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Coal Free Future for Washington

Protecting our families against poisons and supporting community economic development.

We did it:

On April 29, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the Coal Free Future for Washington legislation to responsibly transition TransAlta Corp.’s Centralia, Wash., power plant off of coal into law.  Gov. Gregoire joined TransAlta executives and workers, legislators, and members of the environmental and labor communities at the TransAlta power plant in Centralia, WA for the bill-signing celebration.   

The Coal-Free Future for Washington law will responsibly transition Washington’s only coal-fired power plant off of coal, while creating a model of how investing in the transition to a clean-energy future can create jobs and a healthy economy.

A major win for our health, the environment, our economy, plant workers, and the Lewis County community, it provides a powerful model of what works: environmentalists, labor unions, health experts, faith leaders, the local community, the corporation, the governor, and legislators working together to drastically reduce coal pollution.  It shows we can transition off dirty fossil fuels and build a strong economic future for local communities as we continue to move towards a coal-free Northwest.

A Landmark AgreementTransAlta Coal-fired Power Plant

On March 5, Washington environmental leaders announced a landmark agreement with Gov. Chris Gregoire and TransAlta Corp. to phase out the company’s massive 1460MW coal-fired power plant between 2020 and 2025. This timeline provides an opportunity for cleaner power like energy efficiency, wind and solar, to replace the largest coal-fired power plant in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the largest in the country. This power plant is the single largest source of dangerous air pollution in Washington state, including climate pollution, mercury and haze. Pressure from the state legislature set the table for negotiations. This pressure, coupled with growing pressure from the public (including environmental groups, clean energy advocates, health professionals, students, the faith community, and hunters and anglers) to move away from dirty coal, led environmentalists, the governor’s office, and TransAlta to convene discussions on how to transition this plant off of coal. E2SSB 5769 is the result of those discussions.

What E2SSB 5769 Will Do:

Phase out the harmful practice of burning coal in Washington: TransAlta operates two 730MW boilers. This bill would retire the first by Dec. 31, 2020, and the other by Dec. 31, 2025. 

Protect us from harmful air pollution: The legislation requires installation of "selective noncatalytic reduction" (SNCR) pollution controls on both boilers by January 1, 2013.  These pollution controls will reduce harmful smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution emissions from the plant.

Invest in the community’s economic future and a clean energy future for Washington: The agreement provides $68 million in investments to help the community and state transition to clean energy technologies, including:

  • $30 million from TransAlta for local economic development and helping Centralia residents and businesses reduce their energy bills.
  • $25 million from TransAlta for energy technologies with the potential to create considerable energy, economic development, and air quality or environmental benefits.

TransAlta will also clean up the site and ready it for future economic development, beginning at least 24 months prior to closure. 

Protect ratepayers by ensuring that utilities need to get regulatory approval before signing any new long-term contracts for TransAlta coal power.

Worker with solar panel and windmillAllow for a new era for renewable energy in the Northwest: This agreement will open up the largest market opportunity for clean energy in the region’s history, creating an opportunity for new clean energy jobs

National and Regional Implications

With the planned retirement of Oregon’s Boardman coal-fired power plant in 2020 and Washington’s TransAlta plant in 2020 and 2025, we will see the end of coal-burning in the Pacific Northwest. Instead, we will invest in cleaner energy sources and more jobs in the region.

As one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the country, retiring TransAlta in an orderly manner showcases to other states and regions that they too can slash pollution, protect their residents’ health, and create many more jobs by investing in clean energy rather than burning coal. 

Building Bridges

This agreement demonstrates that by working together, the people of Washington and the Northwest can build a model for the nation of how investing in the transition to a clean energy future can create jobs and a healthy economy.

Built on our shared values, this agreement represents common ground between environmental organizations, labor unions, the local business community and Gov. Gregoire. 

“This [agreement] happened because they were willing to talk with each other, and with Gov. Chris Gregoire, to strike a compromise. As a result, it’s virtually impossible to determine a winner and a loser in this deal.” - The Olympian, March 11, 2011

Want to get involved?  Contact: Robin Everett, (206) 378-0114 ext 315, robin.everett [at] sierraclub.org

Media Contact: Kathleen Ridihalgh, (206) 378-0114 ext 305, kathleen.ridihalgh [at] sierraclub.org

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