2010 a Big Year for Oregon’s Environment

January 7, 2011

2010 was a great year for the environment in Oregon, and the Sierra Club played BIG role in a number of key victories!  Here’s a brief list of our major successes in 2010 with a look ahead to 2011!

Thousands of Sierra Club volunteers took action around the region in 2010, calling for early closure of the Boardman coal plant.

Boardman Close Down Date Secured

After a multi-year effort, we locked down major air quality improvements and an early closure of PGE’s Boardman coal fired power plant the state’s single largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In December, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) approved a final rule requiring significant reductions in haze and acid rain causing pollution at the plant in the next few years and an end to coal-fired operations by the end of 2020.

However, closure could come much earlier: last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act to Portland General Electric over the Boardman plant due to violations dating back to at least 1998. And a federal judge is expected to rule in 2011 on the Sierra Club’s lawsuit against PGE which exposed the long history of Clean Air Act violations. These factors, plus new hazardous air toxics regulations for coal plants coming next year, convinced the EQC to leave PGE options to affordably close the plant as soon as 2015. Boardman, which began coal fired operations in 1980, will be among the youngest U.S. coal plants closed for environmental reasons in the country. The Boardman victory is one in a string of Sierra Club victories helping to shutter dirty coal plants across the West – http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/how-the-west-is-winning-against-coal/.

A press conference outside the Sierra Club office following the demise of the Bradwood Landing LNG proposal.

Bradwood Landing LNG Terminal Stopped

After years of community organizing and court challenges by the Sierra Club and our allies, Northernstar Natural Gas, the Texas company proposing a  the Bradwood Landing liquefied natural gas terminal and pipelines near Astoria declared bankruptcy. In a final blow, in November the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned Bradwood’s land use approval because of the huge impact dredging would have on traditional Columbia River fishing grounds and key salmon habitat  (http://tdn.com/news/local/article_ab7a3ae4-e864-11df-b838-001cc4c03286.html). The Sierra Club and others are still fighting the two remaining LNG proposals (one in Coos Bay, and another near Astoria) and hundreds of miles of proposed gas pipelines. But we believe its only a matter of time before these two bad ideas go the way that Bradwood Landing did last year.

Approximately 1000 people attended an environmental gubernatorial debate co-hosted by the Sierra Club in 2010.

Governor Kitzhaber Elected

The Sierra Club played an important role in helping elect John Kitzhaber as Governor, reaching out to thousands of Sierra Club members across Oregon to talk about the importance of this election for the environment. We went on the attack when Kitzhaber’s opponent, Chris Dudley, bombed on multiple environmental questions in the only televised debate in the election. Earlier in the year, we co-hosted and organized the state’s only environmentally focused debate of the Governor’s race, with participation from major candidates from both parties, attended by over 1000 people (http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/debate-2/).

Clean Energy Works and Green Job Creation

Throughout 2010, the Sierra Club played a role on the implementation Portland’s Clean Energy Works program, helping to spur the weatherization of hundreds of homes in Portland, creating at least 20 new green jobs, and promoting social equity and quality job training. The Clean Energy Works program ultimately received a $20 million federal grant to weatherize thousands of homes across Oregon beginning in 2011, and over the summer the Sierra Club teamed up with partners in labor and faith groups in a 100 home pilot project in Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, testing out the ability of community organizations to organize people to take advantage of energy efficiency programs offered by the city and utilities. By the end of the summer, and due to extensive member and neighborhood outreach,  Sierra Club members accounted  for 12% of those applying for extensive energy efficiency upgrades in the neighborhood, a significant accomplishment showing what a positive difference our members can make in helping create green jobs while using energy more efficiently and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Sierra Club volunteers collaborated with the Forest Service, loggers, and other conservationists in 2010 on a small-diameter thinning project at Glaze Meadow near Sisters, Oregon. Though hard at times, we won important concessions to minimize potential harm to meadows, wildlife, and large fire-resistant trees. In total, we watchdogged over 400,000 acres of proposed management actions on four national forests and multiple BLM Districts across eastern Oregon in 2010, helping protect roadless areas, old growth forests stands, and key salmon habitat.

State Land Board Holds ODF Accountable

In June, the State Land Board required that a science review be conducted before implementing  rule changes pushed by the Oregon Department of Forestry to significantly increase clearcutting on state forests. The Land Board, made up of the Governor, Treasurer, and Secretary of State unanimously voted to hold off on the new logging plans until the completion of a scientific review and the presentation of its results to the Board of Forestry and the State Land Board, allowing time to make alterations to better protect fish, wildlife and water quality based on the results of the review.

