Oklahoma and coal

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Oklahoma coal mines produced 2.0 million tons of coal in 2006 (0.2% of the U.S. total); Oklahoma ranks 22nd out of the 50 states in terms of coal production.[1] Oklahoma employed 222 coal miners in 2006, all of whom were non-unionized.[2]

Oklahoma had 15 coal-fired generating stations in 2005, with 5,720 MW of capacity - representing 26.6% of the state's total electric generating capacity, and making Oklahoma the 20th biggest coal energy producing state in the U.S.[3] In 2006, Oklahoma's coal-fired power plants produced 36.1 million tons of CO2, 104,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 61,000 tons of nitrogen oxide; coal-fired power plants were responsible for 35.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions.[4] In 2005, Oklahoma emitted 29.1 tons of CO2 per person, almost 50% higher than the U.S. average.[5]


Commercial coal mining began in Oklahoma in 1872, when the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad was completed. The industry took off around 1900, and by 1920 annual coal production had reached 5 million tons. Coal production in Oklahoma ranged erratically in the subsequent decades, but mostly trended downwards, as Texas oil successfully competed with coal; by 1968, production had fallen below 1 million tons per year. In the 1970's and 80's, with oil prices rising, coal production boomed once more, rising to 6.1 million tons in 1978; since then, however, a decline in the demand for high-sulfur coal - caused by the Clean Air Act - has caused the industry to decline once more, and by 2006 only 2.0 million tons were being mined annually. About 80% of this total is consumed within the state.[6]

Citizen activism

Environmentalists Claim Coal Neighbors' Air Polluted

In November 2010, a report produced by the Sierra Club, attributed as many as 64 days with harmful levels of smog in Oklahoma to Texas' coal-fired power plants. The report also tied air pollution from the plants to as many as 20 days of unhealthy air in Arkansas and up to 16 in Louisiana.

"The coal plants are a real problem — not just for Texas, but the entire region," said Jennifer Powis, a regional representative for the Sierra Club.

The report supported earlier concerns raised by Oklahoma officials about the potential impacts on their state from the nearly 30 coal-fired plants either operating, permitted or proposed in Texas.[7]

Coal Waste Disposal Site in Bokoshe, Oklahoma Opposed by Local Community

Residents of Bokoshe, Oklahoma, population 450, claim that a coal ash waste site run by a company called Making Money Having Fun LLC located in the town is causing health problems among local residents. It has been reported that since the site became active, that of the 20 households in closest proximity to the dump, 14 people have been diagnosed with cancer and many others have died since the site was opened eight years ago.[8]

A link between exposure and specific diseases is difficult to prove but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that dumps without protective liners present a high risk of human exposure to arsenic and other hazardous contaminants. Bokoshe's dump does not have a protective liner.[9]

School children voiced their concerns by organizing a letter drive to send to their congressperson in the fall of 2010. "When I found out that nine kids out of seventeen in my sixth grade [class] that had asthma, I knew there was a problem," said Bokoshe teacher Diane Reece.[10]

Children affected by fly ash

In December 2010, students at Bokoshe Elementary in Oklahoma teamed up to ask AES to stop dumping fly ash from its AES Shady Point Generation Plant near their homes. Residents believe that the coal ash has many in their class to develop asthma. The AES Shady Point power plant sits just east of Bokoshe. About a mile from its main street, a 50 foot wall of fly ash waste has piled up over the last eight years. Residents say the [Making Money Having Fun]] dump site receives 80 truckloads of coal ash a day, and the ash blows over to their town and covers everything. The dump site has been in the town since 2001.[9] The fly ash is carried by truck to Bokoshe from a nearby AES Shady Point Generation Plant coal-fired power plant.[11]

AES insists that the fly ash is safe and the company has taken steps to better contain the fly ash during transport to the dump site.[12]

In December 2010 Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressman Dan Boren, after being prompted by AES, are being kept updated on the issue and have stated that something needs to be done about the site. However, residents were concerned that AES was calling in a favor to the public officials, both of whom have received campaign funds from AES and oppose federal regulation of the substance. AES donated $5,000 to Senator Inofe in the past eight years. "I understand that Senator Inhofe once said that global warming is the greatest hoax ever pulled on the American people," said Tim Tanksley, a Bokoshe resident. "The biggest hoax ever pulled on the people of Bokoshe, Oklahoma, is telling them that this mountain of fly ash is temporary and will disappear."[13]

Legislative issues

Proposed coal plants



Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies

Existing coal plants

Oklahoma had 15 coal-fired generating units at 7 locations in 2005, with 5,720 MW of capacity - representing 26.6% of the state's total electric generating capacity.[3][14][15]

