Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sustainable Shawnee To Hear Speaker On Coal Burning

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Rosemary Crawford with the Oklahoma City-based Center for Energy Matters will address the Sustainable Shawnee’s monthly meeting tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the University Baptist Church on Kickapoo.

Crawford will discuss the consequences of Shady Point II, a proposed coal-burning power plant in eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas, and health issues associated with the burning coal for energy in our state. The Shady Point plant is 25 miles from Sallisaw and Shawnee is in geographic reach of pollution.

Currently, AES is officially seeking permits to build a 630-megawatt, coal-burning power plant, which would be the second coal plant in Panama, OK.

Coal is considered to be the dirtiest burning of all fossil fuels because of its chemical composition. The plant presents a threat to the health of senior citizens, children and unborn children, wildlife, air and water quality and future economic development projects.

“My concern about the coal plant is the inhaled particulates directly relating to exacerbation of asthma and chronic lung disease,” said Dr. John P. Weddle, lifelong Sallisaw resident.

“I have concerns about ground water contamination from mercury and arsenic by fly ash, and its deposition in the local landfills and dedicated landfills,” said Dr. Weddle, an emergency room physician based in Fort Smith. Dr. Weddle said there is a definite tie between mercury and other neurologic development defects.

The Oklahoma Dept. of Environmental Quality announced in January 2009 that some of the highest levels of mercury in freshwater fish in the nation are found in southeastern Oklahoma lakes. A final report is expected in May. which will result in DEQ-issued fish consumption advisories on specific lakes as well as the probable source.

About 75 percent of mercury in fish comes from manmade sources like coal-fired power plants, incinerators, mining and smelting. 99 percent of mercury exposure comes from consuming commercial and locally-caught fish. Coal-fired power plants in the state are located in the eastern and southeastern part of the state in Panama, Hugo, Oologah, Fort Gibson and Choteau.

Many sportsmen’s groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, blame mercury contamination to reduced hatching success and impaired growth and development in fish.

Increased mercury levels affect reproduction, growth and behavior in small mammals such as river otters and mink.

“Already mercury levels in fish are at such high levels that anglers are warned by their respective state’s wildlife agencies about consumption,” Huston said.

Mercury and autism are linked, according to a University of Texas Health Science Center study last year, which showed “a statistically significant link between pounds of industrial release of mercury and increased autism rates” within a 30-mile distance.

“We have to wonder if living near AES Shady Point had something to do with our child’s autism,” said Jeff Edwards, an attorney who lived in Poteau before moving to Muldrow. He now lives in Roland, 10 miles from Fort Smith.

“I don’t see how you can dump fly ash in those mines without continuing to pollute. I don’t see anything positive out of another coal-burning power plant here.”

Coal-fired plants emit arsenic, mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds among other harmful chemicals.

According to AES’s permit application, Shady Point II annually will emit more than 40 tons of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds and more than 100 tons of carbon monoxide.

For more information about the meeting contact Rosemary Crawford at 405.206.3979 or Shawna Turner at 405.290.8706.

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