The end of burning coal in Oregon is not just a good idea for our clean air, clean water and public health, it will be a certainty within 10 years under a deal negotiated by the Sierra Club and our allies.
After years of legal and administrative wrangling, Portland General Electric (PGE) has finally agreed to settle a Clean Air Act lawsuit over harmful emissions from its Boardman coal fired power plant in eastern Oregon. A coalition of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Riverkeeper, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center – represented by the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center – brought suit against PGE in 2008 over Clean Air Act violations dating back decades.
Once approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and the courts, the legal settlement will cement in a 2020 closure date PGE pledged to abide by last year after receiving approvals from state agencies. It will also lead to greater reductions in acid rain causing sulfur dioxide than PGE originally agreed to, and $2.5 million in funding over the next decade for environmental restoration in the Columbia Gorge and northeast Oregon – two areas negatively affected by Boardman’s air pollution since the late 1970’s – as well as investments in reducing air pollution and local renewable energy projects to replace fossil fuels, like rooftop solar.
Here is a link to the Sierra Club’s press release, noting that the Boardman closure marks a milestone in the Club’s national Beyond Coal campaign, which has to date led to the phaseout of some 30,000 megawatts of coal at 153 coal plants, whose carbon emissions total the equivalent of roughly 36 million automobiles.
In addition to creating a legally binding shutdown date that PGE cannot wiggle out of, as well as securing greater reductions in harmful sulfur dioxide than PGE had agreed to last year, PGE has also agreed to pay $2.5 million into a fund managed by the Oregon Community Foundation which will provide:
- $1 million for habitat protection and environmental restoration in the Columbia River Gorge;
- $625,000 for habitat protection and restoration in the Blue Mountains, Hells Canyon and Wallowa Mountains;
- $500,000 for local clean energy projects, such as solar panels on houses; and
- $375,000 for community-based efforts to reduce air pollution.
“Oregon is among those states showing that we can do better than the dirty business of coal,” said Bill Corcoran, Western Region Director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “A healthier and brighter future is arriving in America.”