Northeastern Coal Plant Retirement Announced in Oklahoma
Sierra Club joined Gov. Mary Fallin, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and American Electric Power subsidiary Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (AEP-PSO) yesterday in announcing an agreement in principle in pending federal court litigation over the state's clean air protections. The agreement sets firm dates for retiring both units at AEP-PSO’s Northeastern coal-fired power plant near Oologah, Okla. The plant’s retirement is a major victory for public health in Oklahoma, as reducing the number of coal-fired power plants will both reduce harmful emissions and will pave the way for clean energy. The Northeastern Plant is the 107th coal plant to retire since the Beyond Coal campaign began.
“Oklahoma must move beyond coal, and AEP-PSO is taking a strong first step here,” said Whitney Pearson with Sierra Club. "Today's announcement paves the way for resolving long-standing public health concerns about PSO's Northeastern coal plant, and shines a bright spotlight on the other two coal plants owned by OGE. Litigation over OGE's two coal plants continues."
Pearson added, “EPA has done a great job here working with a utility to create a responsible retirement plan. We commend the EPA and Governor Mary Fallin for their leadership in this settlement. AEP-PSO has set a good example for OG&E, which is now the biggest polluter in Oklahoma.”
Under the agreement between the U.S. EPA and Public Services Company of Oklahoma, the first 473 megawatt coal-burning unit at the Northeastern Plant will be retired by Dec. 31, 2017. The second unit, also 473 megawatts, will remain online but will have pollution controls installed by Dec. 31, 2017. Between 2017 and 2026, AEP-PSO will dramatically reduce the amount of coal burned at the unit until it is decommissioned no later than Dec. 31, 2026.
“This retirement schedule creates ample opportunity for AEP-PSO to prioritize its workers,” said Charles Wesner, chair of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Sierra Club calls on AEP-PSO to keep existing workers employed while decommissioning the plant and strive to keep as many workers as possible employed in new, clean energy projects in Oklahoma. With our tremendous wind, solar and energy efficiency potential, AEP-PSO should be able to create jobs and keep these workers employed.”
Currently, Oklahoma has six coal-fired power plants that collectively emit significant amounts of soot, smog and mercury pollution. Coal-fired power plants are a major contributor of ozone-forming pollution, and 2011 air quality data has shown that Tulsa and Oklahoma City exceeded federal limits on ozone pollution, threatening Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens, such as children, the elderly, and people who work or exercise outdoors. Ozone pollution is worsened during periods of high temperatures, meaning the summer of 2012 may be one of the worst ozone seasons in Oklahoma history.
Oklahoma has significant clean energy potential, which could power the state while protecting public health. Oklahoma’s wind resources rank ninth in the U.S., with more than 50,000 megawatts of wind power potential. Wind power in Oklahoma supports thousands of jobs, and according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, wind can provide more than 31 times as much electricity as Oklahoma currently uses. States such as Alabama are already purchasing Oklahoma wind power.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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