Pacific Northwest to Become First Coal-Free Region in US

TransAlta, the last operating coal-fired plant in the Pacific Northwest, is shutting down, but not until 2025 under an agreement between Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, TransAlta, state regulators and environmental groups.

On April 29, Gov. Gregoire signed legislation to systematically end coal-burning in the state.

The deal is a phased closure of the controversial 1,600-megawatt plant in Centralia, WA that addresses and accommodates corporate needs, a long environmental battle and economic and labor concerns in the region. The plant’s first boiler will go offline in 2020 and the second in 2025.

The development continues Washington’s transition away from dirty coal to clean energy, according to a statement from the Sierra Club. With mounting pressure from the public (including campaigns by environmental groups, clean energy advocates, health professionals, students and the faith community) on the state to move away from dirty coal, Governor Gregoire earlier this year convened a group of stakeholders to discuss ways to transition the state off of coal. The resulting agreement was approved by the State Legislature. Other conservation and clean energy groups involved in the negotiation included Climate Solutions, the Northwest Energy Coalition and Washington Environmental Council.

“In the great American tradition, people in the states are leading and eventually Congress will follow,” said Sierra Club Deputy Conservation Director Bruce Nilles. “It is in this tradition that we are here today to celebrate a state’s common sense solution to a global problem. By reaching an agreement to phase out the TransAlta plant over the next fourteen years in an orderly manner, Washington State is showing Washington D.C. not only that it can be done, but how it can be done.”

Under the agreement both boilers will install pollution controls in 2013 that will reduce the amount of health-threatening nitrogen oxide pollution from the plant.

In addition, the agreement will establish a $60 million transition fund for investment in the Centralia community to help transition away from reliance on the plant. “Not only will tens of millions of dollars be invested in Centralia community development, but a significant portion of the transition fund will additionally be dedicated to innovation and new technologies that will help reduce Washington’s carbon pollution,” the Sierra Club said.

Together with a plan to close Oregon’s one coal plant – Portland General Electric’s Boardman plant – in 2020, the Pacific Northwest will end  coal-burning throughout the region over the next 14 years.

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One Response to Pacific Northwest to Become First Coal-Free Region in US

  1. Stuart Hampton May 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    This sounds like a great move. Unless I am mistaken, the geographic location and prevailing winds means that the Pacific Northwest will truly be coal-pollution free, will no pollution coming from coal-burning power plants in other states (unlike in the Northeast US).