OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) says it will
release a draft plan this summer for transitioning the state's only
coal-fired power plant, in Centralia, away from coal as a fuel source.
The state and plant owner TransAlta have gotten a lot of heat from
conservation groups, saying the public has been excluded from
negotiations about reducing the plant's pollution output. Seth Preston,
communications manager for the DOE's Air Quality Program, points out
that the plant emits different types of pollution, and these are being
"There are a couple of different processes here. One is the ongoing work
that we're doing to lower mercury and NOX emissions from the plant.
That is separate from this; this agreement we're talking to is
specifically about greenhouse gases."
Nitrogen oxide (NOX) is a pollutant in the haze that commonly affects
Mount Rainier. The governor has given TransAlta until December 31, 2025
to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by half. The environmental community
is pushing for a deadline ten years earlier. Preston calls 2025 a "no
later than" date, and says the state will work to get it done sooner.
Kathleen Ridihalgh, senior regional representative with the Sierra Club,
says her group is glad to hear that the public will be able to comment
on the plan - although she's concerned that the company and the state
have already been talking privately for the past year.
"We are a little cautious that this is a little bit too late. We want to
make sure that the negotiations are still open, so that the public
feedback is valuable and, if there is a lot of demand for an earlier
transition, that they take that seriously."
In a recent Sierra Club poll, 72 percent of Washingtonians said their
primary concerns about the TransAlta plant are health-related. The state
has said the Centralia plant is the largest carbon polluter in
Washington. The draft plan will be made public in July.