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Oregon and coal

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Contents

Introduction

Oregon had one coal-fired generating station in 2005, the Boardman Plant, with 601 MW of capacity - representing 4.7% of the state's total electric generating capacity.[1] Oregon ranks 42nd out of the 50 states in terms of coal energy production. However, nearly 40% of Oregon's power comes from coal, half of which is produced out of state, primarily the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.[2][3]

In 2006, Oregon's sole coal-fired power plant produced 4.03 million tons of CO2, 9,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 5,000 tons of nitrogen oxide; this plant was responsible for 10.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions.[4] In 2005, Oregon emitted 10.9 tons of CO2 per person, slightly more than half the U.S. average.[5] This lower level of CO2 emissions is due largely to the fact that hydroelectric power makes up 64.6% of the state's generating capacity.[1]

No coal was mined in Oregon in 2006.[6]

In January 2010, Portland General Electric (PGE) announced plans to shut down the Boardman plant by 2020, twenty years earlier than expected. Under the current operation plan, PGE is required to invest more than a half billion dollars in pollution controls at the plant by 2017, to comply with federal and state clean air regulations and keep it running until 2040. Instead, PGE proposes to invest $45 million next year to partially clean up its emissions of mercury and oxides of nitrogen, and operate the plant until 2020. PGE's first plan to close Boardman was rejected by the Oregon Department of Environmental of Quality in June 2010, requiring PGE to develop an alternative plan. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality stated that it was not opposed to an early closure, but only wanted to do so in the most effective way possible.[7]

History

Oregon has virtually no coal reserves and there is no history of coal mining in the state.[8] The state's only coal-fired power plant, Boardman, was built in 1980.[1]

The Lower Columbia Clean Energy Center, which would have almost doubled Oregon's coal power generating capacity, was abandoned in the summer of 2008.

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 Portland General Electric's (PGE) motion to dismiss the lawsuit.[9]

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.[10]

In early October, 2009 Portland City Mayor Sam Adams also sent a letter to PGE which criticized the plant and argued for its closure. [11]

Activists in Portland, Oregon gathered at the final public hearing on the regional power plan held by Northwest Power and Conservation Council in mid-October, 2009 to voice their concerns about the future of carbon emissions in the Northwest. NW Energy Coalition and the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, among others, brought citizens out to testify. The coalition's goal is to insert language in the regional power plan that puts a price on carbon emissions, making it expensive to pollute. The plan is set to be finalized by early next year.[12]

Facebook and Coal

It was announced in January 2010 that the popular social networking site Facebook would build its first data center in the eastern Oregon town of Prineville. The cost of the 147,000 square foot facility will cost approximately $200 million. It will be the first data center Facebook has built. The plant would provide jobs to the economically depressed town. However, critics claim that the plant's need for electricity will be substantial, pointing out that Prineville's utility company PacifiCorp generates the majority of its power by coal-firing.

"Facebook, by opening this center, is sending a signal: We're not quite done with coal yet," said Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace of Facebook's decision. "We understand that the data center is being built. They already have a power service agreement. This is really about where Facebook and the industry are going."[13]

A Facebook group titled "Get Facebook off Coal" has drawn over 8,000 thousands of members as of late February 2010. Another group by the name of "We want Facebook to use 100% renewable energy" has also accumulated over 12,000 members as of February 25, 2010. Campaigners that oppose Facebook's decision to build a plant hope that pressure from Facebook users could force the company to reconsider its decision to power the facility by burning coal.

Facebook: Unfriend Coal

"It is simply untrue to say that we chose coal as a source of power ... Every data center plugs into the grid offered by their utility or power provider" Facebook has responded. "In selecting Oregon, we chose a region that offers a uniquely dry and temperate climate.[14]

Greepeace put additional pressure on Facebook is September 2010 by releasing a video that targeted Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The cartoon video, voiced by what sounds like a computerized child, first attacked Zuckerberg for being a nerd, a la "The Social Network" trailer, before criticizing its choice of power for the Prineville, Ore. data center.

Facebook had the option to choose wind power, but "silly Mark Zuckerberg chose dirty old coal," according to the Greenpeace video.

"But Mark Zuckerberg can still change his mind, and I know which one I would choose, and so do all his friends," the video continued.

