Groups Challenge Proposed Climate-Polluting Coal Plant

Washington plant contradicts voter mandate and state law seeking cleaner energy


Tom Geiger, Washington Environmental Council, (206) 622-8103, ext. 203
Steve Mashuda, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 27 
Marc Krasnowsky, NW Energy Coalition, (206) 621-0094
Kathleen Ridahalgh, Sierra Club, (206) 378-0114, ext. 305

Seeking to stop a power plant that would spew millions of tons of global-warming pollution into Washington skies, several leading environmental and clean-energy groups have filed to intervene in the permitting process for Energy Northwest’s proposed 680-megawatt coal-fueled facility in Kalama, Washington.

The organizations — including the Washington Environmental Council, the Sierra Club’s Cascade chapter, and NW Energy Coalition, all represented by attorneys from Earthjustice — are urging members of the public to insist that state regulators reject Energy Northwest’s permit application.

“At a time when most of our political leaders — from many of our state’s federal representatives to the governor to mayors across Washington — have committed to reducing climate pollution, this project is a huge leap in the wrong direction,” said Sierra Club regional representative Kathleen Ridahalgh. “Knowing what we now know, we owe it to future generations to spend our resources and fuel our region on energy conservation and renewable resources like wind and solar power.”

In 2006, Washington voters approved Initiative 937, indicating their strong preference for clean energy over coal and other polluting fossil fuels. This year, Governor Christine Gregoire issued landmark climate-protection goals and the state legislature passed Senate Bill 6001, setting strict limits on the global-warming pollution that can be emitted by new power plants that serve Washington electric consumers.

Energy Northwest, the consortium of publicly owned utilities formerly known as the Washington Public Power Supply System, is seeking certification for a plant that could use up to 2.5 million tons of coal and emit as much as 6 million tons of carbon dioxide a year – equal to the pollution from nearly 100,000 additional cars on Washington roads.

“This is a 19th- century solution to a 21st-century problem,” said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda. “People in the Northwest want bold action to turn the tide on global warming, not more polluting fossil-fuel technology.”

To meet the SB 6001 standards, Energy Northwest would have to capture and permanently store (“sequester”) a third to a half of the plant’s carbon emissions.

SB 6001 gives developers five years from date of operation to begin the sequestration, but requires submission of an acceptable, technically feasible and good-faith sequestration plan as part of the permit-application process. Energy Northwest, however, has submitted only a rationale for NOT doing a sequestration plan and a vague promise to submit such a plan should sequestration become viable sometime in the future.

The state attorney general’s office called the plan “deficient” and “vague,” and the state Department of Ecology urged the site evaluation committee to reject Energy Northwest’s application.

“The proponent’s flimsy analysis doesn’t explain how the plant could operate without pumping a lot more global warming pollution into our air,” said Washington Environmental Council climate campaign director Becky Kelley. “Washington passed a Clean Energy Initiative last fall, and we should start promoting renewable sources now instead of firing up a new coal plant.”

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