Here is a list of coal power plants in Oklahoma with capacity over 400 MW:[3][16][17]

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
Muskogee Muskogee OGE Energy 1977, 1978, 1984 1716 MW 10,600,000 tons 36,704 tons N/A
Sooner Noble OGE Energy 1979, 1980 1138 MW 7,308,000 tons 16,579 tons 182
Chouteau Mayes Grand River Dam Authority 1981, 1985 1010 MW 7,926,000 tons 16,801 tons 178
Northeastern Rogers American Electric Power 1979, 1980 946 MW 7,511,000 tons 34,645 tons 135
Hugo Choctaw Western Farmers Electric Cooperative 1982 446 MW 3,547,000 tons 9,363 tons 151

For a map of existing coal plants in the state, see the bottom of this page.

On December 19, 2009 the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company responded to an Environmental Protection Agency request to install air scrubbers at its two coal plants by stating that the process may stall them from using less coal in the future. The Sierra Club also backs the company's complaint stating that installing scrubbers at an estimated cost of $1 billion may delay the company's transition from coal to natural gas. The scrubbers would reduce sulfurous emissions that contribute to regional haze, however the scrubbers would not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.[18]

Public Service Company of Oklahoma to close 946 MW Northeastern Station

Under an agreement between Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PSO will retire the Unit 3 (473 MW) of its Northeastern Station by 2017, and Unit 4 (473 MW) of the station by 2026. In addition, PSO will install emissions controls on Unit 4. The agreement does not affect Units 1 and 2, which are fired by natural gas.[19]

Coal waste

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination in Oklahoma

Bokoshe Flyash Dump #1

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Oklahoma, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[20] The report mentioned Oklahoma based Northeastern Station as having groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[21]

Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Oklahoma coal waste site

The study "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash," released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011, reported that the level of hexavalent chromium, a highly potent cancer-causing chemical, at a coal ash site associated with the Northeastern Station was 417 parts per billion.[22] That level is 20,850 times as high as California's drinking water goal, and 4.17 times above the federal groundwater standard. In all, the study cited 29 sites in 17 states where hexavalent chromium contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash as well as from studies by EarthJustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club.[23][24][25][26] It included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin.[22]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[22]

A press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[27]

Major coal mines

There are no major coal mines in Oklahoma.[28]

As of 2010 there were approximately 10 active coal mines in Oklahoma with production of approximately 1,010 short tons per year.[29]

Citizen groups

Coal Activist Videos

Bokoshe residents voice concerns over fly ash
Bokoshe residents affected by fly ash

More videos available at:



  1. Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  2. Average Number of Employees by State and Mine Type, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008.
  4. Estimated Emissions for U.S. Electric Power Industry by State, 1990-2006, Energy Information Administration, 2007.
  5. Oklahoma Energy Consumption Information, eRedux website, accessed June 2008.
  6. State Coal Profiles, Energy Information Administration, 1994, pp. 75-81 - cached copy at CoalDiver.org
  7. "Study: Texas coal plants foul neighbors' air" Matthew Tresaugue, Houston Chronicle, November 17, 2010.
  8. "Why One Community's Cries for Help Against Cancer and Others Diseases Are Going Unanswered" Joshua Frank, Alternet.org January 28, 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 James Sciutto, "Oklahoma Town Fears Cancer, Asthma May Be Linked to Dump Site" ABC News, March 29, 2011.
  10. "Town Accuses Coal Plant Of Poisoning Community" December 7, 2010, 4029v.com
  11. "AES Comes Out Swinging In Response To Bokoshe Residents" Jared Boyles, 5newsonline.com, December 8, 2010.
  12. Jared Broyles, "Bokoshe Students Say Coal-Burning Plant Causing Cancer" LA Times, Dec. 7, 2010.
  13. "Oklahoma Senator Inhofe, Congressman Boren Take Up Fly Ash Fight" Jennifer Loren, Oklahoma Impact, December 16, 2010.
  14. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  15. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  16. Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
  17. Dig Deeper, Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed June 2008.
  18. Oklahoma electricity regulation causes debate for some, Jay F. Marks, NewsOK.com, accessed December 16, 2009.
  19. Paul Monies, "Proposed settlement would retire coal units at Oologah power plant," NewsOK, April 24, 2012
  20. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  21. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  23. "Damage Case Report for Coal Compustion Wastes," August 2008
  24. U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
  25. EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
  26. EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
  27. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.
  28. Major U.S. Coal Mines, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  29. "Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2010" U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2010.


Existing coal plants in Oklahoma

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