In September 2010, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reacted to a question posed by a Facebook member named Evan to this issue by stating that "Some of our old data centers we rent use coal but most are already green. The newer ones we are building from scratch in Oregon use hydro power from dams. We're moving in the right direction here."[15]

Greenpeace said in February 2010 that about 83 percent of the utility's generation capabilities come from coal, geothermal, and natural gas resources. Facebook states that that number is actually 58 percent.[16]

In November 2010 Facebook launched a page on its social networking site titled, "Green on Facebook". The page outlines what the company is doing to be "environmentally friendly". Forbes.com noted that Facebook likely launched the campaign to counter the pressure from Greenpeace and others for its proposed Oregon data center that will use coal energy to power its servers.[17]

Greenpeace in March 2011 began airing an ad campaign in California which called for Facebook to "unfriend coal". The environmental group hoped the ad will reach many of the company's employees located in Silicon Valley.[18]

In April 2011, Facebook released a report detailing the specs for its computer data center to be built in eastern Oregon. In the publication, called the Open Compute Project, Facebook published everything from the server specification and rack design to the configuration of its power infrastructure and cooling systems. However, Greenpeace responded that while efficiency and transparency were important, that Facbeook ought to also look to a cleaner energy source and that efficiency alone was not enough.[19]

It was announced in April 2011 that Facbeook would install a large solar array in Prineville, Oregon making the company one of only a handful of data centers in the world to install on-site solar power generation. The solar array is reported to be able to generate about 100 kilowatts of energy, with a total expected production of 204,000 kilowatt hours a year. This amount is only a small fraction of the power required to run a major data center and will primarily be used to support office areas rather than server rooms. Facebook’s solar installation garnered praise from Greenpeace, which stated that this was an "encouraging" sign for the company.[20]

In December 2011 it was announced that Greenpeace was dropping its campaign against Facebook. The company and environmental organization announced that they will work together to encourage the use of renewable energy instead of coal. No demands by Greenpeace toward Facebook were reported in the announcement.[21]

March 2011: Activists target Portland, Oregon area Bank of America ATMs

Bank of America ATMs in Downtown Portland on March 1, 2011 were targeted by climate change activists in the area. Notices were placed on the ATMs which informed customers that the ATMs were “temporarily closed until in invests responsibly in renewable energy.” Bank of America was targeted for its financial support and investments in the practice of mountaintop removal.[22]

April 2011: Rising Tide North America stages bank protest in Portland, Oregon

On Sunday, April 2, 2011, activists affiliated with Portland's Rising Tide chapter targeted major banks in the Portland metro areas as a call to them to divest from the fossil fuel infrastructure, including coal. The banks included Wells Fargo and Bank of America for this investments in practices such as mountaintop removal. Some participants staged a "die-in" on sidewalks while others used mud to stick "dirty money" to bank walls and windows, letting customers know the banks were "closed for climate crimes". No arrests were reported.[23]

May 2011: Protests target banks in Portland, Oregon

On Friday, May 9th, 2011 two bank branches in downtown Portland, Oregon, one belonging to Bank of America and the other to Wells Fargo, were targeted by approximately 30 activists who showed up to protest the banks’ investments in coal projects. Both banks are major lenders to Arch Coal, the second biggest coal company in the United States. Arch Coal was targeted because, along with Ambre Energy, it is responsible for the proposed Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal near Longview, Washington. Arch Coal also owns the Otter Creek coal mine in Montana, which the company hopes to use as a source of coal to be exported.

Protesters assembled by Portland's Reed College entered the banks as mock coal export trains, which they believed will expose Northwest residents to coal dust, diesel fumes and noise pollution if the coal export facility near Longview becomes operational. A multi-car human ”coal train” entered the banks and marched around the bank's lobby, temporarily disrupting business inside. Climate activists chanted “Hey hey, B of A: Stop investing in coal today!” And later, “Hey hey, Wells Fargo: You say coal, we say no!”[24]

October 2011: Anti-coal group stages 'zombie' march on banks

On Halloween 2011 in Portland, Oregon a man dressed as a zombie was arrested during a protest by members of Portland's Rising Tide at a downtown Bank of America. The activists, calling themselves "zombie army against coal" were protesting the bank's loans to coal companies.[25]

March 2012: Washington State City Council passes coal train traffic resolution

On March 17, 2012, Washougal City Council voted 7-0 to pass a resolution requesting that Washougal be a “party of record” for the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project in Whatcom county and the Millennium Project in Cowlitz county. The resolution requested that impacts along the rail line through Washougal be included in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and also urged the State Department of Ecology, the Army Cops of Engineers, as well as both Whatcom and Cowlitz counties, to conduct an EIS scoping hearing for each project in a Clark County location.[26]

May 2012: Activists rally in Portland against exporting coal from Northwest ports

Coal Rally Against Exporting Coal Through Pacific Northwest.

