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Wanted: Your thoughts on coal-fired power

PGE’s Boardman power plant

For the next month, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will be taking comments on the future of Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant.

Surely, you must have some thoughts.

There will be five public hearings in September and some tough decision-making to follow.

In setting new rules to control haze, DEQ has proposed several options for regulating pollution from the Boardman coal-fired power plant, about 150 miles east of Portland.

The controls could set the plant on course for closure in 2015-16, 2018 or 2020 - depending on how much owner Portland General Electric is willing to invest in upgrades to limit emissions. They could allow the plant to operate until at least 2040.

The company has gone back and forth with the agency with proposals for less expensive pollution controls in exchange for closing the plant early. PGE’s new alternative 2020 closure plan (the first one was rejected by DEQ) is also open to comments.

A story in The Oregonian this week summed up PGE’s position on the matter. Basically, the company is prepared to keep the plant open until 2040 if DEQ doesn’t choose an affordable option for closing the plant early.

Under existing rules, PGE needs to install between $500 million to $600 million of new controls at the plant by 2017.

The company proposed a cheaper option – $41 million in haze and mercury reduction controls – in exchange for shutting the plant altogether in 2020. But that option was rejected.

Here’s an excerpt from DEQ’s latest news release on what’s on the table now:

DEQ’s proposal follows the Environmental Quality Commission’s June 17 decision to deny PGE’s original 2020 closure proposal. DEQ advised the commission against PGE’s proposal because it appeared inadequate to meet federal requirements. PGE’s first proposal did not sufficiently consider available control technology to reduce emissions, and as a result proposed very minor emission reductions. PGE’s current proposal includes emission controls to significantly reduce emissions and is similar to DEQ’s closure proposal for 2018.

Only PGE can decide to close the plant. Any emission controls adopted must meet federal requirements for the length of time PGE proposes to operate.

The PGE Boardman facility is the largest source of air pollution contributing to haze in the Columbia River Gorge and many wilderness areas. Last year the commission adopted rules requiring pollution controls, at an estimated cost of $460 million, to reduce the plant’s nitrogen oxide emissions by 46 percent in 2011, sulfur dioxide emissions by 80 percent in 2014, and reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions by an additional 38 percent in 2017, which would allow the plant to operate until at least 2040. PGE’s proposal recommended closing early in lieu of investing in expensive pollution control equipment required for 2014 and 2017 requirements.

For more information, please visit our “DEQ Regulation of PGE Boardman” webpage.

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