In the fight against coal plants, most progress by the environmental community in recent years has been to stop new plants or large new expansions, in part because old plants often have the benefit of "grandfather" type provisions in the law. That has left many old, very dirty coal power plants chugging away, belching huge quantities of global warming pollutants and other air pollutants. Earthjustice and several client groups have decided to take a run at changing that.
A subsidiary of TransAlta Corporation, a Canadian company, owns an old, dirty coal power plant in Centralia, Washington. The plant has never had to control mercury (a potent neuro-toxin) or global warming pollutants. That makes it the largest source of these pollutants in the state -- 10% of Washington's total greenhouse gas emissions come from just this one coal plant. The TransAlta coal plant also emits huge quantities of nitrogen oxides (NOx) -- a pollutant that is causing haze pollution to dirty the air of what should be our most pristine areas: national parks and wilderness areas. The TransAlta plant degrades the air quality in Mt. Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks along with Goat Rocks and Mt. Adams wilderness areas, among others. The National Park Service estimates that the TransAlta plant cumulatively pollutes the air in more parks and wilderness areas than any other polluter in the entire United States. Yet, TransAlta continues to fight putting adequate controls on its NOx pollution saying it just doesn't want to spend the money.
We disagree with TransAlta's balance sheet mentality. We think clean air, public health, and doing something now about the dangers of global warming is priceless and necessary for our kids and grandkids. Therefore, Earthjustice, on behalf of the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, has filed suit challenging renewal of TransAlta's air permit for its complete failure to control mercury and global warming pollutants from the plant and for its failure to put the best controls available on NOx pollution that is harming parks and wilderness areas.