On May 7, 2012 several hundred activists gathered in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square to oppose the export of Montana and Wyoming coal from Northwest ports. Activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, spoke to the crowd. Kennedy said that coal would corrupt politicians, damage health and the environment and "turn government agencies into the sock puppets of the industries they're supposed to regulate."[27]

October 2012: Jobs vs. environment in Eugene coal train debate

In early October 2012 dozens of coal-train protesters on Monday evening marched to the downtown library, where the City Council heard testimony on a resolution against shipping coal through a Port of Coos Bay terminal to Asia. During the meeting a number of people spoke in favor of the measure, expressing concerns about coal dust and climate change. But the council also heard from supporters, others spoke in favor of job creation from the terminal. The council is set to vote by the end of October 2012 on the measure. On October 22, 2012 the city council of Eugene passed a resolution 5-3 opposing the coal trains.[28][29]

Legislative issues

In April 2012 Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber stated that he wants an extensive federal government review of exporting coal to Asia through Northwest ports. The Governor said that coal exports could clog barge and train routes, increase diesel and coal dust pollution and boost amounts of toxic mercury drifting back to Oregon when Asian countries burn the coal.

However, Kitzhaber didn't take a stand for or against exporting coal, which supporters say would increase rural jobs and tax revenues in Oregon and Washington. Instead, his letter asked the federal government to address how increasing exports to Asia will "fit with the larger strategy of moving to a lower carbon future."[30]

Proposed coal plants

The Oregon Department of Energy is reviewing a permit application to revive an existing coal-burning plant in Nyssa, Oregon, that had been used to process sugar beets. The current proposal is to restart the coal-burning plant to make ethanol from corn or sugar beets. See http://is.gd/eCvE for information on the permit application.

Cancelled

Coal lobbying groups

Coal power companies

  • PacifiCorp
    • Headquarters in Portland, OR
    • Owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which is in turn owned by Berkshire Hathaway
    • 16th biggest coal energy producer in U.S., if an independent company
    • Controls 19 coal-fired generating stations with 6860 MW total capacity
  • Portland General Electric
    • Headquarters in Portland, OR
    • Controls 1 coal-fired generating station with 601 MW capacity
  • Summit Power Group

Existing coal plants

Oregon had one coal-fired generating station in 2005, with 601 MW of capacity - representing 4.7% of the state's total electric generating capacity:[1][31][32]

For a map of existing coal plants in the state, see the bottom of this page.

Plant Name County Owner Year(s) Built Capacity 2007 CO2 Emissions 2006 SO2 Emissions SO2/MW Rank
Boardman Morrow Portland General Electric 1980 601 MW 4,029,000 tons 8,703 tons 129

This one plant represents 10.0% of the state's total CO2 emissions, and 17.3% of its total SO2 emissions.[5]

However, according to the Oregon Department of Energy's 2007-2009 Energy Plan (accessible here: http://is.gd/eCB1, pdf), coal provides 41% of Oregon's electrical power supply, just behind hydropower (at 42%).

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.[33] The report mentioned Oregon's Boardman Plant was one site that has groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[34]

Study on Coal Use in Oregon

A study released in July 2010 by the Civil Society Institute argued that it was technically and economically viable to retire all coal and nuclear based power in seven Western states, including Oregon.

The region covered in the study was said to have enough renewable sources of energy and, combined with energy conservation measures, the transition away from coal and nuclear could take place within 30 years time. In this scenario, according to the Civil Society Institute study, the entire Northwest could retire 11,000 megawatts of coal-fired power and add at least 12,000 megawatts of onshore wind power.[35]

Coal train spill through Columbia River Gorge in Washington State

In July 2012 a train transporting coal derailed and spilled 31 cars of coal in the Eastern Washington town of Mesa, near the Oregon border in Franklin County. Opponents of increased coal shipments through the Northwest pointed to the spill as an example of the risk posed by increased coal transports through the region.[36][37]

Northwest ports to be used to export Powder River Basin coal to Asian markets

For more information on the proposed port developments in the western United States please visit the Coal exports from northwest United States ports article.

Proposed Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal

In September 2010 Peabody Energy announced that "Coal's best days are ahead." Peabody stated that exports of coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming will be central to its expansion goals. The Oregonian in September 2010 reported that Northwest ports, and in particular ports in Portland, Oregon, may be used in the future to export coal to Asia. The Port of Portland said it doesn't have the space for coal exports in the short-term, but its consultants cited coal as a potential long-term market if it adds terminals on West Hayden Island.

