Sierra Club files clean air lawsuit against Oklahoma Gas and Electric

The Sierra Club on Aug. 9 filed a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act by modifying one of the boilers at its Muskogee coal-fired plant without first obtaining a permit and installing modern pollution protections.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, alleges that OG&E made these modifications to the plant without planning for increased levels of air pollution and failing to obtain a permit from state regulators. The suit specifically targets smog-forming NOx and soot-forming SO2 pollution.

The suit alleges that OG&E deliberately made modifications without going through a new air pollution permitting process, as required by federal law, to avoid needing to install best available control technology at the plant as required by the Clean Air Act’s prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) program.

“OG&E violated the Clean Air Act when it made major changes to the Muskogee coal plant without obtaining a permit and installing modern pollution controls in 2008,” said Whitney Pearson, Beyond Coal organizer with Sierra Club in Oklahoma, in an Aug. 12 statement. “OG&E shirked its responsibility to the public, its customers, and to the law. If OG&E had complied with its legal obligations, Oklahomans would be breathing cleaner air and seeing fewer days when it was unsafe to breathe.”

The Sierra Club’s suit is separate from the lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency against OG&E. It is also the latest legal action targeting OG&E after the company lost an appeal at the U.S. Tenth Court of Appeals in Denver. In that case the court upheld EPA’s plan requiring OG&E to install scrubbers at both its Muskogee and Sooner coal plants.

The Aug. 9 legal action from the Sierra Club adds pressure to OG&E to clean up and phase out its coal plants in Oklahoma, the club said.

Said utility spokesman Brian Alford in an Aug. 12 statement: “Our plants are and will continue to be compliance with all laws and regulations.  And, as we’ve said previously, actual monitored data indicates that emissions did not increase as a result of the work performed.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.