Facing a $2.8 billion budget shortfall, there is a movement afoot in Olympia, Washington to repeal a generous tax break enjoyed by the state’s largest polluter, the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia.
The tax break was given to the company in the 1990s provided they kept coal mining jobs in the state. In 2006, TransAlta closed the local mine, laid off 600 workers, and began purchasing coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana.
Despite the tough economic times, TransAlta still pockets $4 million every year.
Supporters of the plant claim this deal helped TransAlta install new pollution control equipment. But that argument falls short when you consider that clean up was mandatory, not voluntary. The tax break was intended to be an incentive for the former owners of the Centralia power plant to comply with the Clean Air Act AND to keep 600 jobs at the local coal mine.
Earthjustice is pushing for TransAlta to run a cleaner plant that protects public health and reduces haze in Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks, as well as Goat Rocks Wilderness.
Ending the tax break for TransAlta is a no-brainer. The Senate version of the budget ends this handout. The House has yet to include this provision. The governor’s position on repealing this handout remains unclear.
The legislative session ends soon, and we will be keeping an eye on this issue.