LACEY, Wash. - On Tuesday evening, the Washington Department of Ecology holds a public hearing at its office in Lacey about air pollution in the form of haze. A main source of the haze-producing nitrogen oxide pollution (NOX) is the state's only coal-fired power plant, in Centralia. Demonstrations on Tuesday in at least five cities will protest the state's handling of the plant.
In Vancouver, in southern Washington, Rick Marshall, regional representative with the Sierra Club
, says the haze hasn't improved, despite years of protests and lawsuits demanding that the TransAlta plant install better pollution controls, switch to burning natural gas, or close altogether.
"The Californians are getting the power. Canadians are getting the profits, and we here in Washington are getting the pollution. It just seems like a really raw deal."
Canadian-based TransAlta says its Centralia plant also generates ten percent of the electricity used in Washington. NOX has been linked to heart and lung problems in humans, and can also damage plant life and water quality.
Spokane in eastern Washington is nowhere near Centralia, near the Pacific Coast, but the Sierra Club
there will be part of the protest. Regional representative Brad Hash says clean air is not just a local issue.
"Coal emissions travel hundreds of miles, lead to increased global warming; that affects everyone. Eastern Washingtonians are also concerned about a $5 million annual tax break that's going to this out-of-country corporation."
TransAlta says it has invested more than $300 million in pollution control technology at the plant. Critics say the company has only addressed part of the pollution problem, and that transitioning away from coal would be cheaper than more equipment upgrades.
The Ecology Department wants input on the first phase of a plan required by the federal government to show how the state will reduce haze in the region.
The protests are in Lacey, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver; details are online at
. The hearing is Tuesday, Sept. 28, 6:00 p.m., at Ecology HQs, 300 Desmond Dr. SE, Lacey.