The Sierra Club announced today that this past weekend, the Washington State Senate approved a landmark agreement between the Sierra Club, Governor Chris Gregoire and TransAlta to phase out the state’s massive 1600MW coal plant between 2020 and 2025. This agreement continues Washington’s transition away from dirty coal to clean energy. With growing pressure from the public (including environmental groups, clean energy advocates, health professionals, students and the faith community) to move away from dirty coal, Governor Gregoire convened a group of stakeholders to discuss ways to transition the state off of coal. The agreement approved by the Senate on Saturday (formally Senate Bill 5769), is the result of those meetings.
“This agreement reflects a reasonable and thoughtful approach to a complex situation,” said Doug Howell, Washington Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Retiring this plant will protect the families and national parks that have for four decades been choking on this plant’s pollution. The orderly retirement will also ensure that the Centralia community will be protected during the transition away from coal.
“We are very grateful for the leadership of Governor Gregoire and the willingness of TransAlta to find a solution that works for all interested parties and brings an end to this longstanding controversy,” added Howell.
The agreement, reached by the Sierra Club, TransAlta, Governor Gregoire and conservation and clean energy advocates including Climate Solutions, the Northwest Energy Coalition and Washington Environment Council, calls for one of the Centralia plant’s two coal-fired boilers to be retired in 2020, with the second boiler scheduled to be retired by 2025. Both boilers will install pollution controls in 2013 that will reduce the amount of health-threatening nitrogen oxide pollution from the plant.
Importantly, the agreement would also create a $60 million transition fund that will be invested in the Centralia community to help transition away from relying on the plant. Not only will tens of millions of dollars be invested in Centralia community development, but a significant portion of the transition fund will additionally be dedicated to innovation and new technologies that will help reduce Washington’s carbon pollution.
“As the Northwest and the nation begin to transition away from coal, we must ensure that the workers and families who have dedicated their lives to producing coal-powered electricity are helping lead the way into a clean energy future,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “This agreement will help ensure that Washington’s economy, air, and water will be healthy for decades to come, by providing resources that will spur innovation in the Northwest to move the region and the nation beyond coal.”
If SB 5769, which was approved by the Senate on Saturday, is approved by the Washington State House of Representatives, the agreement would make TransAlta’s Centralia plant the latest victory for a healthy and thriving clean energy future in America. Together with the plan to close Oregon’s one coal plant – Portland General Electric’s Boardman plant – in 2020, the Pacific Northwest will end its coal-burning pollution throughout the next 14 years. Thanks in part to the work of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, plans for 150 new coal plants have been shelved since the beginning of the coal rush, keeping more than 570 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and encouraging America to follow the path to a new clean energy economy.
“The future of America’s energy will not be in dirty, dangerous and outdated coal-fired power that makes people sick,” said Hitt. “It will be in clean and sustainable energy that will put people to work. This is another step on our shared path to a clean energy future.”