OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Dozens of Oklahoma Beyond Coal activists gathered today to deliver valentines and more than one thousand petitions to OG&E, asking the company to break up with coal and make a real commitment to clean energy, like wind. Earlier this week, Public Service Company of Oklahoma’s plan to retire its coal-fired power plant was approved, leaving OG&E, the biggest coal polluter and the largest utility in Oklahoma, without a plan for the future. A rancher, a minister and other Oklahomans concerned about clean air, clean water and Oklahoma’s energy economy attended the event and called on OG&E to show its love for Oklahoma’s clean energy resources.
“More than a thousand Oklahomans are asking OG&E to break up with coal and fall in love with clean energy,” said Whitney Pearson, Beyond Coal organizer with Sierra Club. “While other Oklahoma utilities have chosen a path toward cleaner energy, OG&E has stalled, sticking with its dirty habit. It’s time to make a choice, and on this Valentine’s Day, on behalf of all the Oklahomans who have shown there’s a demand for clean air and clean water, we’re asking OG&E to break up with coal for good and make a long term commitment to clean energy solutions.”
Activists gave a red and pink, hand-made paper chain to OG&E and shared their reasons why the state’s largest utility company should choose clean energy over coal in 2014. Each link on the “chain of demand” represents an individual petition signer.
“As a minister and someone who cares deeply about God’s creation, I can’t think of anything more loving than committing to clean energy, clean air and clean water for Oklahoma,” added Bruce Prescott, director of the Oklahoma Faith Network, based in Norman. “If OG&E is ready to commit to wind, I’ll perform the ceremony right here, right now!”
OG&E is currently fighting recent court rulings directing the utility to either phase out aging, obsolete coal-burning units at its Muskogee and Sooner power plants over the next several years, or clean them up by installing modern pollution control technology that will reduce pollution coming from its smoke stacks. In 2013, Beyond Coal activists grew increasingly concerned about the costs of importing coal from Wyoming, which can cost Oklahomans as much as 350 million dollars per year. In September, the Oklahoma Beyond Coal campaign launched radio ads and billboards pushing OG&E to keep energy dollars invested in Oklahoma wind.
“I’m one of thousands of Oklahomans who are tired of sending our energy dollars out of state to import coal when we have clean, cheap wind right here at home. Because I love Oklahoma wind, I think Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for OG&E to kick coal to the curb and fall in love with clean energy,” said Joe Bush, a rancher living near OG&E’s Sooner coal-fired power plant in Red Rock, Oklahoma and hopes to have wind turbines on his ranch.
Since 2010, more than 160 coal-fired power plants have been phased out or planned for retirement and 180 proposals to build new coal plants have been canceled as coal use has declined to historic low levels. In this same time period, wind and solar energy have scaled up across the nation, and are creating more jobs and powering more homes and businesses than ever before.