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
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