduce mercury emissions.

Recently, GRDA’s coal-fired plant installed two low-nox burners in the boilers which also reduce emissions.

In addition to all the efforts to be a clean energy source, GRDA is looking forward and anticipating upcoming changes.

“Our generation plan looks at future generation resources and whether we can continue with coal or need to retrofit and adapt to other energy sources in keeping with EPA standards,” said GRDA Corporate Communi-cations Director Justin Alberty. “We’re always looking forward.

“We’ll adapt to EPA standards, whatever they may be. It is a priority to us to adapt to whatever requirements may be, it just might come with a hefty price tag”

The company has employees on staff tracking emissions, environmental impact and changing EPA regulations.

GRDA’s concern for the environment does not end there. The coal-fired complex is equipped with extensive pollution control equipment. The cooling ponds there provide food and sanctuary for thousands of migratory waterfowl and deer.

In recent years, GRDA has developed an Ecosystems Education Center, to “demonstrate a renewed commitment to conservation and restoration within the organization,” according to the website. The EEC has a state-of-the-art water quality and research lab and has both wildlife and habitat enhancement programs.

While GRDA says it will continue to adapt to changing standards, politicians are still up in arms.

“This is the best address on climate by any president ever,” said former presidential candidate Al Gore. “I applaud the new measures announced by President Barack Obama this afternoon to help solve the climate crisis.”

The House of Representatives, according to Mullin, is remaining focused on solutions that bring about job creation and economic growth which he says is the opposite of what the president’s plan is doing.

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