Boardman Plant

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Boardman Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Portland General Electric (PGE) near Boardman, Oregon.

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Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Boardman

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[1] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[2]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Boardman

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 4 $26,000,000
Heart attacks 5 $5,600,000
Asthma attacks 65 $3,000
Hospital admissions 2 $46,000
Chronic bronchitis 2 $1,000,000
Asthma ER visits 1 <$1,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Boardman to close by 2020

On January 14, 2010 it was announced that Portland General Electric will be closing its Boardman Plant twenty years ahead of schedule. The plant will close in 2020 instead of 2040. Oregon Public Utility agreed to the plan in November 2010. PGE was originally set to invest more than a half billion dollars in pollution controls (scrubbers) by 2017 to comply with EPA and state clean air regulations, then keep it running until 2040.

Instead, the company wants regulators to allow it to make a $45 million investment by 2011 to partially clean up its emissions of mercury and oxides of nitrogen, then operate the plant until 2020.[3] The Oregon Sierra Club and Friends of the Columbia Gorge argue, that while a 2020 close date is better than a 2040 closure, it is still more economical for the plant to shut its doors in 2014. [4]

On February 1, 2010 it was announced that PGE was considering using biomass to continue operating the plant after it ends its use of coal in the future. PGE is said to be considering if it can replace all of the millions of tons of coal it burns every year at Boardman with plant based material that has been pre-treated through a process called torrefaction. While still in experimental phases, torrefaction produces a substance similar to coal, and is also energy intensive to produce. Critics on the other hand cite that no commercial size torrefaction facilities exist and it is still not clear how much carbon will be used in the process of torrefaction.[5]

PGE released its plans to close Boardman on April 9, 2010. The company filed an amendment to its energy resource plan in which it asked state utility regulators to approve the closure of the plant by 2020. Ratepayer and environmental advocates are attempting to work with PGE in an attempt to close the plant earlier.[6]

Proposal to close plant rejected

On June 16, 2010 the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission turned down PGE's proposal to close Boardman by 2020. PGE stated that they would go back to the drawing board to look for other ways to close the plant by 2020. The Commission stated that it was not attempting to halt an early shutdown of the plant, but only wanted to do so using the best options possible. PGE is to release a new plan by the end of summer 2010 at which point the Commission will once again review their proposal.[7]

The Sierra Club, however, stated that the rejection by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was not necessarily a hold up for Boardman's closure. In a Press Release the Club stated, “The Sierra Club supports the Department of Environmental Quality’s recent recommendation to deny Portland General Electric’s petition to subvert pollution controls for PGE’s Boardman coal-fired power plant." The Sierra Club believes that the DEQ recognizes the need to end Boardman's use of coal by an earlier date than 2020.[8]

New proposal for Boardman closure announced by Oregon DEQ

On June 28, 2010 the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality laid out three alternative options for shutting down its Boardman coal-fired power plant, all of which involved an earlier closure date or significantly more expensive pollution controls. PGE stated that they did not like any of the options.

As reported in The Oregonian on June 28, 2010:

The Department of Environmental Quality offered three alternative Monday. The cheapest sticks with the same controls in PGE's 2020 proposal, but requires the utility to shut the plant in 2015 or 2016.
A second option goes with PGE's 2020 shutdown date, but requires the utility to install $320 million worth of new burners and scrubbers by 2014. That option avoids a third set of controls, called selective catalytic reduction, to be installed in 2017, but is $280 million more expensive than PGE's existing 2020 plan.
The final option splits the difference, shutting the plant in 2018 and requiring PGE to spend $100 million by 2014 on new burners and an injection system to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions.[8]

In August of 2010, PGE announced that it believed its proposed 2020 shutdown of Boardman made the most fiscal sense for the company. The utility filed an Integrated Resource Plan with the Oregon Public Utility Commission stating that the 2020 shutdown was its preferred option. Such an option would cost the utility $320 million for new emissions controls, which would be paid for in part by PGE customers through a predicted 2.4 percent rate increase. The company also stated that an earlier closure was not an option because it would not give the utility enough lead time to develop a replacement for Boardman.[9]

PGE tests biomass for Boardman

It was announced that in September 2010 PGE teamed with researchers from Washington and Oregon to study how a fast-growing grass known as Arundo Donax could serve as fuel for the utility’s controversial coal-fired power plant in Boardman, if the plant ended up being converted to biomass. Critics believe that the grass would require water that could more effectively be used for growing food crops.

