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Public Wants a Say in WA’s Coal-Fired Debate


February 26, 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Chris Gregoire has been a big advocate of curbing global warming pollution in Washington with cleaner energy sources, but at the state Capitol on Saturday, members of the Sierra Club and other conservation groups will ask her to take the next step, and commit to a coal-free Washington within the next five years. They'll hand over thousands of postcards asking the governor to phase out the state's only coal plant, in Centralia.

The Washington Department of Ecology has been in negotiations with the plant's owner, TransAlta, although Ethan Bergerson, regional representative for the Sierra Club Northwest, says neither side is sharing the details with the public.

"We're not seeing a public process for this, and the negotiations so far have been un-transparent. The public is incredibly concerned about this issue. We're holding town hall meetings in order to give the public a chance to find out more about this, and to have their voice heard in the process."

Bergerson says more than 10,000 people have asked Gregoire to consider closing the plant, but the negotiations about the plant's carbon dioxide output have not included a public hearing or comment period. The Saturday event includes a panel discussion and an announcement of a series of town hall meetings about the TransAlta plant.

In the Sierra Club's most-recent poll, Bergerson says, 72 percent of Washingtonians said their primary concerns about the plant are health-related.

"TransAlta's our largest source of toxic mercury pollution. Coal pollution has been linked to cancer, heart attack, stroke and lung disease - four of America's top five causes of premature death."

The Ecology Department has said TransAlta is installing mercury reduction technology to cut those emissions in half by 2012, and has plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2025.


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