Monday, January 26, 2009

Anti-Coal Plant Meeting to be Held

Anti-coal plant meeting to be held

The Center for Energy Matters (CEM) will host an educational and public health meeting at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sallisaw Civic Center.

Harlan Hentges from CEM said the public meeting is designed to educate residents on the consequences of Shady Point II, a proposed coal-burning power plant in eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas. The plant is 25 miles south of Sallisaw and Sallisaw is close enough that particulate matter from the new plant may drift into the area, Hentges said.

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

Hentges said 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,” he said. “The plant produces methylmercury, which slowly degrades the human body, crosses the placenta and the blood brain barrier, studies have shown. It is secreted in breast milk and disrupts biological processes critical for normal brain development.”

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

Weddle likens it to a grass fire in the local area, when he sees an increase in the number of asthma patients.

“If you have a lot of particulates in the air – a non-stop fine emission of fine particulates – that triggers these lung conditions.

“I have concerns about ground water contamination from mercury and arsenic by fly ash, and its deposition in the local landfills and dedicated landfills,” Weddle, an emergency room physician based in Fort Smith, Ark., said.

Weddle said there is a definite tie between mercury and other neurological development defects.

Robert Huston, a long-time Fort Smith outdoor television host, said he is concerned about the impact on wildlife if the Shady Point expansion is approved.

“Whatever winds up in fish, wildlife and livestock, usually winds up in people,” Huston said.

He noted 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.

In fish-eating birds like starlings, mallard ducks, red-tailed hawks and loons, mercury contamination can result in weight loss, difficulty in flying, reduced hatching success, and reduced clutch size.

“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.

Jeff Edwards, an attorney who lived in Poteau before moving to Roland, said, “We have to wonder if living near AES Shady Point had something to do with our child’s autism.”

At the time, Edwards’ wife was pregnant with the couple’s first child, and their Poteau house was supplied with well water. His second child, who is autistic, was born while in Muldrow, which is within 30 miles of the Shady Point plant.

Edwards is active in Developmental Wings Inc., an organization that provides services for autistic children.

“For me the biggest problems are air quality and water quality. When I practiced law in Poteau, I used to get calls from residents concerned about water pollution in the rural areas where the ground water was polluted by the coal mines,” Edwards said. “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.”

CEM, located in Edmond, is a newly formed nonprofit research and education center, created to promote sound energy decisions and to improve quality of life in Oklahoma, Hentges said.

He stated, “We want the city, county and state leaders to know the consequences of their decisions. The decision to burn more Wyoming coal in Oklahoma will impact Panama, Shady Point, Sallisaw, Poteau, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, and Tulsa.”

Hentges said the goal is for residents who will bear the consequences of the facility to know all the facts and the costs of this second coal-burning power plant in Panama. He said coal-fired plants emit arsenic, mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds among other harmful chemicals.

CEM is part of a coalition made up of Audubon Arkansas, Clean Air Arkansas, Sequoyah County Clean Air Coalition, Sierra Club/Oklahoma chapter and Public Citizen of Texas. They are working on this project known as “Two is Too Many: Stop AES Shady Point II.”

For more information about the meeting contact Hentges at (405) 340-6554.
© 2009

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