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Close Boardman Now--Dr. Catherine Thomasson's op-ed on the need for clean alternatives

June 26, 2009
Author: Catherine Thomasson


Close Boardman Now—Spend Money on Clean Alternatives.


PGE is at a crossroadseither keep us puffing on Boardman, our only coal-burning power plant, or invest in available alternatives.  PGE can pour money into an old, inefficient plant to buy new pollution controls that don’t even begin to “clean” up the global warming pollution, or PGE can close the plant now and begin investing in a clean, renewable future.


Boardman is the largest stationary source of air and global warming pollution in Oregon and has been out of compliance with the Clean Air Act since it was built in 1980.  It produces 35% of Oregon’s nitrogen oxides (NOx), which create smog.  Inhaling smog is like getting sunburn in your lungs.  It exacerbates asthma, chronic lung disease and heart disease, and causes premature death.  Pregnant women’s exposure to smog results in smaller infant size at birth.  Boardman is also the single largest source of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in Oregon, emitting over 12,000 tons annually.  NOx and SO2 result in view-blighting haze and acid precipitation throughout the Columbia Gorge and other protected places. 


Boardman is also a significant source of particle pollution, or soot, which is fraught with danger because it is inhaled deep into the lungs where the smallest particles cross directly into the blood stream just like oxygen and drag along allergens and other pollutants. Soot can trigger heart attacks and strokes, worsen asthma, cause irregular heartbeat, and also lead to premature death.


PGE Boardman’s annual mercury release is enough to contaminate 2.6 million acres of lakes.  Methylmercury is a toxin to our brain that can cause developmental and learning disabilities, reduced IQ, and impaired motor skills in children; and altered sensation, impaired hearing and vision, and motor disturbances in adults.  


PGE could clean up these pollutants for a little under $500,000,000—yes that is 9 zeroes.  Even at that price, DEQ is not requiring PGE to reduce NOx to the level achieved at Colstrip, another coal plant partially owned by PGE in Montana, but DEQ is allowing PGE nine full years to install and operate controls, which are standard technology today. DEQ is also allowing PGE to delay another 2 years for mercury controls, and only requiring an 80% reduction of SO2 rather than 98% achievable by current technology.


 If that were not enough, this money does not pay for carbon dioxide control.  Economists warn that carbon pricing is coming, and that could cost ratepayers an additional half a billion dollars.  The plant puts out 5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, the largest single source in the state.  


Over 1,200 people have already called for a swift clean-up or closure of Boardman and been dismissed by the DEQ.  There is no such thing as clean coal.  PGE should close this plant. 


Catherine Thomasson, MD



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