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Last coal plant in Pacific Northwest to shut down starting in 2020


The last coal-fired power plant in the Pacific Northwest will shut down completely by 2025 under an agreement announced Saturday by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. The first boiler of TransAlta's 1,460-megawatt plant in Centralia, Wash., is set to go offline in 2020 and the second in 2025.

“This agreement is sending a message that states are getting serious about combating global-warming pollution and are taking steps to open up markets for home-grown clean energy,” said Bruce Nilles, deputy conservation director with the Sierra Club, whose Beyond Coal Campaign has been involved in the negotiations. Nilles hinted at the breakthrough during a keynote speech at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Ore., but commented only after the announcement.

The only other such plant in the Pacific Northwest, the PG&E plant near Boardman, Ore., is already under an agreement to go offline in 2020.

Negotiations have been underway on the Washington plant for two years but accelerated over the last few months as the governor worked with environmental groups, unions and members of the community in southwest Washington and TransAlta to meet the state’s clean-energy goals. In 2009, Gregoire signed an executive order directing the state to apply mandated greenhouse-gas-emissions performance standards by no later than Dec. 31, 2025.
Saturday’s agreement moves up the timeline for meeting those performance standards for one of the two boilers to Dec. 31, 2020; the other boiler is still set to close Dec. 31, 2025.

The Sierra Club and other groups have been hammering at the coal industry over the last decade, and at coal-fired power plants in particular, as a leading source of environmental toxins and greenhouse-gas emissions.  A Bush administration energy plan had proposed 150 new coal-fired power plants, later increased to 200. Litigation and public outcry have stopped most them. Of the 200 proposed plants, 150 have been dropped, 16 have been built, and the remainder are still the subject of ongoing litigation and negotiation.

Los Angeles is also the target of a clean-energy campaign by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power buys about 40% of its power from coal-fired plants in Utah, Nevada and New Mexico.

Nilles points out that California, Oregon and Washington have no coal resources and must import coal, so transitioning to cleaner fuels also means economic benefits, as the states spend on gas, wind, solar and clean energy innovations instead. “Shutting down coal offers a huge boost for clean-energy entrepreneurs, many of whom are in California, Oregon and Washington,” he added.

The Washington agreement includes provisions to protect jobs in the Centralia area and should not result in layoffs. In a press release, Gregoire said, “What a proud day for the Centralia community and all of Washington state.” She also prodded the Washington Legislature to quickly implement the agreement.


A battle over West Coast coal exports to China

National parks: A missed deadline to curb haze

Colorado ditches coal

-- Dean Kuipers

Photo: An agreement to shut the last coal-fired plants in the Pacific Northwest sends a signal to other utilities that depend on coal, such as Southern California Edison, which gets electricity from the Four Corners power complex in New Mexico. Credit: Jerry McBride / Durango Herald

Comments () | Archives (21)

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@Jim Burks

Except that the NW (particularly Washington and Idaho) have some of the lowest electricity rates in the US. Most of our power comes from Hydro with Hanford nuclear throwing in a bunch plus a few natural gas and a sprinkling of wind to season.

But the carcinogen- producing (34 tons a year, was the last count) paper mill (the STENCH, when you visit Port Townsend area - do REALTORS DISCLOSE THIS FACT?) is permitted, and the towns people just tickled pink over the 'jobs' - undertakers and embalmers, perhaps, on TOP of cancer specialists, I presume). NO restrictions on this, nor the Hanford Nuke Ranch, where 'stuff' is leaking and moving towards the BIGGEST RIVER in the Pacific NW, the Columbia.....yes, Al Qaeda does NOT scare me one's the Dems and Repubs, who scare the Hell outta me. How about Y-O-U????

To everyone wondering where the excess power is coming from - keep in mind that the Pacific Northwest already exports well over half of the region's power to other more expensive and deregulated markets (mostly California and Canada). Since the region's grid and most of the hydro dams are federally owned and managed, they can't make a profit on that wholesale power - so that directly goes to reducing the rates in the region.

That said, the Bonneville Power Administration has had 1,500 MW of wind power added to the grid over the past 2 years - and is now expecting a total of 6,000 MW of wind capacity by 2013. Even with the shutdown of coal, this is more than enough to make up for their loss. It is one of the first cases in the world of wind power directly making up for the shutdown of coal power. The intermittent wind power works perfectly in the region as the federally managed hydro dams can react within seconds to wind production, and can even 'bank' excess power with pumped water storage in some of the dams.

Funny, even though we have one of the most 'socialized' power systems in the nation, in the form of federally owned and managed, we also have some of the cheapest electricity and most stable regional grids in the world. The rest of the nation should take note.

Read the healine again Ann Moss you missed the word "starting".

Jo we don't have brownouts here in the Pacific Northwest. We have much cheaper power than you sillies that burn stuff to make electricity. Ours are 5.2 cents a KWH. Do we have giant windmills, yup. However we are selling the power they create to you guys down south, and making a profit. Our PUD gets 97% of it's power from renewable sources- Water, solar and starting in 2016, when you guys will have paid for our windmills wind. We pay nothing for fuel. We just have to maintain the infrastructure. Go ahead pay for out capital expeditures we don't mind. It just keeps out electriciy costs down.