Genetically Engineered Sugar Beets Ordered Destroyed

In early December, a U.S. District judge delivered a stinging blow to Monsanto and the USDA after the unlawful planting of genetically engineered beets in Oregon earlier this year. The judge ordered the immediate destruction of 256 acres of genetically engineered (GE) beets in Oregon and Arizona, citing the irreparable harm of cross-contamination of GE plants with normal ones. (http://orsierraclub.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/judge-uproots-gmo-beets-in-oregon/

Sierra Club volunteers pulling barbed wire fence near Steens Mountain - one of many actions to protect Oregon's high desert areas.

BLM Wilderness Gets Interim Protection, Oregon Wilderness Bills Almost To Finish Line

Late in 2010, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar overturned the Bush-era policy of ‘no more wilderness’ on BLM lands. The result is that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will once again have the authority to conduct wilderness inventories, identify lands with wilderness character, and give them interim protection until Congress acts. In Oregon the Sierra Club has been working to protect roughly 2 million acres of BLM wildlands in the Owyhee Canyonlands in the southeast part of the state, and 60,000 acres of wild old growth forest along the Rogue River managed by the BLM. In a small setback, the US Senate failed to pass three Oregon wildlands bills that had Sierra Club support, including protecting 21 miles of the Molalla River near Portland as Wild and Scenic, adding 4,000 acres to the Oregon Caves National Monument, and protecting nearly 30,000 acres of coastal forest outside Eugene as the Devil’s Staircase Wilderness. However, these bills did pass the House and we will continue to work build on this success to pass these and other Oregon wildlands bills in 2011 and beyond.

Offshore Drilling Blocked by Oregon Legislature, LNG Pipeline Bill Blocked

It seems so long ago, but in February 2010 the Oregon Legislature held a month long session which featured a couple of key environmental victories. Even before the Gulf oil disaster, the Oregon legislature passed a Sierra Club supported bill to extend the ban on drilling for oil and gas off of Oregon’s coastline for another ten years. Additionally, the Sierra Club helped block an attempt to fast-track the state permitting process for LNG companies seeking permission to fill and remove wetlands and cross streams with pipelines on private lands. We unfortunately expect the LNG pipeline fast-track bill to come back again during the 2011 legislature, and we hope we can stop it once and for all.

Want to help us succeed in 2011?
Please consider making a donation to the Oregon Chapter.
Click here to make your donation today!  

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How the West is Winning Against Coal

December 17, 2010

 

Recent coal plant shut down announcements in December: The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved the retirement of 902 megawatts of coal power. The Boardman power plant in Oregon will be closed no later than 2020 after a decision by the state Environmental Quality Commission. Los Angeles will divest from one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country - the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The Arizona Public Service Company will begin retirement of three boilers at the Four Corners power plant. In recent months, over 13,000 megawatts of existing coal capacity has been announced for early retirement.

The past month across the western U.S. has been filled with victories against coal:

 

–After a two year campaign, we locked down the permanent retirement of the Oregon Boardman plant (600-megawatts of dirty coal power) by no later than 2020, and we continue to push for an earlier date.

–Los Angeles recently released a draft plan for the nation’s largest municipal utility that gets out of one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country – the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona (though the plan still needs a little work [PDF]).

–Two weeks ago, the Arizona Public Service Company announced the retirement of three boilers at the Four Corners power plant – another 650-megawatts of coal going down.

And last week we saw some big news out of Colorado. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the retirement of 902-megawatts of coal power. They are retiring all of the Denver metro area’s coal plants by no later than 2017 (On Tuesday, they’d decided to retire all but one of the Denver plants, but today they decided on the final one – the 352-megawatt “Cherokee 4 unit.”

The Sierra Club has been heavily involved in all of the above victories.

In Oregon, throughout 2010 we kept up the pressure at the Public Utility Commission and with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to craft a plan to reduce haze and acid rain from Boardman by closing the plant as soon as possible and making pollution control upgrades more stringent for every additional year the plant is in operation. In 2010, we also continued to advance our Clean Air Act lawsuit against PGE for illegal pollution from the Boardman plant, and the EPA issued the company a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act dating back to at least 1998. In 2011, we will continue to hold PGE’s feet to the fire and hope to get the plant closed significantly earlier than the current 2020 date now approved by state regulators.

In Colorado, last April, the Sierra Club and a strong coalition of environmental groups helped pass legislation – the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act – which requires action from Xcel Energy on its coal fleet and clean energy.

“All summer and fall, we and our coalition allies have been advocating before Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission and organizing Colorado’s public health and clean energy voices to speak loudly and often in support of retirement of as much of Xcel’s coal fleet as possible,” said Alex Levinson of the Sierra Club.

“Our aim has been to provide critical public support for PUC Commissioners and Xcel Energy to do the right thing….(and provide) critical expert support demonstrating the economic wisdom for Colorado ratepayers of a move away from coal – with all its regulatory uncertainty and rate volatility.”

