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Coal Power Plant Cuts Deal To Cut Mercury & Regional Haze

More than a year of closed-door negotiations has produced an agreement to cut mercury and regional haze pollution from one of the two big coal-fired power plants in the Northwest.  It’s the one in Centralia, Washington.

Environmental groups want Washington State to reduce mercury emissions even further at the TransAlta plant.  Correspondent Tom Banse has more.

The manager of the coal-fired Centralia power plant says he can see stricter federal pollution rules on the horizon.

Doug Jackson says that’s why his company TransAlta voluntarily agreed to spend $20 to $30 million this year on filters.  They’d cut emissions of highly toxic mercury by 50 percent.

Doug Jackson: “We said, look, let’s figure out how to do this ahead of time so when tough regulation comes we are prepared and know what to do, so we have some certainty in our regulatory outcome, our cost outcome.”

At the region’s other big coal power plant in Boardman, the State of Oregon and Portland General Electric have agreed to cut mercury emissions by 90 percent, but over a longer period of time — by 2014.

Environmental activists, such as the Sierra Club’s Sam Garst, are unhappy that Washington State didn’t drive a harder bargain.

Sam Garst: “They’ve gone backwards rather than forwards and that means a lot more poisons going in to our environment.”

An Ecology Department spokesman defends the draft Centralia deal, saying the private negotiation produced major pollution reductions this year as opposed to “who knows how many years down the road.”


Washington Department of Ecology

TransAlta Centralia Complex

Portland General Electric – Boardman plant emissions

Northwest Environmental Defense Center

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