Groups say the plan locks Oregon into a future reliant on dirty coal-powered electricity, fails to protect parks, wilderness areas and the Columbia River Gorge.
Portland, Ore— A coalition of conservation organizations, including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC), Columbia Riverkeeper, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council, calls the new air pollution plan for PGE’s aging coal power plant inadequate. The plan, which was released this morning by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), is intended to address pollution from PGE’s coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Oregon. Boardman is the largest stationary source of air and global warming pollution in Oregon, emitting carbon dioxide, mercury, soot, smog and haze-causing pollutants that are also responsible for premature death, heart attacks, asthma, and other health conditions.
The coalition, represented by the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center (PEAC), sued PGE in September, 2008 for Clean Air Act violations at the Boardman plant. The federal case alleges that PGE has been illegally operating the Boardman plant without modern pollution controls for decades.
“There is no doubt that PGE is responsible for serious visibility impairment in Oregon’s parks and wilderness areas,” said Aubrey Baldwin of PEAC. “There is also no doubt that currently available technology can provide dramatically lower levels of pollution than this plan requires.”
DEQ received an unprecedented response for a draft proposal, including over 1200 comments from concerned citizens, organizations and government agencies supporting stringent emission limits and tight timelines for implementation of modern pollution controls at PGE Boardman. DEQ has ignored public outcry as well as the concern of federal experts who manage the National Parks and Wilderness Areas in the region by continuing to push its original, milquetoast proposal. The plan fails to protect the region from blighting haze despite requiring investments in hundreds of millions of dollars in new technology, and ignores the long term consequences of continuing to burn coal.
Dan Ritzman, Western Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, commented, “Oregon DEQ’s plan completely fails to address the global warming implications of PGE’s continued reliance on dirty coal. In fact, the plan will likely encourage PGE to keep Boardman running long into the future. Oregonians deserve a coal-free, clean energy future, not state encouragement of continued reliance on coal power.”
PGE’s Boardman plant pollutes more than 10 protected National Parks and Wilderness Areas, including the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, Hells Canyon and northeast Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, resulting in visibility impairment and unhealthy air days.
“Our parks, scenic areas and wilderness areas are an important part of our heritage, and our economy. We must stop pollution from the Boardman plant now to protect our national scenic treasure, the Columbia River Gorge, and other special places for future generations,” said Michael Lang, Conservation Director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge.
“It is unconscionable that Oregon DEQ has allowed this pollution-spewing dinosaur to operate without modern pollution controls for decades, and now continues to ignore input from experts concerning aggressive but feasible pollution reduction targets and timelines,” said Mark Riskedahl, Executive Director of NEDC.
According to PGE, the number of days of impaired visibility in the Hells Canyon Wilderness area from 2003 – 2005 attributable to the Boardman plant averaged 107 days per year. A study released last year by the Yakama Nation revealed that PGE Boardman is responsible for up to 50% of the air pollution in the Columbia Gorge during times when air quality in the Gorge is at its worst.
Commenting on DEQ’s proposal, officials with the National Parks Service (NPS) noted that PGE Boardman causes “the greatest magnitude and extent of visibility impairment we have seen to date from any single source subject to haze reduction requirements.” The NPS also stated that its “continued review of the ODEQ proposal now leads us to believe that, if any changes should be made, they should lower the proposed limits of SO2, NOx, and PM10 and expedite their application.”
The Forest Service stated that “In addition to the impacts on haze, the air emissions from the PGE Boardman plant also impact the ecological and cultural resources the Gorge. . . Alterations to the most sensitive indicators of ecological change (lichens) have been detected throughout the Scenic Area. The unnatural change to these resources may take years to be restored, and damage to cultural resources may never be remedied.”
Washington Southwest Clean Air Agency urged DEQ to take expeditious action, stating that “[Boardman’s] emission impacts include visibility, flora and fauna (i.e., forest health and crop impacts), lake acidification, acid deposition in the Columbia River basin watershed, and impacts to Native American rock art. Impacts can be identified several hundred miles away form the PGE Boardman plant due to atmospheric transport.”
The public now awaits further determinations on the proposed rule by the Environmental Quality Commission, expected some time in June.
Read the DEQs recommendation to the EQC here: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/haze/pge.htm