Proposed Northwest Coal Export Locations.

In early November 2010 Australia-based Ambre Energy asked Cowlitz County officials in southern Washington State, which borders Oregon, to approve a port redevelopment that would allow for the export of 5 million tons of coal annually. On November 23 Cowlitz County officials approved the permit for the port redevelopment, which is to be located at the private Chinook Ventures port in Longview, Washington. Coal terminals also are proposed at two other sites along the Columbia River.[38]

Coalition Protests Ambre Energy's Push for Coal Exports.

Environmentalists stated that they would oppose any such actions, arguing that coal contributes to pollution and global warming.[39] Early discussion of how many jobs the port would produce was roughly twenty total.[40]

Coal Export Threatens the Northwest.

In November 2010 Powder River Basin coal producer Cloud Peak Energy CEO Colin Marshall stated that a coal port on the West Coast was "absolutely more than a pipedream."

Other Powder River Basin producers, including top US coal miner Peabody Energy, have talked about the potential for a new export facility on the West Coast, with Oregon and Washington being mentioned as the top locations of choice.[41]

Groups including the Sierra Club and Columbia Riverkeeper have vowed to stop the industry's expansion into Asia, a market currently dominated by coal from Australia and Indonesia.[42]

It was announced in early October 2012 that a joint environmental review of the proposed coal port would be conducted by Cowlitz County, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.[43]

Proposed Terminal: Gateway Pacific Terminal

The Gateway Pacific Terminal is a proposed terminal at Cherry Point near Ferndale, Washington, and would have a maximum capacity of about 54 million tons. On February 28, 2011, SSA Marine applied for state and federal permits for the $500 million terminal, triggering formal environmental review. If approved, the terminal would begin construction in early 2013 and operations in 2015.[44]

On March 1, 2011, Seattle-based SSA Marine announced it had entered into an agreement with St. Louis-based Peabody Energy to export up to 24 million metric tons of coal per year through the Gateway Pacific Terminal. Goldman Sachs owns a portion of SSA Marine's parent company. According to Peabody, the terminal in Whatcom County would serve as the West Coast hub for exporting Peabody's coal from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana to Asian markets. The project would ramp up potential U.S. coal exports to Asia from Washington state. Another coal export terminal proposed in Longview, the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal in southwest Washington, has drawn environmental opposition. That Millennium Bulk Logistics terminal would be a joint venture between Australia-based Ambre Energy and Arch Coal.[45]

Environmental groups have appealed to Washington's Shoreline Hearings Board over a permit awarded for the port by Cowlitz County commissioners.[45]

According to Gateway Pacific Terminal's website the company plans on providing a "highly efficient portal for American producers to export dry bulk commodities such as grain, potash and coal to Asian markets." Additionally, the site contends that the "Gateway project will generate about 4,000 jobs and about $54 million a year in tax revenue for state and local services. Once in full operation, it's estimated that Gateway will provide almost $10 million a year in tax revenue, create about 280 permanent family-wage jobs directly, and nearly 1,400 additional jobs through terminal purchases and employee spending."[46]

Port of St. Helens potential candidate for coal export to Asia

In June 2011, The Oregonian reported that the Port of St. Helens in Columbia City, Oregon was being eyed as a potential Northwest port that would export coal to Asian countries. It was also reported that Columbia Riverkeeper, which opposes coal export, asked a judge to require St. Helens Port to release all of its coal-related documents. In a response, a lawyer for the port stated that doing so would violate a confidentiality agreement and "would result in the greatest harm to the public interest which can be imagined -- a loss of jobs in our community."[47]

Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, wrote in a statement to The Oregonian that the terminal "should not happen in the dead of night. We must have an open, vigorous public debate before any projects move forward."[47]

In January 2012 The Oregonian reported that Kinder Morgan Energy Partners would develop a dry bulk export terminal at the Port of St. Helens' Port Westward industrial park, using rail lines and building facilities to store and load coal.