PGE stated that converting the Boardman plant to torrified biomass would cost between $350 and $450 million, in addition to the $200 million for pollution controls. The company also stated that the utility would need between 75,000 to 114,000 acres to grow Arundo Donax in the Boardman area.[10]

In November 2010 PGE announced it was considering "giant reed grass" to replace coal at its Boardman facility. The company stated that it seeked to plant up to 300 acres of giant reed in Morrow and Umatilla counties in Oregon to see if it’s a viable biomass crop for its power plant near Boardman.[11]

DEQ Hearings

In September 2010, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held hearings around the state to collect testimony on five possible options Portland General Electric (PGE) has been offered. The Oregon DEQ will review testimony in October and November, and anticipates presenting their recommendation to the Environmental Quality Commission in December. [12]

EPA Criticizes Boardman for polluting since 1998

In October 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency stated that PGE's Boardman plant in Eastern Oregon has been polluting since in 1998. The EPA's "notice of violation," said improvements PGE made to Boardman in 1998 and 2004 boosted pollution and should have triggered expensive pollution controls for sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain. EPA's notice also threatened civil penalties of up to $37,500 for each day the plant operated without pollution controls. However, the EPA also asked PGE to enter into discussions to resolve the matter.[13]

PGE seeks to eliminate 2040 option

In October 2010 stated that the company was seeking to eliminate its "safety net" option of 2040 as a potential closure date for the Boardman coal plant. The request was part of an agreement reached between PGE and a collection of environmental organizations, including Oregon Environmental Council, Renewable Northwest Project, the Citizens Utility Board and the Northwest Energy Coalition.

The agreement also included assurances that PGE would work with the groups to consider non-fossil fuel-based replacement energy sources when Boardman closes.

"We think it's really important to close the plant early and think about this transition to lower carbon replacement power," said Jana Gastellum, climate change program director at the Oregon Environmental Council.[14]

State Agencies Endorse PGE's 2020 Boardman closure date

On November 19, 2010 Oregon Public Utility endorsed PGE's plan to close its Boardman coal plant by 2020. PGE however has not decided whether it will shut the 585-megawatt plant or convert it to another fuel, most likely biomass.

"This plan responsibly addresses the future energy needs ofour customers and strikes a sensible balance between customer costs and risks and environmental impacts and sustainability," Jim Piro, PGE president and CEO, said in a press release.[15]

While the 2020 agreement was endorsed by the Oregon Environmental Council, Renewable Northwest Project, Citizens’ Utility Board and the Northwest Energy Coalition the Sierra Club stated that PGE could and should shut down its Boardman facility by 2015. The Sierra Club previously sued PGE over Boardman emissions.[16]

On December 3, 2010 the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued its final staff recommendation about the future of the Boardman coal-fired power plant, embracing the 2020 closure date.[17]

Clean Air lawsuit settled

It was announced in July 2011 that the Clean Air lawsuit brought by Sierra Club, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of Columbia Gorge and others was settled. Under the Boardman agreement Portland General Electric has agreed to pay $2.5 million into a fund managed by the Oregon Community Foundation – a neutral third party organization – which will provide:[18]

  • $1 million for habitat protection and environmental restoration in the Columbia River Gorge;
  • $625,000 for habitat protection and restoration in the Blue Mountains, Hells Canyon and Wallowa Mountains;
  • $500,000 for local clean energy projects, such as solar panels on houses; and
  • $375,000 for community-based efforts to reduce air pollution.