These western U.S. victories show a continued move away from coal and toward clean energy. At this rate, we will have locked down the retirement of ten percent of the coal fleet in the West (a total of 33,000 megawatts) in early 2011.

Coal is coming down, which in turn opens up the market place, and clean energy is stepping in.  The path forward is clear, the west is headed towards clean energy.

(This includes experts from a weekly blog post from Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.)


Department of Environmental Quality: PGE Must Clean up, Phase out Use of Coal at Boardman

December 6, 2010

Sierra Club applauds DEQ for providing a path to an early end to dangerous coal-fired power in Oregon

(Portland, OR)On December 2, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recommended to the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) that the commission approve a proposal that would allow Portland General Electric to invest in pollution controls and close the Boardman coal-fired power plant no later than 2020.  The DEQ also recommended retaining a path to phase out of use as soon as 2015, due to regulatory and legal action likely to require Boardman to address the need for further and earlier pollution reductions.  Importantly, the DEQ recommendation made clear that the proposed EQC rule “does not preclude PGE from phasing out the use of coal at the Boardman facility any time between 2011 and 2019.” The EQC is now scheduled to consider the DEQ recommendation at the Commission’s upcoming December 9 meeting.

The Sierra Club issued the following statement concerning the recommendation from the DEQ:

Statement of Robin Everett, Associate Regional Representative,
Sierra Club’s Coal Free Oregon Campaign

“The Sierra Club is glad to see that the DEQ recognizes that this dirty and dangerous coal plant may need to shut down much earlier than 2020 and has provided a path forward for earlier closure than the 2020 date.

“We will continue to work with our coalition partners to make sure that PGE follows the law and to secure the most reasonable date for the necessary transition away from dirty and dangerous coal in Oregon.  The DEQ has shown that the public’s voice was heard when it called for earlier closure of the plant and we will continue to strive to make that happen.”

“The people of Oregon have spoken-up throughout this long process to tell our regulators that we want coal out of Oregon as soon as possible.  The DEQ recommendation acknowledges that, of the more than 8,000 public comments submitted to the Department, ‘there was considerable support for an earlier closure in 2015, or sooner.’

“The issues at stake when we talk about phasing out coal-fired power are no less than the health and quality of life for everyone living in Oregon.  Pollution from coal-fired power pollutes our air and water and is responsible for four of the five leading causes of death in the United States.  Coal is also responsible for a huge amount of climate-disrupting carbon pollution that is causing hotter temperatures, devastating droughts and more severe weather events around the globe.

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EPA: PGE Violating the Clean Air Act

October 8, 2010

It takes 72 railcars of coal extracted from open pit strip mines in the Powder River Basin on the Wyoming/Montana border to keep PGE's Boardman coal plant going each day.

Portland General Electric (PGE) started October with a rude awakening: a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for over a decade of excessive emissions at its PGE’s Boardman coal fired power plant.

 

The EPA’s notice of violation backs up major points in a lawsuit filed against PGE by the Sierra Club and our allies back in 2008. Seems the EPA agrees that major upgrades made to the coal plant in 1998 and 2004 allowed the company to increase output harmful pollution, and thus required the installation of scrubbers to contain toxic emissions like sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain and respiratory problems like asthma.

The EPA’s action comes on the heels of strong comments from both the US Forest Service and National Park Service, critical of the analysis PGE has developed to try to extend the life of the plant until late 2020 with limited pollution controls.

Please contact Governor Kulongoski TODAY and urge him to help close the Boardman coal plant as soon as possible.


DEQ needs to hear from you – close the Boardman coal plant!

September 10, 2010

The Boardman coal plant in eastern Oregon

Until the end of September, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is taking input from the public on the future of the Boardman coal fired power plant. DEQ needs to hear from you in support of Option 3, and close the plant as soon as 2015.

Click here to send a comment to DEQ and the Governor!

Portland General Electric (PGE) wants to operate its dirty and outdated Boardman coal-fired power plant until late 2020 with limited pollution controls, despite decades of operation without modern pollution controls to control haze, sulfur dioxide, mercury and more. DEQ has already rejected this plan once but PGE is redoubling its effort to convince DEQ to allow the state’s only coal fired power plant off the hook….again.

If PGE doesn’t get its way, its threatening to install over a half billion dollars in required pollution controls to reduce annual output of acid rain and haze causing pollution but then operate the plant for several more decades, releasing staggering amounts of additional global warming pollution in the process.

The fact is, the longer the plant is in operation, the more it costs rate payers, public health, and the environment.

Click here to send a letter to DEQ to stand up for strong air quality standards and the earliest possible closure for the Boardman coal plant!

In addition to taking written comments, the DEQ is holding five public hearings around the state. Please attend one in your area and support Option 3, closing the Boardman plant as soon as possible.