Ambre Energy also announced that their subsidiary Pacific Transloading would ship 3.5 million metric tons of coal a year with potential to ship as much as 8 million metric tons with port approval. Coal would be shipped on covered barges, received at Port Westward and directly loaded onto about 50 ocean-going ships a year. Pacific Transloading would ship 3.5 million metric tons of coal a year with potential to ship as much as 8 million metric tons with port approval the company stated.[48]

In January 2012 it was reported that the proposed coal terminal at Port Westward was forcing Rainier-area officials to examine whether they needed to expand rail lines through the heart of town to accommodate hundreds of rail cars daily.[49]

On January 25, 2012 Port of St. Helens commissioners approved lease options for two coal terminals to Port Westward. The five-member commission unanimously approved a lease option from Pacific Transloading, a subsidiary of Australian coal company Ambre Energy, to operate a coal barge unloading dock at Port Westward. Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve a lease option from Kinder Morgan Energy Partners to build what could be the largest coal terminal on the U.S. West Coast.[50]

However, May 2, 2012 Portland General Electric blocked Kinder Morgan’s multimillion-dollar proposal to construct a coal export terminal because of concerns over coal dust. PGE renewed a 99-year lease in 2008 on 852 acres of developable land at the Port of St. Helens-owned energy park near Clatskanie, Oregon. In turn, it can sublease the Port Westward property to other companies. However, in early May 2012 PGE denied the request by Kinder Morgan to construct a terminal on the site.[51]

Port of Coos Bay in Oregon considers coal exports

In July 2011, it was reported that the port in Coos Bay, Oregon was considering coal exports. "We are in discussions with coal developers and have entered into nondisclosure agreements with those companies," Port of Coos Bay CEO Jeff Bishop. "We don't want anyone to be surprised."

Bishop stated the arrival of one coal train per day would create 100 ship calls per year. However, coal exports would bring too many ships for the cargo terminal to handle, stated Bishop. "If any coal terminal is developed in Coos Bay, it would have to be a stand-alone terminal."[52] It was announced in October 2011 the Port of Coos Bay signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with an unnamed company interested in shipping coal from Coos Bay, Oregon.[53]

In August 2012 Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio said he has few qualms about shipping coal to Asia through the Port of Coos Bay.

Rep. Peter DeFazio said that trying to block plans to ship coal to Asia won't stop countries like South Korea from burning coal to produce electricity. He added that free trade agreements make it illegal for the U.S. to block coal exports to South Korea.[54]

Railroad company looks at Port of Grays Harbor in Washington State for coal exports

It was reported in July 2011 that a railroad was looking at a Port of Grays Harbor terminal in Hoquiam, Washington for a terminal to ship coal to China. RailAmerica Vice Predident Gary Lewis told The Daily World of Aberdeen the idea would require further study and the project is several years from being completed.

RailAmerica owns the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad that serves Grays Harbor. The port's potential coal export terminal, located on a former log yard, could bring another 75 ship calls a year to Grays Harbor.[55]

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.[56] 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. [57]

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.[58]

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.[59]

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.[60]

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.[61]

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.[61]

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.[62]

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.[63]

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.[64]

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. [65]

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.[66]

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.[67]

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.[68]

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.[69]

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.[70]

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:[71]

  • $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.

Major coal mines

There are no coal mines in Oregon.[6]

Citizen groups

Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed April 2008.
  2. Oregon Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club, accessed March 23, 2010.
  3. "Where Does Oregon Get Its Coal?" Sierra Club, accessed March 23, 2010.
  4. Estimated Emissions for U.S. Electric Power Industry by State, 1990-2006, Energy Information Administration, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Oregon Energy Consumption Information, eRedux website, accessed June 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, Energy Information Administration, accessed June 2008.
  7. "PGE plan suggests shorter time frame to close Boardman coal-fired power plant", Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian, January 14, 2010.
  8. Demonstrated Reserve Base and Estimated Recoverable Reserves, Energy Information Administration, 1997.
  9. Judge rejects Portland General Electric argument in coal plan pollution case, OregonLive.com, accessed October 6, 2009.
  10. Pressure grows for PGE to shutter Boardman coal plant, OregonLive.com, accessed September 30, 2009.
  11. Portland city leaders oppose PGE's future power plan, OregonLive.com, accessed October 6, 2009.
  12. "Activists push for cleaner Northwest energy", SeattlePi.com, accessed October 19, 2009. (This is an Associated Press article).
  13. Facebook takes heat over coal-fired power in its Prineville data center Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian, February 23, 2010
  14. Facebook gets slammed by environmentalists USA Today, February 22, 2010
  15. "A Facebook message from Mark Zuckerberg" Laura K, Greenpeace Blog, September 29, 2010.
  16. "Echols of West Memphis 3 talks about appeal, death row" Chloe Albanesius, PCMag.com, September 17, 2010.
  17. "Facebook ‘friends’ the green movement" Mother Nature Network, Forbes.com, November 10, 2010.
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