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PSR Helps Negotiate Closure of Washington State’s Only Coal Plant

March 7, 2011

Thanks to a negotiated agreement, Washington State’s only coal-fired power plant is now scheduled to slash its generating capacity in half by 2020 and close entirely by 2025.

The accord was negotiated between the TransAlta energy company, Washington state officials, and state environmental organizations, joined by the Washington chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

 “The closure of TransAlta is advancing public health in WA State by curtailing emissions of nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulate pollution,” said Cherie Eichholz, executive director of PSR-Washington.  “It also moves us closer to our goal of a coal-free Northwest that will give us clean, healthy air to breathe.” 

Washington PSR provided the “health voice” in the lengthy process of pressing TransAlta to close the plant.

The PSR national office also supported the negotiation process, participating in an executive committee that provided input to the environmental groups.   National staffer Barbara Gottlieb noted that the agreement, while less than perfect, will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gases.

Coal-fired power plants are a major contributing source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.  Carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas, forms a heat-trapping layer surrounding the earth, leading to a dangerous increase in average global temperatures.

PSR and its environmental allies had pushed TransAlta to close the plant by 2015, but agreed to adopt the proposed timeframe in exchange for the certainty of closure, combined with other concessions from the company.

TransAlta committed to investing in equipment to reduce the plant’s emissions of nitrogen oxides, which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, decrease oxygen absorption, and weaken the strength of the lungs, especially in children and the elderly.  The nitrogen oxide reduction technologies will be applied by 2013.  TransAlta is the state’s largest single industrial source of nitrogen oxide emissions.

TransAlta will also provide $30 million to a community investment fund to help support energy efficiency projects in the town where the plant is located, as well as $25 million for an energy technology transition fund to support innovative energy technologies and companies in Washington State.

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