CENTRALIA, Wash. - A final agreement between the Washington Department
of Ecology and TransAlta, the company that owns the coal-fired power
plant in Centralia, was released on Monday. It outlines plans to reduce
the plant's haze-causing nitrogen oxide pollution and mercury
Conservation groups had been waiting on the sidelines for a year during
the closed-door negotiations. Now, they say the final plan is no
different than a draft they saw months ago, and doesn't do enough to fix
the problems. Jannette Brimmer, an attorney for Earthjustice
says a 50 percent mercury reduction starting in 2012 is one example.
"It's much, much less than what technology shows they can do. Mercury
removal, with the kind of technology that TransAlta is going to use, can
be 90 percent or better. So, they're not doing much and what they are
doing, that 50 percent, is essentially voluntary."
represents several groups, including the National
Parks Conservation Association
(NPCA) and the Sierra Club
that have been demanding the Centralia plant clean up or close.
In the agreement, TransAlta cites data saying it is responsible for only
a fraction of the nitrogen oxide that makes up the haze in the region.
The company also says it will burn a type of coal obtained from the
Powder River Basin area of Wyoming and Montana that contains less
sulfur, ash and nitrogen. But NPCA attorney Stephanie Kodish says those
positions are nothing new.
"The substantial visibility impairment that results from TransAlta's
coal plant is still dramatic, on a dozen Class I protected National
Parks and Wilderness Areas, as well as the Columbia River Gorge. Our
concerns remain outstanding and unaddressed through this agreement."
The Ecology Department says the agreement satisfies what is known as the
"Best Available Retrofit Technology" for such a plant and that, as an
older coal plant, Centralia should not be held to the same pollution
standards as newer plants.
The agreement and related documents are online at www.ecy.wa.gov