Citizen activism

The Boardman plant has increasingly come under scrutiny from Oregonians and local environmental groups. The Sierra Club, Friends of Columbia Gorge and others sued PGE in September of 2009, arguing that the power company had violated clean air regulations and in October a federal judge dismissed PGE's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.[19]

On September 25, 2009 PGE held a public meeting in Portland to discuss a proposed high-capacity transmission line. However, the bulk of the public input centered around the future status of the Boardman coal plant. Critics questioned whether or not a proposed $560 million investment in the plant for pollution control measures was too risky given the possibility of a future plant closure.

Prior to the meeting, on September 23, 2009, a coalition of environmental and ratepayer advocates sent a letter to PGE urging the company to evaluate shutting the plant down by 2020 rather than investing in pollution control upgrades.[20]

In early October, 2009 Portland City Mayor Sam Adams also sent a letter to PGE which criticized the plant and argued for its closure. [21]

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Oregon, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[22] The report mentioned Oregon's Boardman Plant was one site that has groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[23]

Other coal waste sites

To see a nationwide list of over 350 coal waste sites in the United States, click here. To see a listing of coal waste sites in a particular state, click on the map:

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Plant Data

  • Owner/Parent Company: Portland General Electric
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 601 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 601 MW (1980)
  • Location: 73334 Tower Rd., Boardman, OR 97818
  • GPS Coordinates: 45.693769, -119.802234
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 2,737,456 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 8,703 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 5,918 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 281 lb.

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  2. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  3. "PGE moves to close Boardman by 2020", OregonBusiness.com, accessed January 15, 2010.
  4. "PGE moves to close Boardman by 2020", Oregon Beyond Coal Campaign, accessed January 19, 2010.
  5. Matthew Preusch, "http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/01/coal-burning_power_plant_in_bo.html" Boardman coal-burning power plant may have a future after all: biomass>OregonLive.com, accessed February 1, 2010.
  6. "PGE files plan to close coal-power plant in 2020" Portland Business Journal, April 9, 2010.
  7. "PGE Seeks New Options To Close Boardman Plant" Kristian Foden-Vencil, Oregon Public Broadcast, June 17, 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "DEQ proposes new options for shutdown of PGE coal plant" Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian, June 28, 2010.
  9. "PGE sticks to 2020 shutdown for Boardman" Nathalie Weinstein, DJC Oregon, August 10, 2010.
  10. "PGE tests biomass process for Boardman" Lee van dar Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon, September 16, 2010.
  11. "Giant Reed May Replace Coal As Boardman Plant Fuel" Simon Boas, Oregon Public Broadcasting, November 1, 2010.
  12. DEQ hears comments on coal plant, Kathy Ursprung, The Dalles Chronicle, October 1, 2010.
  13. "Portland General Electric's Boardman coal plant violated pollution-control standard since 1998, EPA says" Scott Learn, Oregonian, October 6, 2010.
  14. "PGE seeks to eliminate Boardman 2040 option" Erik Siemers, Sustainable Business Oregon, October 29, 2010.
  15. "PGE to stop burning coal at Oregon power plant in 2020" Reuters, November 22, 2010.
  16. "Sierra Club: Boardman must close sooner" Sierra Club Press Release, November 8, 2010.
  17. "DEQ gives coal-fired plant until 2020" Dean Brickley, East Oregonian, December 3, 2010.
  18. "Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign Reaches Milestone in Effort to Phase Out Existing Coal-Fired Power Plants" Sierra Club Press Release, July 19, 2011
  19. "Judge rejects Portland General Electric argument in coal plan pollution case", OregonLive.com, accessed October 6, 2009.
  20. "Pressure grows for PGE to shutter Boardman coal plant", OregonLive.com, accessed September 30, 2009.
  21. "Portland city leaders oppose PGE's future power plan", OregonLive.com, accessed October 6, 2009.
  22. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  23. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.

Sources

External Articles