The Northwest is Moving Beyond Coal

Open pit coal mine in the Powder River Basin. These mines feed the Northwest's only two coal plants and could be exported from ports along the Columbia River and burned in China under current proposals.

Late last year, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission issued a final rule setting a 2020 timeline for closing Oregon’s only coal fired power plant, while approving a series of pollution controls that will significantly reduce haze and acid rain causing pollution in the meantime.

Now, our friends in Washington have secured a timeline for closing their only coal plant! In early March, a deal was brokered by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, key legislators, environmental groups and labor unions to close the 1460 MW Transalta coal plant, located just 90 miles north of Portland. One boiler will close in 2020, the other in 2025, with interim pollution controls installed in 2013. A bill enshrining this plan has already passed the Washington Senate and there is hope the Washington House will take similar action soon.

Through the hard work of the Sierra Club and our allies, the Pacific Northwest is now firmly on a path towards a coal free future!

In other recent news, a company proposing to build a huge coal export terminal at the Port of Longview across from Oregon on the Columbia River has withdrawn its permit application after being caught misleading decision makers and the public about the scale and potential impacts of its operation. After Millenium Bulk Logistics received approval from Cowlitz County to construct a coal export terminal in order to annually ship 5 million tons of coal mined in Wyoming and Montana to China last year, the Sierra Club and allies appealed the permit, saying the facility would threaten public health and run counter to state efforts to curb carbon pollution and build a clean energy economy. The Washington Department of Ecology also intervened, contending that the permit had not considered the full impacts of the coal export facility. In February, internal company documents revealed the true scope of the project and that the company was actually planning to build a terminal capable of shipping as much as 80 million tons of coal and had not disclosed this information in public hearings.

Advocates expect Millenium to refile for a another permit, and other companies are also seeking to construct coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. As the Northwest stops burning coal, major mining companies in Montana and Wyoming are seeking access to Columbia River and other Northwest ports to ship this coal to China. This will continue to be one of the major environmental fights in our region. For more information on how to get involved in the Sierra Club’s coal export efforts, please email Cesia Kearns.

In addition to the climate impacts of burning coal, when coal is burned in China, it presents significant issues of mercury deposition in the Pacific Northwest. Already, mercury contamination is a major concern for Oregon’s rivers, streams, and for those that eat fish. Further, the potential for significant amounts of coal dust rising from thousands of coal trains and huge coal piles along the Columbia River presents significant health risks for local communities.

2 Responses to The Northwest is Moving Beyond Coal

  1. […] Click here to learn more about how you can join the Sierra Club’s efforts to lead us toward a …. […]

  2. […] 2010 we also worked with the Sierra Club’s Washington Chapter and other allies to secure a coal-free future for the Pacific Northwest.  On the heals of the announcement that the Portland General Electric’s Boardman coal plant […]

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