DEQ Boardman Coal Plant Hearing Schedule – September 2010

All hearings are at 6 pm

9/21–Portland:  Metro Regional Center Council Chambers, 600 NE Grand

9/23–Eugene: Eugene State Office building, Willamette Conf room, 165 E 7th Ave

9/28–Hermiston: Hermiston Conf Center, 4151 S Hwy 395

9/29–Medford: DEQ Medford Office, Suite 201

9/30–The Dalles:  Columbia Gorge Community College, Health Sciences Building 3 Romm 3.203, 400 E Scenic Dr

Coal mined in the Powder River Basin on the Montana/Wyoming border supplies PGE's Boardman coal fired power plant.

For more info contact Robin Everett at robin.everett@sierraclub.org 503-238-0442 x 307


DEQ Deserves Our Thanks!

July 23, 2010

Our hard work is paying off! Contact the DEQ and tell them to move ahead with shutting down the dirty Boardman coal plant by 2015!

In the last few months hundreds of people have attended hearings and thousands of comments have been submitted demanding that we phase out Oregon’s largest stationary source of toxic air pollution and greenhouses gases, the Boardman coal plant.

Now thanks to all that we’ve accomplished together there has been significant progress to move beyond coal in Oregon!

Thank the Oregon Department of Enviornmental Quality (DEQ) for holding PGE accountable for their dirty coal pollution!

Earlier this month the Oregon Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) rejected Portland General Electric’s plan to avoid its legal responsibility to control the pollution emitted from the coal-fired power plant.

The DEQ has heard our concerns over the dangerous levels of pollution coming from the Boardman coal plant and it has given PGE three options for closing down the coal plant that involve much tougher pollution standards than what PGE proposed.

One of the options that the DEQ has put forth is to close the plant as early as 2015.

Contact the DEQ today, thank them for their leadership and urge them to move ahead with this proposal to make Oregon coal-free!

While the Boardman coal plant can be shut-down by 2014 in a reliable and cost-effective way, we do support option 3 which closes the plant as early as 2015 and will ensure that our health and environment are protected while avoiding the costs of expensive pollution controls that would be passed on to ratepayers.

We applaud the DEQ for proposing an option which provides the best path forward for PGE rate-payers and all who live and breathe in Oregon. This is positive and important progress on the way to a cleaner, healthier and safer coal-free future in Oregon.

We only have a few weeks to get comments into the DEQ on kicking coal out of Oregon, please contac them today!


Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Calls for Early Closure, Strong Air Quality Standards for PGE’s Boardman Plant

June 29, 2010

(Portland, OR)– The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) today released new proposed options for the future of Portland General Electric’s (PGE) Boardman coal-fired power plant to comply with state air quality standards and still accommodate an early transition.  As Oregon’s largest stationary source of pollution, including acid rain, haze, and smog, as well as climate-disruption-causing carbon dioxide, environmentalists and public health advocates have been pushing for the earliest reasonable transition off coal-fired power at the Boardman plant. The DEQ put forth a series of options for shut-down dates and pollution control investments that could reduce air pollution at the plant in the interim.  The Sierra Club issued the following statement concerning the new information from DEQ:

Statement of Cesia Kearns, Regional Representative, Sierra Club’s Coal Free Oregon Campaign

The options DEQ has proposed demonstrate clearly that PGE can and should phase-out their dirty and dangerous Boardman coal-fired power plant earlier than the 2020 they are currently proposing.  We already know that it is better for public health and the environment in Oregon if Boardman is phased out soon.  The options offered by DEQ today further detail how it will also be cheaper to phase the plant out sooner than PGE is currently considering.  DEQ’s announcement gives us confidence that there is indeed a workable solution that will phase out Boardman while protecting ratepayers and improving air quality in the short term.

The fact that hundreds of people showed up at last week’s Public Utility Commission hearing regarding Boardman, shows that people understand the serious public health and air quality implications of keeping Boardman open and that there is overwhelming public demand calling for the earliest reasonable transition date for the polluting plant.

These options, however, are not the end of the road in determining the best resolution to Boardman.  In addition to meeting the regional haze requirements that today’s proposed options will meet, PGE must comply with other parts of the Clean Air Act with which they do not currently conform, including new federal air toxics standards, and the company must take action to remedy the violations of the law identified in a citizen’s suit currently pending in federal court.  DEQ’s proposal is just one step on the way to a resolution for Boardman.

We applaud the DEQ for proposing options which show the best path forward for PGE rate-payers and all who live and breathe in Oregon.  We are additionally pleased that the DEQ is fulfilling its mandate to uphold the law as PGE’s attempts to once again avoid adequately controlling pollution at the Boardman plant.  This is positive and important progress on the way to a cleaner, healthier and safer coal-free future in Oregon.


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