Yes red cedar there is coal, but it is not economical to mine it, thus at this stage there are no usable coal reserves. Of course part of the problem with coal, gas, and oil is that they are expensive (constantly paying for the fuel) and a vanishing resource. I am always amazed at people who think the only way to make elecricity is using something that is not being made any more, is expensive and growing more expensive and is finite. Can't you guys think ahead?

I love the 'drill baby drill' shills postings here.
Every president since Carter said that we were going to get off foreign oil.
We use 25% of the world's oil and sit on 3% of the world's oil reserves.
Do the math!
Oh I forgot, you don't trust science or math.

The headline says 2020. The article says 2025. Why don't you get with the energy companies and keep your propaganda consistent? I realize it is necessary for them to keep the lie, that they are actually working for change, in the public's mind. But isn't that really when the mechanical systems will have to be replaced??

How many coal plants does china build per week? After all who wants cheap electricity? Id rather have steep rates, brownouts and giant windmills. Brilliant.

Sure wish the coal fired power plant at Searles Valley Minerals near Death Valley would switch to natural gas. The gas pipeline is already there.

Is this a news article or an editorial? It sure reads like cheerleading from some naive environmentalist. The simple fact is that the Centralia power plant is located where it is because there was a coal mine nearby and customers along the I-5 corridor not very far away. A few years ago the mine shut down, partly because it was small and partly because the suburbanization of the surrounding area made it very difficult to expand. Once the local mine was shut down, they imported coal from nearly 1000 miles away by rail. It doesn't take an MBA from Harvard business school to figure out that hauling coal 1000 miles by trail costs more than hauling it from the mine right behind the power plant. In fact, it costs more than burning the coal near the mine, such as they do in aptly-named Colstrip, Montana, and shipping the resulting electricity via wires to the coast.

There's no mention of any of this history in the article, which is why I characterize it as lazy reporting and shallow green cheerleading.

Likewise, the line about Washington having no coal reserves is patently ridiculous. Washington historically had extensive coal mines at Whatcom Bay (Bellingam), some of which extended beneath the Bay, at Roslyn, which was a major coaling station for the railroads, at Black Diamond (guess why it was called that?) and on Coal Creek (surprise, surprise!) which gave the nearby town the ambitious name of "Factoria" when the developers anticipated building a coal-fired "Pittsburgh of the West" there. Of course there was also Centralia. I don't know about Oregon or California, but Washington has historically had many significant coal mining districts. There is still coal left in all of them, but mining it is uneconomical and/or unaesthetic today. That's a lot different from saying there're no coal reserves, however.

It's always amazing to me when people actually think you can rely only on wind, solar and natural gas. We are at the very least 2 to 3 decades behind to make this a reality. The most sad part about this is we have more oil that the entire world right under our feet but we have way to many environmental whacko's out there that would rather we paid $7 a gallon for gas as long as a turtle and a little fish has more rights that Americans. We are REALLY screwed up in this country and it's very unfortunate. When are we going to wake up and realize that humans rule the planet, not the animals.

Like someone else said, how are they going to replace the missing electricity? This country is going to be in the same position (more expense and maybe shortages) we are in regarding gas. I'd bet obama is glad to see gas prices going up. We will have to drive less and they will start selling more Volts etc and less large vehicles and in the process emit less evil CO2. If you think energy is expensive now just wait till they cram the cap and tax down our throats.

Some how this country needs to tell the far left radical environmentalists (as stated above, stopping 150 of 200 coal plants) that their days of running this country are over and to take a flying leap.

There is the magic green-clean power for your `lectric auto.

The first shut down in 9 years and the second in 14? Sure lets get right one with that! What a joke! Hardly government mandated new environmental rules. This is business as usual with a coal fired power plant reaching the end of its engineered life. Get real and shut it down completely in a year. That way everyone can get used to what the green movement really wants out of the country: prosperity.

If Washington state was serious, they would stop the continued export of coal from their state that increases every other countries, burned here or there, it would add to global warming...hypocrites at best.

Maybe the Pacific Northwest can afford higher electricity bills. I can't.

The plant pictured in the article is located in Shiprock, New Mexico. It is not the plant in Centralia, Washington. Guess someone thought any ol' pic would do.

I guess they forgot about ClimateGate. First it was global cooling, then global warming, it then went to climate change and then global climate disruption. They change the name name so no matter what it does they can claim they are right. ClimateGate.

So, lets shut down a plant, cost people their jobs in an already crappy economy and furthermore, reduce our electricity output even though there is increasing demand? This will only mean higher prices for the consumer.
There is a reason they wanted to build 200 new coal power plants. We aren't making enough electricity for the population and this so called "green" electricity isn't cost effective.

OK, it's great to shut down a coal fired powerplant, but where does the replacement capacity come from?

Trans-alta bought this operation awhile back, focussing on operations to reduce pollution. A large part of that is the base element coal. Where is the plant located? On a coal mine.

Wind, solar and other "green" sources will require a huge amount of the earth'e resources to replace this capacity.

They slated the last coal firing plant to shut down;however, the U S has plans to ship coal to China from an Oregonian port.

We have some unused solar panels and windmills for sale here at the LACCD.


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