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Gregoire signs bill phasing out coal-fired energy production

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday signed legislation to phase out coal-fired energy production at the TransAlta power plant in Centralia.

Senate Bill 5769 was sponsored by Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, and solidifies into law a collaborative agreement to close the state’s two coal boilers – the first in 2020 and the second in 2025. The agreement provides a path to cleaner power while allowing the necessary time to provide stability to the electrical grid and to the community in Lewis County.

“The Centralia power plant has long been a critical part of the regional economy,” Gregoire said at the bill signing ceremony at the Centralia plant, attended by TransAlta employees. “The men and women here who keep it running not only power homes and businesses, you serve as the backbone of your communities. We will build on your skills and your know-how to power our grid and our future. I want to thank our partners at TransAlta, our environmental community, and labor for coming together to be part of Washington’s clean energy future. I’d also like to thank our legislators, who gave this bill bipartisan support.”

In 2009, Gregoire signed an executive order directing the Department of Ecology to work with TransAlta on an agreement that would apply the greenhouse gas emissions performance standards by no later than Dec. 31, 2025.  The law established Friday culminates two years of negotiations that produced an agreement between the company, the environmental community and the state.

“TransAlta is a progressive power company that strives to produce more electricity with less environmental impact, every day,” TransAlta President and CEO Steve Snyder said in a press release. “We are proud to play a leading role in this unique collaboration of industry, government, community and environmentalists to chart a new energy future for Washington State. With this bill, TransAlta will be able to continue powering this community with new investments in power production and new jobs.”

Under the legislation:

— The plant’s two coal boilers will meet the state’s emissions performance standard for new and modified power plants, which will require the boilers to shut down. The standard will apply to one boiler on Dec. 31, 2020, and to the other boiler on Dec. 31, 2025 – essentially ending coal-fired power in Washington state in the next 14 years;

— In 2013, TransAlta will install additional air pollution control technology to further reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides at the plant. The TransAlta plant is the state’s largest single industrial source of nitrogen oxide emissions. Nitrogen oxides are one of the causes of visibility-limiting regional haze in national parks and on federal lands;

— TransAlta agrees to contribute $30 million in a community investment fund to help with economic development and energy efficiency projects, as well as $25 million in an energy technology transition fund, to be spent on supporting innovative energy technologies and companies in Washington state; and

— TransAlta will be allowed in the interim to sell coal power under long-term contracts within Washington – which will give the company the financial stability needed to transition to a cleaner source of energy.

Rockefeller said he's never seen such collaborative work in his 13 years in the Legislature.

“I believe what made this agreement possible was the respect and dedication each party brought to the table," he said. "The result is a cleaner energy future, with power, jobs, health and environmental benefits that all can share.”

Rep. Dave Upthegrove added, “When this bill had its final hearing, business, labor, environmental and health advocates were all sitting side by side at the testimony table. They were asking us to move forward with this, and we listened. It’s an honor to be here today to follow through on this historic agreement.”

Bruce Nilles, deputy conservation director for the Sierra Club, said, “Today, we are one significant step closer to being truly free from coal in the Northwest, which will bring about a cleaner, safer, healthier and more prosperous future.

"The Sierra Club thanks the many people who worked hard to make this historic agreement a reality, including our allies in the Environmental Priorities Coalition, members of the Legislature, TransAlta, the working men and women of Lewis County, and of course, Governor Gregoire and her dedicated staff.”

 

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